soak beans

The Best Way to Soak Beans – Step By Step

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Dry beans are one of the most inexpensive, yet nutritious and versatile ingredients available to most. Cooking dry beans can save you so much money, compared to buying ready-to-eat beans, and cooking beans from dry is also pretty rewarding.

Many people shy away from cooking dry beans, where do you even start?

Before cooking dry beans, you will need to soak the beans. There are three different ways to soak beans before cooking them, all really easy to do!

So what is the best way to soak beans? You can soak beans with hot or cold water. Our preferred method is the traditional way, which involves allowing beans to sit in cold water for 8 hours.

Below is the step-by-step guide to soaking beans. Read this guide, pick a method, and get to soaking those beans!

Preparing the Dry Beans

Before you can start soaking your beans, you will need to prepare them. This should not take long at all, and can be quite a therapeutic experience!

  1. Clean the beans
    • First, you will need to clean the beans. Place the beans in a shallow tray, such as a baking sheet. Go through the beans and pick out any foreign objects, such as small stones, broken beans or leaves. As the beans do not go through any process before packing, it is common to find foreign objects amongst the beans.
  2. Rinse the beans
    • Place the beans into a strainer or colander and rinse them under cold water from the tap. Run your hands through the beans while they are under the cold water to make sure all the beans are rinsed well.

How Long to Soak Beans

Now it is time to soak your beans, and you can choose between three methods to do so.

soak beans

Here are the three different ways to soak your beans at home:

1. Traditional Soaking – 8 to 12 Hours

The traditional soaking method is best when cooking beans in a pressure cooker, as the pressure cooker allows the beans to become much softer than normal cooking.

  1. Place your beans in a bowl.
  2. Cover the beans in cold water while in the bowl, ensuring all beans are covered.
  3. Leave the beans to soak for 8 hours, or if possible, leave them to soak in the water overnight (about 12 hours).
  4. Drain the beans and discard the water. The beans might appear wrinkled after soaking, but they will rehydrate once they have been cooked.
  5. Rinse the beans with cool water.

2. Hot Soaking – 24 Hours

Many people choose to use a hot soaking method. It usually results in the softest, most tender beans.

  1. Place the beans in a large pot and add in 10 cups of water for every 2 cups full of beans.
  2. Heat the water to boiling and let it boil for three additional minutes.
  3. Remove the beans from the heat and cover them. Let the beans stand for up to 24 hours.
  4. Drain the water from the beans and discard the water.
  5. Rinse the beans will cool water.

3. Quick Soaking – 1 Hour

Quick soaking is the fastest way to soak your beans, while still giving you tender beans after cooking.

  1. Place the beans in a large pot and add in 6 cups of water for every 2 full cups of beans.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and leave it to boil for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the beans and water from the heat and cover, let the beans stand for 1 hour.
  4. Drain the water from the beans and discard of the water.
  5. Rinse the beans with cool water.

Cooking the Beans

Once your beans have soaked using one of the above methods, it is time to get cooking. 

  • Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with fresh, cold water.
  • Place the pot over medium heat and continue to cook the beans at a simmer to prevent the beans from splitting.
  • You will need to add water as the beans cook as the beans expand while being cooked. Adding in more water keeps the beans covered, for even cooking.
  • Continue to stir the beans occasionally while they cook to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • The beans will take 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook, which depends on what types of beans they are. When ready, the beans will be tender, but not too soft that they are mushy.
  • Once your beans are ready, you can discard of any leftover water, and add the beans to your favorite dish.

Tips for Cooking Beans

While the process of soaking and cooking beans is fairly simple, it is always worthwhile to have some handy tips to remember to ensure your beans are as perfect as possible.

cooking beans
  • It is important to not let the water boil while cooking your beans, as this could split the skins. It is better to leave it at a gentle simmer to keep the beans intact.
  • Do not leave the beans to cook while you do something else. Beans expand as they cook, and you will need to continually add in more water to ensure all the beans are covered. This helps all the beans cook evenly, and prevents burning and sticking.
  • Even though you will be cooking the beans on a gentle simmer, you need to stir the beans often. They can still stick to the bottom of the pan, cause a mess and have a burnt flavor.
  • Keep testing your beans as you cook them. Remove one bean at a time and let it cool. Take a bite of the bean to test it. It should be tender, and soft, but not mushy. If your beans are not ready, wait another 15 minutes before testing again.
  • In order to halt the cooking process once your beans are ready, and to stop them from over-cooking, you should drain the beans immediately from the hot water.
  • For a stronger flavor, you can add in onions to your pot of cooking beans. For a more prominent onion flavor, you can add the onion in during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  • Different herbs and spices such as thyme, parsley, oregano, and garlic can be added in to bring different tastes and layers to the beans.
  • Adding in acids such as lemon juice, tomatoes, chili sauce, vinegar, and molasses too early might prevent the beans from becoming soft and tender. Add these in once the beans have been soaked and cooked fully.

What Should I Cook My Beans In?

You do not need to only cook your beans on the stove. You can choose to use a pressure cooker (like this one from Amazon) or slow cooker as well.

If using a pressure cooker, do not fill the pot more than halfway with the beans and water. This will help to reduce the cooking time, but might not give enough time for the beans to absorb any additional flavors you have added in.

To make sure all the flavors blend, you can leave the pressure cooker lid closed for an hour to allow the ingredients such as herbs, onion, and garlic to permeate the beans.

cooking beans

It is also a good idea to add in a tablespoon of oil to the cooking water to avoid any foam forming, which could block the pressure cooker safety valve.

If you are wanting to use a crockpot, you can set it to cook on high for 3 hours. Be sure to have the beans covered in water throughout the cooking process.

Once cooked for 3 hours on high, lower the temperature and continue to cook the beans on simmer until they are soft, which could take between 6 to 8 hours. This is a longer method but is a great way to achieve perfectly cooked beans that absorb all the flavors they should.

Soaking Beans

Soaking beans before cooking has many benefits. It helps to reduce the cooking time needed for soft, tender beans and also helps to remove the sugars responsible for gas, and for making beans harder to digest.

Soaking your beans, and discarding the water, allows the beans to be as clean as possible, not holding any dirt, foreign matter or bacteria.

There are various ways to soak beans at home, all of which work well, and all can be used to suit your cooking and time constraints.

Pick up a bag of dried beans today and get soaking for the softest, most tender beans around.

Related Questions

Does Soaking Beans Reduce Gas?

If you want to avoid the famous gas that comes along with eating beans, you should soak the beans and discard the water before cooking, rinsing the beans thoroughly. The reason for this is that soaking the beans removes some of the sugars that give you gas during digestion, and soaking also does well to reduce cooking time.

Why Should You Discard the Soaking Water?

Soaking the beans removes the sugars that cause gas, and which makes it more difficult to digest the beans. Beans also cannot be washed before being packaged and sold, as this would cause them to turn moldy, so the water might still hold some of the dirt from the beans.

This is why it is better to drain the water from the beans, discard it, and then rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking with fresh, cool water.

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