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Facts and FAQs

  1. If my recipe calls for pintos, can I substitute a different bean?
  2. How long should I soak dry beans?
  3. How long should I cook dry beans?
  4. How long can I store dry beans?
  5. How long can I keep cooked beans?
  6. I soaked and cooked some dry beans that I had left in the pantry, but they didn’t soften after cooking. Why?
  7. How can I tell if dry beans are fresh?
  8. If I microwave my beans will they cook faster?
  9. Can I cook beans in a pressure cooker?
  10. How can I add extra flavor to my bean dishes?
  11. How should I store dry beans?
  12. How should I store cooked beans?
  13. How should I cook beans?
  14. Do we need to soak beans?

If my recipe calls for pintos, can I substitute a different bean?

Generally, you may substitute one type of bean for most other beans. However, some beans, such as black beans, may add a slightly different taste and color. Read about those differences, including taste descriptions, on our bean varieties page.

How long should I soak dry beans?

Thoroughly rinse and drain dry beans before soaking. Discard damaged beans and any foreign material. Then use one of the two methods below to rehydrate the beans:

Quick Hot Soak:

Cover beans with water and boil for two minutes. Cover pot; soak for one to four hours. Discard soaking water; cover beans with fresh water and two tablespoons of oil and cook. (Oil reduces foaming during the cooking process.)

Overnight Cold Soak:

Cover one pound of dry beans with six cups of room-temperature water and allow to soak overnight (12 hours or more). Discard soaking water; cover beans with fresh water and two tablespoons of oil before cooking. Oil reduces foaming during the cooking process. After soaking overnight, try one of our delicious breakfast bean recipes.

Read about the full pre-prep process here. Or, check out our whole database of bean recipes!

How long should I cook dry beans?

Exact cooking time depends upon altitude, bean variety, water hardness, and the age of the beans. Generally, most beans will cook to the desired firmness in one to one-and-one-half hours. Test frequently by tasting, or mashing a bean against the side of the pot with a spoon fork.

Cooking beans in a slow cooker takes six to eight hours, or overnight. Read more about cooking dry beans.

How long can I store dry beans?

Dry beans keep up to a year in an airtight container in a cool, dry environment, away from direct sunlight. During storage, beans may either absorb or lose moisture, which will affect the soaking and cooking time. If stored longer than 12 months, or exposed to unfavorable storage conditions, beans may never soften sufficiently, no matter how long they’re soaked or cooked. On the other hand, some beans can cook up tender after years of storage. Read more about storing beans. If your beans are getting old, use them in one of our bean recipes!

How long can I keep cooked beans?

Beans are a high-protein, low-acid food. Keep hot dishes at temperatures above 140 degrees F. and cold dishes at less than 40 degrees F. Store cooked beans in sealed containers for up to three days in the refrigerator and several weeks or even months in the freezer. Read more about storing beans.

I soaked and cooked some dry beans that I had left in the pantry, but they didn’t soften after cooking. Why?

Always use fresh dry beans if possible. Beans that have been stored for over 12 months or in unfavorable conditions may never soften.

Hard water may also cause hard beans. If the cooked beans still seem tough, add a 1/4 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) for each pound of beans to increase tenderness. While adding baking soda is an old trick, remember that the ingredient also may over-soften fresher dry beans, causing mushiness.

Add acidic foods, such as tomatoes, vinegar, lemon or calcium-rich molasses, near the end of the cooking time, because these ingredients may toughen the skins. Practice this in our Tuscan Bean, Tomato & Bread Salad recipe.

Add salt just before serving to avoid toughening the bean skins.

How can I tell if dry beans are fresh?

Unfortunately, assessing the age of packaged dry beans is difficult. Inspect the package and look for firm, clean, whole beans with a minimum of cracks and broken seed coats. The color should bright not muddy, and the beans should have a slight sheen. If you’ve got some beans you think you need to use, try one of our great bean recipes.

If I microwave my beans will they cook faster?

No. Microwaving doesn’t reduce the cooking time for dry beans. It usually takes 60 to 90 minutes to reach maximum and uniform tenderness with this method. View our bean cooking instructions.

Can I cook beans in a pressure cooker?

When using a pressure cooker, be sure the pot is no more than half full of ingredients, including water or cooking liquid. Cook at 15 pounds pressure for the required time, according to the appliances use booklet.

Beans may be cooked after or before soaking. Generally, soaked beans take 15 to 20 minutes. Unsoaked beans generally require 20 to 25 minutes to cook. Some experimentation with appropriate cooking times may be necessary. The older the beans, the more cooking time required.

Reduce pressure at the end of the cooking time by running cold water over the lid of the pressure cooker. The cooker can also be removed from the heat and allowed to gradually reduce its pressure. If this method is used, remember that the beans continue cooking, so you must reduce the cooking time shown on the appliances cooking table by 2 to 3 minutes. To prevent the bean mixture from frothing or bubbling up through the pressure valve during cooking, along with the other ingredients in the recipe, add one tablespoonful of vegetable oil per cup of beans before cooking. The oil also will keep any bean skins that might come loose during cooking from rising up and clogging the steam escape valve.

View our full bean cooking instructions.

How can I add extra flavor to my bean dishes?

Add one or two bay leaves, a whole peeled onion and several peppercorns to the cooking water for a pound of beans. Discard seasonings after cooking.

Add tender herbs and spices near the end of the cooking process because their flavors tend to diminish the longer they’re cooked. Try it out with this Wilted Greens & Blackeyes Salad for an extra flavorful lunch.

How should I store dry beans?

It’s so easy!
Dry beans are generally easy to store and keep and, being a non-perishable product, they’re always at hand. They are best stored in hermetically-sealed jars in a cool place to avoid any possibility of them turning rancid or a change in their consistency. Using a translucent plastic or glass recipient makes it easier to see how many beans are available but direct light, especially sunlight, should be avoided. When it comes to meal planning, the recommended dry weight per person is between 60 and 85 grams. Read more about storing beans.

How should I store cooked beans?

Freezing without fear!
You can cook a huge pot of beans and later freeze them in smaller quantities. Made sure you label them with the date and type of bean to avoid having unlabelled packets in the freezer compartment. Frozen beans will keep for up to 3 months, while cooked and refrigerated beans will keep for up to 5 days. Beans take very well to being frozen, and are easy to defrost – simply place a bag into hot water for five minutes or use the microwave oven: by following these guidelines, you’ll always have beans ready to serve. Read more about storing beans.

How should I cook beans?

Beans more than double in size
Beans increase in size by two and a half times after cooking, which is something we should bear in mind when meal planning. Don’t mix beans: never cook different varieties together. Each variety has a distinct cooking time, although all range between one and a half and two hours or from 20 to 30 minutes in a pressure cooker. For the same reasons, avoid cooking together legumes purchased in different places or at different times, and, most particularly, in different years: there would be no way of achieving the same standard of cooking .

Salt: best afterwards
It is important to add salt and acids such as lemon juice or vinegar after cooking; if not, cooking time may have to be extended due to hardening of the beans. Allow around 20 ml. of salt for every 500 g. of dry legumes.

Calories: it’s up to you!
Some recipes include very fatty ingredients and nutritionists recommend that we add these after cooking. If what we want is to cut down on calories, it’s best to keep these ingredients to a minimum or cut them out altogether. In any case, the most appropriate condiment is a drizzle of olive oil before serving. Try this Tuscan White Bean Hummus, made with heart-healthy olive oil.

The pressure cooker tip
If you want to use a pressure cooker to cook your beans, you can cut out the soaking process. In this case, it is particularly important to add a splash of olive oil so that the foam given out during cooking does not block the safety valve. Using this method, we save on cooking time but lose on flavor, so this is only recommended when we just want to boil the beans on their own, like in this Fettuccine, Chicken & Beans Alfredo recipe. Beans tend to absorb the flavors and aromas of the ingredients with which they are cooked, which is obviously facilitated by long, traditional cooking.

The bicarbonate tip
Adding bicarbonate of soda, to both soaking and cooking liquids, makes the beans more tender although it does destroy part of the thiamine, making the amino acids less digestible. In other words, nutritional value is negatively affected.

The oven tip
When cooking beans in the oven, be sure to add sufficient water or liquid, otherwise the dampness left from soaking evaporates and the beans harden.

The cold water tip
For the beans to end up tender but intact, the best advice is to add cold water during the cooking process. Another technique is to change the water for fresh once they have come to the boil. It is very important not to overcook beans; as is the case with all foodstuffs, you would lose out on nutrients, texture, color and flavor.

Do we need to soak beans?

The night before
A 12-hour soak in cold water before cooking helps hydrate the beans and considerably shortens cooking time. Ideally, beans should be put to soak the night before they are to be prepared and be kept in a cool place, or in the refrigerator, to avoid any fermentation taking place. Before soaking, wash them several times in cold water and remove any damaged or split beans. Discard any particles floating in the soaking water, such as small insects from the harvest, specks of dirt or other contaminants.

The right amount of water
For soaking, use three measures of water to one measure of dry beans. During cooking, the quantity of water should not exceed a third of the volume.

The “swift soak”
An alternative to the traditional 12-hour soak is one which we call “swift soak”. This involves cooking the beans until boiling point has been reached for two minutes, then removing the pan from the heat and leaving the beans in the hot water for between one and four hours. You can then proceed with the cooking process, changing the water for fresh. Although this is not a particularly popular cooking method in these latitudes, many writers believe that beans treated in this way cause less flatulence than when soaked traditionally. The risk with the “swift soak” method is of fermentation taking place if the beans are left for too long in hot water. This is simply an alternative to the traditional slow soak, more useful for community cooking than in the home, or if you really are in a hurry.

After soaking, try one of our fantastic bean recipes!