I went out of town for the weekend and when I returned, my lovely partner had dinner all ready. With the first bite came a rather chewy, yet hard bean. Now, we routinely cook rice and lentils in the rice cooker together, but I always handle dry beans. So I asked, “um, did you soak these beans before cooking them?” He gave me a look and replied, “no, I cooked them in the rice cooker.” Even though he knows I soak beans the night before, somehow there was a disconnect of information in his brain, and he thought he could just throw dry beans in with the rice like lentils. If you haven’t gathered, the answer is no, no you cannot do that. I mean, they were edible, but barely. Thus, I felt prompted to share a dry bean guide for anyone else who may be new to dry beans or, like my partner, just not really thinking about what you’re doing.
The first thing to consider is that dry beans will expand to become way more than you realize. The first time I ever cooked dry beans, I cooked a WHOLE BAG which didn’t seem like a lot dry, but turned into beans for days. Seriously, they expand three times their size. Here’s a good guide to help you:
- ⅓ cup dry beans = 1 cup cooked beans
- ½ cup dry beans = 1½ cup cooked beans
- ⅔ cup dry beans = 2 cups cooked beans
- 1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
- 2 cups (1 pound) dry beans = 6 cups cooked beans
As beans soak, the dried beans absorb water which begins to dissolve the starches that can cause intestinal discomfort. They also begin to double and triple their size while soaking.
Soak most beans in three times their volume of cold water for at least six hours before cooking. I usually soak them overnight, which for me ends up being about nine hours. Generally, the longer you soak beans, the quicker they will cook. Don’t leave beans soaking over 24 hours because they will begin to ferment.
You can also “quick soak” beans. Put them in cold water and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for about 2 minutes. Then remove pot from heat, cover, and allow the beans to remain in the water for 1 to 2 hours. Drain, rinse, and cook.
Always discard the water in which the beans were soaked. The water will have absorbed those starches which can be hard to digest. I usually water plants with my discarded bean water.
After your beans are soaked, drained, and rinsed, add them to a pot of fresh water. Bring them to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
Check beans occasionally and stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Some beans foam while cooking. Don’t be weirded out, it’s just water-soluble proteins released from the beans.
Beans are done when they can be easily mashed with your fingers or with a fork. Test a few beans to ensure the beans have cooked evenly.
This bean water you can totally use. I often cook beans and then throw in more liquids and veggies for soups. Add any salt or acidic ingredients, like vinegar or tomatoes, when beans are just tender. Otherwise, they will slow the cooking process.
Lentils and Split Peas
Lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked first. In fact, if you soak them, you’ll end up with a mushy mess. That’s why they can be cooked in a rice cooker along with rice. If you want to try cooking them that way, add about 1/4 cup extra water to the rice cooker and proceed as normal.
To cook lentils or split peas on the stove top, use a three to one ratio of water to lentils (ex. 3 cups of water to 1 cup dried lentils). Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until tender. They can cook for 15 to 30 minutes. Be sure to check on them and stir occasionally while cooking.
You can store cooked beans in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for up to six months.