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!
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!
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!).
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!
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
- 2 cups dried beans
- Sea salt
- Onion quarters, halved shallots
- Smashed or sliced garlic cloves
- Scrap veggies, scallion tops, fennel fronds, herb stems
- Desired spices, bay leaves, peppercorns
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.
This is actually one of the fav you can come across.
Great method!! Have you ever tried any beans from Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean company? If not…do yo’ self a favor 😋
Thank you for sharing so many great recipes and methods!
Hi Cheryl, So glad the beans came out well for you!
When you freeze the beans after they are cooked, are you supposed to drain them first or freeze them in the liquid? Thank you!
You can freeze them either way.
My beans took almost 4 hours!! But they’re delicious
I’m glad you loved them! Beans can really vary by their age (and it’s hard to tell when they’ve been packaged).
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this up. It’s very helpful. Once they are cooked, do you just eat them as is or do you add them to other recipes?
Once you cook them, you can use them as you would canned beans – eat as is or add to other things. I usually freeze 1 1/2 cup portions in individual bags; that’s the same amount as a 14 oz. can.
I love your blog, so helpful. I’ve been cooking beans for a while (20 odd years) and just soak everything, except the peas, due to sensitive tummy and not wanting to be ‘gassy’ in public😂.
Love the recipes, I’m going to get back into freezing beans, I’ve been soo lazy! Thanks for the inspiration!!
If you add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda to your soaking water each time you change it and stir it in, and then rinse the beans before you boil them to make sure it is removed, and then add one teaspoon baking soda back in when you boil them you won’t have any problems with bloat or gas…and! as a bonus, they will cook in 1/4 the time. Be careful or you will overcook them this way. This trick works like magic and my husband and I eat beans all of the time now and love them. Enjoy!
wow! thanks for the tip!
I noticed no mention of gas being caused by peas. Is my family the only one affected in that way? I have learned that soaking some peas and changing the water every few hours help to reduce the gassiness.
When my beans are finally done cooking and I’m going to store them in the fridge, do I store them in the liquid or drain them and discard the liquid before storing?
Great place to start for cooking with dried beans! Thanks for the info 😊
Why are you supposed to simmer the beans uncovered? I don’t understand why you have to cover them.
I love ham hock or bacon and white great northern beans. Do you have a recipe for ham hack and beans or bacon and beans? Please share.
Thanks for the recipe. I tried it with white beans and put the salt and aromatics after 30 minutes but when I checked the beans in the second 30 minutes they were already cooked (and kind of overdone 😶). When would you recommend putting in the aromatics next time? Thanks!
Oh wow, that’s so fast for white beans. If you’re using those same beans again, I would put the aromatics in at the beginning.
Thanks, will do!
I used them for your white beans dip and it was delicious 😋
I’m so glad you loved the white bean dip!
Ive literally just had the same thing. My beans were cooked by 30mins, haha. I’m trying out allspice in mine so decided to pop it in anyway,turn off heat and let it soak in the hotwater. My first ever try at raw beans after a friend introduced me. Just found love&lemons today. Can’t wait to get experimentin
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.
Hi KD, it’s possible that i was just that batch of split peas?
I don’t think so. This has happened several times with various batches/brands of split peas.
I’m not sure, I’ve never had split peas go more than about 45 minutes. You could try soaking them first?
I’ll try that. I just wonder what I did wrong, LOL.
Thank you for your replies.
If you have hard water, this can impact the cooking. Use distilled water and see if you have better luck. Or half distilled, half regular water.
Thank you for the suggestion, Chris. I’ll try it next time.
I have always known that when you boil split peas with salt they do not get soft. I’m Guyanese and cook split peas in several dishes. I always boil first and add salt later.
Thank you for your help, Lynne. I never add salt when cooking dry beans. I only add bay leaves, kombu, or aromatic vegetables.
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?
Hi Rita, I haven’t cooked with them but I’ll let you know if I give them a try!
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!
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;
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!
Thanks Carol! I like to soak them for digestion, but I’m happy to hear that they work well for you without the soak.
Would love to see recipes using an Instant Pot pressure cooker. Any chance of that?
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.
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.
Curious about this too. Thanks for posting.
I bought an Instant Pot & a Ninja iFoodi & ended up keeping the Ninja & used a pressure cooker for the first time in my life (scared to do so) but made lentils—adding ham since the beginning. They were ready in 20 minutes. I then added onion, garlic, salt (and I like to add a tad of cumin, oregano and pepper). I also added carrots—they turned out delicious [and not just my opinion]. I still can’t believe they came out so tasty in such a short amount of time. ☺️