Bean Water (And Why You Shouldn’t Throw It Out)
You might be looking at the title of this article with skepticism because why would anyone want to hang onto bean water?
Isn’t that something that we throw away? Well, when you think about it, the water that you cook your beans in is actually a broth. A bean broth!
And like other kinds of broths made from veggies, chicken, beef, lamb, mushroom, and so on, it can add flavor, texture, and complexity to your soups, sauces, dips, and stews.
When you soak and rinse your beans before boiling, the cooking liquid that you’re left with can be packed with flavor, rich in starches to help thicken your dishes and even has some extra nutrients.
So, why should you keep your bean water? It’s an affordable way to help add flavor, nutrition, and texture to your dishes and prevent waste in the kitchen. If you’re taking the time to boil your beans, you might as well use the leftover bean water broth you spent all that time making.
Read on to discover what bean water is, how to make the best bean water, the health benefits, and the best ways to use your bean water in your kitchen.
What Is Bean Water?
You might be wondering what exactly is bean water and why should I be using it in my kitchen? Well, when you cook your beans there is a lot of liquid leftover.
This liquid gets infused with some starches, which gives it a natural thickness that’s perfect for thickening soups, stews, and sauces.
It also has a lovely flavor, especially if you’ve seasoned your cooking liquid with salt, pepper, or other herbs and spices (I love fennel, garlic, cumin, ginger, or a combination of them).
Imagine your bean water as a broth, but instead of being made from veggies, beef, or chicken, it’s from the humble bean!
Different types of beans are going to give you different colors and flavors of the bean broth.
If you like a milder flavor and color, you’ll want to hold on to your bean water from beans such as white beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, and other light-colored legumes.
These lighter broths are wonderful in broth-based soups, to cook your rice or quinoa with (it infuses the grains with another layer of flavor), or to add to sauces.
The bean water from black beans, adzuki beans, and other darker beans is still delicious and has some nutrients (we’ll discuss them below), but they are darker, which may be off-putting to some.
I like using these darker bean water broths in things like stews, chilis, and other hearty, rich meals that can stand up to the darker colors and richer flavors of these beans.
Regardless of the type of bean, if you’ve been throwing away your bean water, you are missing out on an affordable way to add more flavor and nutrition to your meals.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Bean Water?
While there are no real studies that have been done on the health benefits of bean water, we can look at what gets lost during the cooking process and realistically assume that it can be found in the cooking liquid from our beans.
While most of the nutrients stay in the bean after cooking, some minerals such as iron (17%), zinc (4%), and calcium (47%) are lost during the boiling process.
These minerals aren’t broken down, so it is reasonable to assume that the bean water would contain whatever is lost from the beans while cooking.
The water may also contain about 14% of the beans’ protein and some B vitamins such as niacin and thiamine.
Considering we don’t usually use this bean broth, it actually has some pretty interesting nutrients that would otherwise be poured down the drain.
As I mentioned above, some starches from the bean are also released into the bean water broth, which makes this liquid an excellent thickening agent for sauces, stews, and soups.
Often we’ll use starches like flour or cornstarch to thicken, but bean water can do the same job.
Considering all these potential health benefits, it makes sense to hang onto your bean water for use in the kitchen.
You’ll save time and money and be able to add lots of extra flavor, texture, and nutrition to your meals with something that would otherwise be garbage.
How To Get The Best Bean Water: Soak Your Beans First!
If you don’t struggle to digest the fiber in beans, then there are a lot of delicious things you can do with the leftover bean water after cooking up your favorite legume.
A great way to make that bean water even more digestible is to soak your beans before cooking them.
Soaking your beans helps to the amount of those hard-to-digest fibers (specifically oligosaccharides) in the final cooked bean and bean water.
It also decreases the amount of something called phytic acid, which is a compound in legumes and grains that binds to minerals, preventing absorption.
A lot of folks will tell you to soak your beans overnight, but some research has found that cold-soaking your beans doesn’t actually remove those pesky fibers, so warm-soaking and draining is likely your best bet.
How To Properly Soak Your Beans
- Bring 1 part beans and 4 parts water to a boil on the stove.
- Boil for 3 minutes, then remove your beans from the heat.
- Let them soak for 2 hours.
- Drain and rinse your beans.
- You can repeat this cycle one more time if you’re really sensitive to the different fibers, but once is often enough for most folks.
By warm-soaking your beans for a couple of hours, you can decrease the amount of these disruptive compounds so you can digest your beans and absorb all the minerals and vitamins that they contain.
Make sure you drain and thoroughly rinse your beans before transferring them to your cooking vessel.
You just spent all that time removing the oligosaccharides and phytic acid from your beans, you don’t want to use that water to cook them back into them!
Plus, it means the bean water won’t contain these compounds either, so you can feel confident using it in many applications in the kitchen to add some extra flavor and nutrition to all your meals.
Best Uses For Bean Water
Now that you’ve soaked, drained, and rinsed your beans and made a pot of delicious bean water, how should you use it in your kitchen? There are lots of great ways to reap the benefits of your bean water including:
Use Bean Water As A Stock In Soups
Many soup recipes call for veggie or chicken stocks/broths. Well if you don’t have any in the cupboard or don’t feel like making a whole batch for your recipe, you can substitute 1:1 for bean broth.
Lighter bean waters work best for lighter soups since they won’t discolor the final product.
Use Bean Water To Thicken Stews And Sauces
Many recipes like stew or pan sauces ask for gelatin or starches to help thicken them up.
Because bean water is quite rich in the starches leached from the beans during the cooking process, it can be a great way to thicken your sauces and stews.
The bean water is also more flavorful than flour or cornstarch, which is a bonus.
Use Bean Water To Thin Out Dips
You can save your bean water to thin out dips like hummus, white bean dip, black bean dip, or any other bean dip that you enjoy. It won’t dilute the flavor at all and you’ll get some extra beany goodness in every bite.
Use Bean Water To Cook Your Grains
Want to add some extra flavor and nutrition to your cooked grains? You can use your bean water broth in place of water to cook them up.
Just replace regular water 1:1 with bean water and you’ll have a flavor-packed grain.
Use Bean Water In Place Of Water In Doughs
If you have a savory dough recipe that calls for water, try replacing it with bean water instead. It will add a little extra flavor and starchiness that may take your bread to the next level.
Can You Freeze Bean Water?
If you regularly cook batches of beans then you might be wondering if you can freeze your bean water to use later.
Just like a veggie or meat broth, you can freeze your bean water broth to keep it fresh until you need it. You can also freeze your cooked beans if you like to batch cook.
Follow these instructions to freeze your leftover bean water:
- Let your bean water broth cool completely. I like to cool it in the fridge overnight.
- Once the bean water is fully cooled, transfer it to a freezer bag or an airtight glass jar. Make sure you leave about 1 inch of space at the top of the jar for expansion. You will also want to fill your freezer bag about halfway for the same reason.
- Seal your jar or bag.
- Write the date and contents on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the jar or bag.
- Place the bean water in the freezer and use it within 3-6 months for the freshest results.
How To Cook Beans In An Instant Pot
By far my favorite way to cook beans is in an Instant Pot. It is super fast, hands-off, and doesn’t risk boiling over and making a starchy mess on the stove.
If you eat a lot of beans, I highly recommend investing in an Instant Pot. Your life will be forever changed!
Follow these instructions to cook your beans like a pro!
- Follow the warm soak and rinse instructions above to remove some oligosaccharides and phytic acid.
- Once beans have been soaked, add them to your Instant Pot in a 1:3 ratio of beans to water.
- I like to add a teaspoon of salt, bay leaves, some fresh herbs, dried spices, and even some garlic if I know I’m going to be using them for a savory dish. Get creative as the more flavor you add here, the more flavorful your bean water will be. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
- Make sure your Instant Pot is set to seal.
- Manually cook the soaked beans for 15 minutes and then quickly release any remaining pressure at the end so that they don’t overcook. If you like a softer bean you can cook them for up to 20 minutes.
- Once the steam has been released, place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the beans and water through it, separating your bean water from the beans.
- Use your beans and bean water to create some kitchen magic.
How To Cook Beans On The Stove
Cooking beans on the stovetop is a lot more time-consuming and can be a lot messier than using an Instant Pot (did I mention how much I love mine?), but you can still make a delicious batch of beans and bean water this way.
Follow these instructions to cook your beans on the stovetop:
- To remove some phytic acid and gas-inducing fibers (oligosaccharides), follow the warm soak, drain, and rinse method above.
- Once your beans have been soaked and rinsed, add them to a large saucepan in a 1:4 ratio of beans to water.
- Season your cooking liquid with salt, bay leaves, and any herbs and spices you enjoy. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (helps with breakdown).
- Cover your saucepan with the lid and turn the heat to high.
- Bring your beans to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let them cook on low for about 90 minutes, or until they are your desired tenderness. You may need to add more water if it starts to evaporate.
- Once your beans are cooked to your liking, place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the beans and cooking liquid through it, separating them.
- Use your beans and bean water to create some kitchen masterpieces.
How To Cook Beans In A Slow Cooker
Another great way to cook beans is to use a slow cooker. It will take longer, but it is relatively hands-off and mess-free.
- After warm-soaking, draining, and rinsing your beans add them to your slow cooker in a 1:5 ratio of beans to water. I add a little extra water since it can evaporate as it cooks.
- Season your cooking liquid with salt, herbs, spices, bay leaves, and a 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
- Set your slow cooker to high and cook for four hours. If you set it on low you will want to cook for 6 hours.
- Once your beans have reached your desired texture, pour the beans through a strainer, catching the bean water in a bowl below.
- Use your beans and bean water to make your favorite meals.
I drink bean broth and eat a piece of fruit for breakfast most mornings. It’s a great start to my day!
Thank you for the information, just made beans from scratch ( first time) and hated the thought of throwing out the seasoned cooking water.