Chatelaine Kitchen

How To Cook Dried Beans (They're Better Than Canned!)

This pantry superstar is simple to use, inexpensive, nutritious and versatile.

Dried beans are much cheaper than canned and they taste better, too. Despite being a simple ingredient, they can be tricky to cook—sometimes turning mushy and at other times, tough and chewy. Here, how to make sure that never happens the next time you cook dried beans.

Store your beans in a sealed container, in a dark, cool and dry place

When stored properly, dried beans can last up to two years. Label your bean container because no, you won’t remember when you opened that bag of chickpeas next fall.

Use “fresh” dried beans

That’s right, even dried goods have an expiration date. Beans that are too old can lose moisture and are unable to re-hydrate. This means they will remain tough (like little pellets) regardless of how long you soak them.

Dried beans need to be soaked

You need to soak your beans even before you cook them. It is best to soak beans overnight—smaller beans and legumes, such as lentils and split peas, do not need the pre-soak, but most beans do. If you forgot to soak your beans overnight, do a quick soak by putting your beans in a pot and covering them with three inches of water. Bring to a boil, boil for two minutes, then remove from heat and a let sit for one hour. Your beans are now ready to be cooked.

Never salt the water when cooking beans

Salting the water will make your beans tough and chewy. Other ingredients, such as citrus rind, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, dried spices and unsalted broths can be used as flavour enhancers. Otherwise, season with salt only once the beans are fully cooked.

vegetarian baked beans

Vegetarian baked beans. Photo, Roberto Caruso.

Keep an eye on the water or liquid level

Dried beans are like sponges and will continue to absorb water until they are saturated. Add more water as needed, keeping the water 2-3 inches above the beans.

How to cook dried beans on the stove

Bring beans to a boil in the cooking liquid, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer to allow beans to retain their shape. Remember that they like to be cooked low and slow.
Beans are amazing at taking on the flavours of a dish. Try to plan ahead and make your bean dish the day before, giving the beans plenty of time to absorb flavour. Dried beans will triple in size once cooked. One cup of dried beans will yield 3 cups cooked beans. Cooked beans can be stored in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. They also freeze very well.

How to cook beans in a slow cooker

Soak your beans overnight, drain them and then throw them in your slow cooker. Cover with water and then set your device on low. Let your beans cook for about eight hours, but check them earlier for doneness.

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Originally published October 11, 2012. Updated in March 2020.