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How to Cook Dried Beans

How to Cook Dried Beans

I made the switch from canned to dried beans for three reasons: flavor, cost and chemicals.  The first two points are self explanatory – dried beans are cheaper and tastier than their canned counterparts.  The third surprised me.  You’ve probably heard of BPA (Bisphenol A is commonly used as a plastic hardener.  It causes hormone disruption and has been deemed toxic in Canada and Europe).  In recent years the BPA alarm has been sounded and now many plastic products, especially in the kid industry, are going BPA free.  That’s great, except BPA is in lots of things besides bottles and toys.  One common place is the lining of canned goods – as in the lining touches your food.  That really ticked me off.  It didn’t scare me enough to avoid canned goods altogether, but it motivated me to reduce our consumption and try some alternatives.  Dried beans were one of the things I tried and they were a hit.  They’re creamy, buttery and deliciously nutritious. Soaking them prior to cooking makes their nutrients more digestible and reduces cooking time.  This requires a bit of advance preparation but the hands on time is very minimal.  Plus they keep well so you can make a giant pot and use them throughout the week in all kinds of recipes.  And if you need more convincing, beans are packed with fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.  Not too shabby!  Here’s the basics on cooking dried beans.

How to Cook Dried Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 part beans – dried beans will expand to about 3 times their size, I use about 1/2 cup dried beans per serving
  • 3 parts water
  • Optional: salt, spices and extras

Directions:

  • Mix beans and water in a bowl or mason jar.  Cover and let soak for 8-12 hours (or whatever time you have).  Dried beans expand considerably so leave plenty of room in your container.
  • Give the soaked beans a quick rinse and pour into a pot.  Add enough water to cover the beans by a couple inches, bring to a boil, skim off the foam and then simmer with the lid on until soft.  This usually takes about 45 minutes or so although the cooking time depends on the bean.  A small fresh bean may take 20 minutes, a big old bean could take an hour and a half.  The longer they cook, the better.  So if you have extra time they can simmer gently for hours, just make sure the water doesn’t burn off.
  • Once the beans are soft, drain off the excess water and add salt/spices to taste (salting at the beginning makes the skins tough).  Enjoy!

Notes:

  • This is a very basic bean recipe.  From here you can eat them as is or add them to soups, chili or stews.  Or mash them with butter like refried beans, toss them on a salad or add any combination of diced vegetables, meats, herbs or spices.  I like to sauté them with onions, garlic and stewed tomatoes and serve them over rice.  Let your tastebuds be your guide.
  • For extra flavor and nutrition, try cooking the beans in stock instead of water.  If there’s a lot of liquid left at the end, remove the lid and simmer uncovered until it condenses to your liking.
  • I was initially turned off by the inconvenience of soaking things.  However, I quickly got into a routine and it stopped being annoying.  An easy system for beans is to toss some water over them before work.  Once dinnertime rolls around they’ll be perfectly soaked with minimal effort.
  • Soaking does more than just soften the beans, it actually improves their nutrition.  Adding a tablespoon or two of whey to your soaking water will help even more.  If you want to learn more, here is my post on the benefits of soaking (applies to grains and beans): http://youngmotherhubbard.com/http:/1740/the-benefits-of-soaking-grains/

 

Update: I recently discovered that beans can be used to reduce or even eliminate the flour in many baking recipes.  I’ve been testing them out in different desserts and the results have far exceeded my expectations!  Replacing nutritionally empty flour with healthful beans adds protein, fiber and nutrients to your desserts.  And amazingly, you don’t taste the beans at all.  I’ve been testing recipes on friends, family and kiddos and have gotten rave reviews.  Below are some of my favorites:

 

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdickert/5604623143/

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