How to Cook Dried Beans

Why buy canned beans when you can make your own? Follow these tips to learn how to cook dried beans inexpensively and efficiently.

Photography by Jodi Pudge

Photography by Jodi Pudge

Haven’t tried cooking with dried beans yet? You’ll be surprised at just how easy—and cheap—it is. These dried legumes are ridiculously inexpensive sources of protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates and B vitamins. While you sometimes need the convenience and speed of just opening a can, we think you’ll be a convert once you compare the taste and texture.

How to Cook Dried Beans:

1. Place 2 cups beans in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Discard any that float to the top or that look discoloured. Let sit at least 5 hours or overnight. Beans will more than double in size after soaking, so pick your pan accordingly.

2. Transfer saucepan to stove; add 1/2 teaspoon salt to beans and, if you like, some aromatics (such as a few sprigs of parsley, thyme or oregano, a bay leaf, 1/2 small onion or whole peeled garlic). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer beans for 45 minutes, then test one for tenderness. Beans can take up to 1-1/2 hours to cook, depending on their size and age (older beans take longer). Keep adding water as needed.

3. When beans are tender, like al dente pasta, remove from heat. If using right away, drain, reserving cooking water. If you are not using immediately, let cool in cooking water. Reserve cooking water as it will give your dishes a flavour boost.

Quick-Soak Method:

Bring beans and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn off burner, cover pan and let sit for at least 1 hour. Proceed with step 2.

Boost Beans’ Flavour with Aromatics:

Beans will be much more flavourful if they simmer with some aromatics, but if you don’t want them to wind up in your final dish, tie them together with a piece of kitchen twine so you can easily pull them out.

Basic Bean Tips:

  • Most dried beans triple in volume when cooked.
  • Once cooked, ½ cup dried beans will yield 1 ½ cups cooked beans, or the equivalent of one 540-mL can of beans.
  • Lentils and split peas do not have to be soaked.
  • Cooked beans can be stored frozen in a labelled freezer bag until needed; just remember to push out excess air before you seal the bag.


Best Bean Recipes:

Turkey Chili with White Beans and Chipotle
Gentle Jerk Chicken with Rice and Red Beans
Black Bean, Mango and Chicken Wrap
Italian-Style Rapini with Chickpeas
Tame Tuna & Beanie Salad
White Bean Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Moroccan Chickpea Salad

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