How to Cook Beans

Once you know how to cook dried beans, you'll always have them on hand. They're cheap, nutritious, easy to make, and - most importantly - delicious!

Dried beans

Canned beans are convenient, but in terms of affordability, taste, and texture, dried beans have them beat. If you’ve never cooked dried beans before, don’t let it intimidate you! My method for how to cook beans is an easy, hands-off process with a huge payoff. They come out soft and creamy, with a rich, aromatic broth surrounding them. Hot from the stove with a ladle of cooking liquid, they’re good enough to enjoy as a meal on their own!

Of course, you can also use dried beans anytime you’d use canned – in bowls, soups, tacos, and more. Cook a big batch and freeze them to have on hand. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later!

Dried beans in bowls

How to Cook Beans

Cooking dried beans is easy! Here’s what you need to do:

  • Pick them over. Small stones or debris are often mixed in with dried beans, so sift through the beans before you cook them. Discard this debris along with any shriveled or discolored beans.
  • To soak, or not to soak? I highly recommend soaking your beans before you cook them. They’ll be ready in a fraction of the time, and they’ll be much easier to digest. To do this, place the dried beans in a large bowl and add water to cover them by 2 to 3 inches. Discard any beans that float. Then, leave the beans to soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse the soaked beans.
  • Time to cook! Transfer the soaked beans to a large pot and cover them with 2 inches of water. If you’re using unsoaked beans, rinse them in a fine mesh strainer before you add them to the pot. Bring the water to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, discarding any foam that rises to the surface.
  • Add seasonings & continue cooking. When the beans have simmered for 30 minutes, season them with salt. Continue cooking until the beans are tender, adding more water if they begin to look dry. The cooking time could be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours more, depending on the size and freshness of your beans. I recommend checking them every 30 minutes.

When the beans are tender, season to taste and remove them from the heat. Store the beans in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze them for several months! And for the full recipe, see below.

Cooking Dried Beans – Exceptions

I use this method for cooking dried beans for almost every bean variety: black beans, pinto beans, cannellini, kidney, cranberry, and more. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule:

  • Lentils. There’s no need to soak these legumes before you cook them! Each variety has a distinct texture and short cooking time – learn about cooking black, green, brown, and red lentils here.
  • Split peas. Green and yellow split peas also cook quickly and don’t require soaking. Green split peas cook in about 25 minutes, while yellow split peas take 30-40 minutes. Both are great for soups, as they dissolve into a smooth, creamy puree as they cook.
  • Adzuki beans. These little red beans have a delightful sweet, nutty flavor, and if you can get your hands on some, I highly recommend you give them a try! Simmer them for 35-40 minutes with salt and your desired aromatics (read more about these below!).

How to cook beans

Seasoning Dried Beans

Dried beans cooked with sea salt and water are delicious, but adding an onion, garlic, or other aromatics to the pot will make them even more flavorful! These simple additions turn the starchy bean cooking liquid into a fragrant broth that’s just as tasty as the beans themselves. Here are a few of my favorite aromatics:

  • A strip of kombu: This is optional, but it helps the beans become more digestible.
  • Onions and garlic: Quartered onions, halved shallots, or smashed garlic cloves
  • Herbs: A sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme, or sage, parsley, or cilantro leaves or stems. I often add frozen herbs to my home cooked beans.
  • Spices: Black peppercorns, freshly ground black pepper, bay leaves, or dried chiles
  • Vegetable scraps: Onion ends, fennel fronds, scallion tops, celery leaves, and more! I freeze these scraps for cooking beans or making homemade vegetable stock.

Add one or more aromatics when you add the salt, 30 minutes into the bean cooking process. When the beans are tender, remove and discard any add-ins before you eat. Let me know what variations you try!

Cooked white beans

More Pantry Basics

Loved learning how to cook beans? Try cooking one of these pantry staples next:

Then, find 30+ pantry-friendly recipes here!

How to Cook Beans

rate this recipe:
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time: 8 hrs
Cook Time: 2 hrs
Serves 8 to 12 (makes 6 cups)
Learn how to cook dried beans on the stove! Simmer them with water and salt, or add aromatics to the pot for extra flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried beans
  • Water
  • Sea salt

optional aromatics:

  • Onion quarters, halved shallots
  • Smashed or sliced garlic cloves
  • Scrap veggies, scallion tops, fennel fronds, herb stems
  • Desired spices, bay leaves, peppercorns

Instructions

For black beans, white beans, red beans, garbanzo beans:

  • Place the beans in a large bowl. Discard any stones or debris. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and discard any beans that float. Soak at room temperature for 8 hours or over overnight. Drain and rinse well.
  • Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Skim any foam off the top, then add 2 teaspoon sea salt and desired aromatics. Continue simmering until tender but not mushy, up to 2 more hours, stirring occasionally. The timing will depend on the type and freshness of your beans. I typically check them every 30 minutes. If they start to look dry, add a bit more water to the pot.
  • When the beans are tender, discard the aromatics. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Store cooked beans in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for several months.

For adzuki beans:

  • Skip the soaking process. Rinse, then place the adzuki beans in a large pot. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes with desired aromatics and sea salt. Season to taste.

For split peas:

  • Skip the soaking process. Rinse, then place 2 cups split peas in a large pot with 4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until soft, 25 to 40 minutes. Season to taste. Split peas will become mushy in texture, similar to red lentils. They're great for thickening soups and stews.

13 comments

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  1. Deb Z
    03.24.2020

    Hi!
    Would love to see recipes using an Instant Pot pressure cooker. Any chance of that?
    Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.24.2020

      Hi Deb, thanks for the request! I still don’t have an Instant Pot but if I get one, I’ll be sure to post recipes.

      • Jean
        03.29.2020

        Tickled to know I am not the only foodie on the planet without an Instant Pot. Will probably give in soon, even with a tiny, overstuffed kitchen.
        Thanks for the good seasoning suggestions. I am a big Rancho Gordo fan so love the bean recipe post.

  2. Carol White
    03.24.2020

    I love your post and think you do an excellent job. But because I cook beans often and have been cooking them at least once a week for over 30!years, I would like to say that I never soak beans other than chickpeas. As well, I always add salt right at the beginning of cooking and don’t feel that the old myths about adding salt later are still considered true. I’d live to share my favorite bean recipe with you;
    TUSCAN BEANS
    1 lb (2 cups) beans (I usually use ranch Gordon cannellini)
    2 tbsp best-quality EVOO
    4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
    6 or 8 fresh sage leaves (or more if desired)
    2 tsp kosher salt (I prefer Mortons)

    Method: place beans and 7-8 cups clean water in pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and add garlic, oil, salt and sage. Cook uncovered for about 90 minutes, stirring periodically and adding water if needed to keep beans covered with water. When beans are tender, turn off heat, cover pot and let sit out for several hours to let flavors develop.
    I usually cook my beans in a Staub pot and find they cook a bit faster in that pot. Not sure why!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.24.2020

      Thanks Carol! I like to soak them for digestion, but I’m happy to hear that they work well for you without the soak.

  3. Hayley
    03.24.2020

    Thanks Jeanine. I couldn’t get any canned beans at the store last week, but I managed to grab a bag of dry chickpeas and pinto beans!

  4. Rita
    03.24.2020

    I have found so many amazing recipes on your blog. Thank you for sharing your gift of hospitality through food. I am hoping you can help me with mung beans. I have not had luck with making them. Have you worked with them?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.29.2020

      Hi Rita, I haven’t cooked with them but I’ll let you know if I give them a try!

  5. KD the Kitteh Mama
    03.24.2020

    Thank you for this post.

    I always have trouble cooking split peas. For some reason, they don’t completely soften. The last time I tried to make split pea soup, I stopped cooking them after about 3 HOURS and they were still not tender. I boiled them in a large stockpot with half veg stock and half water. Do you know why this would be happen?

    When I cook dried beans, I always add a few bay leaves or kombu strips. Supposedly they reduce gas, but I haven’t noticed any difference. Their flavor is nice, however.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.25.2020

      Hi KD, it’s possible that i was just that batch of split peas?

      • KD the Kitteh Mama
        03.25.2020

        I don’t think so. This has happened several times with various batches/brands of split peas.

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          03.25.2020

          I’m not sure, I’ve never had split peas go more than about 45 minutes. You could try soaking them first?

          • KD the Kitteh Mama
            03.25.2020

            I’ll try that. I just wonder what I did wrong, LOL.

            Thank you for your replies.

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.