• Renee Little, R.D.

Improve Your Cooking Skills - How to cook beans (part 4/4 series)

Just like you I want to make meals quickly and make them taste delicious! Beans are a source of protein, carbohydrate, fiber, magnesium, iron, B-vitamins, phosphorus, zinc and calcium and have many health benefits.

BUT who is going to eat them if they take forever to cook and every recipe they try is a big flop! Don't worry after today you are going to be an expert on cooking beans quickly & have 10 great recipes to get you started!!

How to cook beans
Create lunches ahead of time with beans to boost the protein and fiber in your day

Let's start with the basics! What exactly is a "bean?" Many people speak a different languages when it comes to bean terminology so I'm going to define this for you. You might have heard the term "legume" before, which is just a category that beans and lentils are both classified under.

Today I'm only going to focus on beans. You might wonder, how many types of beans are there in the world? According to Wikipedia: "the world genebanks holds about 40,000 bean varieties, although only a fraction are mass-produced for regular consumption."(1)

Here is a list of the most popular and easy to find beans in the common grocery store:

Types of beans

  • lima beans

  • black beans

  • black-eyed peas

  • soybeans

  • kidney beans

  • garbanzo beans

  • navy beans

  • pinto beans

  • red beans

Beans come in three different options in most grocery stores: canned, dried and frozen. The only bean I have seen in the grocery store in the frozen foods section is edamame (or soy beans) which can be used easily from frozen into all dishes just as you would use canned or dried.

Canned vs. Dried - why choose one over the other

Canned Beans

You can buy about 10 different types of canned beans in the supermarket either processed with sodium or without. Lately in the past 4-5 years, the variety of canned salt free beans has increased and there is now multiple options available. The salt free option is great if you are concerned about your sodium intake and want to reduce blood pressure or reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.

The benefits of canned beans are that they don't really need to be cooked at all! All you need to do is open the can, rinse the beans and then cook with them immediately. They do not need to be "cooked" because the canning process already technically cooked the beans. All you need to do is heat the beans up to a desired eating temperature. Canned beans can also be used cold right out of the can for dishes like salads, an addition tacos or to make hummus.

When cooking with canned beans a tip is that the beans can be added near the end of the cooking process, because all other ingredients will take longer to cook compared to the beans. If baking with beans the beans themselves will take very little time to cook so the cooking time used will always be dependent on the other ingredients in the dish like vegetables, grains or meat.

Dried beans

Dried beans do take longer to cook than canned so you might wonder...."why would I choose to use dried beans?" The trade-off for your time is a pot of deeply flavored, complex beans that you will never, ever be able to get out of a can.

When you cook dried beans think about adding ingredients like onions, garlic and herbs to the water. During the cooking process these ingredients will infuse the dried beans with tons of flavor as they slowly cook and soak up all that aromatic liquid.

It's just not the same if you add identical ingredients to a pot of already-cooked canned beans. So the rule of thumb is: Anytime you want to add your own flavor profile to your beans for any kind of bean soup, stew, or salad, make your own—it makes all the difference.

Here are the benefits of dried beans vs canned:

  • ability to infuse delicious flavors during cooking

  • do not contain any sodium prior to cooking

  • have been transported with less water so they have a lower carbon footprint

  • are versatile in terms of how much or little you use (you could use 1/4 cup or 1 cup and not have any waste)

  • can buy in bulk

  • less expensive (about 3 times less expensive)

  • there are more varieties of beans available dried than in canned products

Dried beans can also have a more desirable texture in dishes since the inside of the bean will be a little firmer in texture compared to canned.

The downside is that dried beans do take longer to cook and prepare however with a little planning and knowledge this can be made simple.

To save time in the store you can buy soup or lentil/legume "mixes." These are pre-packaged blends of different beans and lentils to add to soups, stews or other recipes.

Lentils & Legumes
Store dried lentils & legumes in a dry and dark location

How to reduce cooking time:

1. Soak beans overnight in water to reduce cooking time and digestibility. If you add a pinch of salt to the water you will reduce the cooking time even further!

2. If you forgot to soak your beans never fear! Just add the beans to a pot and make sure they are fully covered with water the entire time they are cooking. If you let the water get too low the beans will not have enough water to absorb while re-hydrating and this can delay your cooking process.

3. Test the beans after 30 minutes. Most beans will take about 30-45 minutes to cook not the 1-2 hours that most people think they take. If you taste the beans after 30 minutes you can then use your judgement on if they are cooked or need more time. Many people think beans need 1-2 hours and end up leaving the beans cooking for far too long.

4. Do not use acidic ingredients with beans during cooking. Beans cooked with an acidic ingredient will need to be cooked much longer than the bean’s recommended cooking time to be fully cooked. Acidic ingredients include buttermilk, sour cream, citrus juice or, less obvious, brown sugar, chocolate, or molasses. The acid binds to the beans' seed coat and makes it more impervious to water, as well as making the coat harder. So, if you’re adding anything with acid to beans wait until the end of cooking time.

5. Buy dried beans in smaller quantities. Older beans will dehydrate further during storage and take even longer to cook. When purchasing beans go for smaller bags vs. very large bags and try to use the beans within 6 months.

6. Use an Instant pot or pressure cooker. Now that these handy kitchen appliances are on the market, your bean cooking time can be reduced dramatically. The average time to pressure cook most beans is around 20 minutes. However you can see detailed cooking times for different beans in this handy chart from Hip Cooking. You can use an Insta Pot a traditional pressure cooker or a programmable multi purpose kitchen appliance.

One important tip: Always boil kidney beans for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer until cooked to break down the toxin phytohemagglutinin. If using a pressure cooker to cook kidney beans, you do not need to pre-boil for 10 minutes as the very high temperatures reached inside the pressure cooker are adequate to destroy the toxin. If using a slow cooker, you MUST pre-boil the kidney beans for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Great creative! Beans can be used in dishes such as soups to salads!

Having good bean recipes is essential! Beans can be a great inexpensive, delicious and nutrient packed addition to your weekly meal rotation. One tip is to keep a list of bean recipes your family has enjoyed so you can pull from these recipes later. I've gathered 10 of my favorite bean recipes to make it easy for you to start using delicious beans right away.

Quick bean recipes:

1. Salads/ Buddha bowls

Spicy Black Bean Buddha Bowl, The Best Black Bean Salad

2. Soups

Tuscan bean soup, Mediterranean 3 Bean Soup with Tomato Pesto

3. Chili

Vegetarian Beer Chili (I used a regular lager) , Slow cooker chili (optional meat)

4. Homemade hummus

The Best Hummus Recipe

Hummus Variations from Cookie and Kate Food Bloggers:

  • Green goddess hummus: add 3/4 cup loosely packed fresh, leafy herbs (like this green goddess hummus)

  • Sun-dried tomato hummus: add 3/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and drained (from one 6.7-ounce jar)

  • Kalamata olive hummus: add 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

  • Toasted sesame hummus: add 1/2 teaspoon in the hummus, plus 1 teaspoon drizzled on top

5. Wraps, Tacos and Burritos

One Pot Quinoa and Black Bean Wraps, DIY Burrito Bowl,

6. Nachos

Cheerful Vegan Nachos (add cheese to top if desired)

Recipe Books

If you are looking for a recipe book for your Kindle reader or in paperback there are many to choose from. Recipe books focused on beans like "Bean by Bean" can be a handy resource to have great recipes right at your finger tips.

Look up fun recipes to create healthy dishes
Beans can be used with citrus and cilantro to create a delicious flavor in recipes

It's worth the time and energy to master your ability to cook and use beans in a variety of recipes because there are many benefits of beans. Beans and legumes are healthy, delicious, and affordable. They work in all kinds of recipes – from soups and salads to burgers, tacos – and even desserts!

6 Benefits to beans that will convince you to start using them ASAP:

  1. Inexpensive source of vegetarian protein

  2. Packed with fiber so they keep you full longer than with meat

  3. High source of soluble and insoluble fiber which will keep your gut bacteria healthy, reduce cholesterol and act as a "scrubber" for your lower intestine (to reduce risk of colorectal cancer). (3)

  4. In 1 systematic research review and 1 narrative research review there was a relationship established between cardiovascular risk reduction and ischemic heart disease reduction with consumption of legumes. Optimal intake in one research study for purposes of reduction of cardiovascular risk was cited at >3 times per week vs. lower benefit at 0-1 time per week. If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or if you have high cholesterol adding legumes (beans or lentils) into your diet 3 times weekly could make a significant impact. (4,5)

  5. Good source of B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, selenium and magnesium and vitamin E (3)

  6. Good source of antioxidants such as isoflavones and flavanols (4)

There are so many exciting ways to prepare them and get all the benefits of beans. I hope I've given you a few new ideas to incorporate more beans into your healthy diet and lifestyle.


  1. Wikipedia Beans - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bean Access at 9:30a.m. Jan 7, 2019.

  2. The Kitchn - https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-beans-on-the-stove-182717. Accessed 9:00am Jan 7, 2019

  3. Dietitians Association of Australia: https://daa.asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/food-and-food-products/legumes-what-are-they-and-how-can-i-use-them/

  4. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial1,2 Andrew T Kunzmann,3,5 Helen G Coleman,3,5,* Wen-Yi Huang,4 Cari M Kitahara,4 Marie M Cantwell,3 and Sonja I Berndt4. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct; 102(4): 881–890. Published online 2015 Aug 12

  5. Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Specific Vegetable Types: A Narrative Review Lauren C. Blekkenhorst,1,2,* Marc Sim,1 Catherine P. Bondonno,1,3 Nicola P. Bondonno,3 Natalie C. Ward,2,4 Richard L. Prince,5,6 Amanda Devine,1 Joshua R. Lewis,1,2,7,8 and Jonathan M. Hodgson1,2. Nutrients. 2018 May; 10(5): 595. Published online 2018 May

  6. Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis1,2,3,4 Ashkan Afshin, Renata Micha, Shahab Khatibzadeh, and Dariush Mozaffarian. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul; 100(1): 278–288. Published online 2014 Jun 4. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.076901

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