You really should be making beans from scratch. I’m sorry if that is a bit bossy, but the canned stuff is just so much pricier and making them from scratch (not to mention the chemicals in those cans) is so easy that you should just jump in and do it if you aren’t already. I thought I would share a few tips, in hopes of encouraging you to try it for yourself (just skip this post if you’re already using dried beans and give yourself a pat on the back!).
I’m a big believer in pre-soaking the beans, which is basically the hardest thing about making beans from scratch: remembering to soak them the night or day before. To give me the convenience of canned beans without the expense, chemicals, and loads of salt, I make triple or quadruple batches of beans when I make them. Here are my steps for easy beans from scratch – add your tips in the comments!
1. Put the beans in a large bowl. Cover with at least two inches of water. If you have some lemon juice, whey, or apple cider vinegar on hand, Weston Price and Nourishing Traditions say to add a tablespoon or two. I sometimes do and sometimes don’t. I can’t seem to tell a difference either way. I usually salt the soaking water fairly generously (a tablespoon or more) – a bit like a brine for the beans. Like I said above, I usually do this with at least a pound or two of beans at a time. It takes no more work to soak two pounds of beans versus a half of a cup or four cups for that matter, so I make it worth my time by doing a bit batch.
I like to let the beans soak for 18-24 hours if possible, so I try to set them out the morning before I want to cook/use them. So if I wanted to cook them Wednesday, I’ll set them out to soak Tuesday morning before work. Then I deal with them after work on Wednesday evening. The longer soaking time (up to 36 hours) just seems to help in terms of digestibility. I’ve even been known to let them start sprouting like these kidney beans.
Recipes can get confusing with various measurements for dried beans versus cooked versus canned. Here’s a handy chart to bookmark:
|Dry Beans||Cooked Beans||Canned Equivalents|
|½ cup dry beans||1.5 cups beans (cooked)||1 15-ounce can of beans|
|2 cups dry beans||6 cups beans (cooked)||4 15-ounce cans of beans|
|1 part dry beans||3 parts beans (cooked)||NA|
2. After the beans have soaked for the allotted time, rinse them thoroughly with cold water in a colander. Beans are dirty, so your soaking water is probably dirty, and rinsing also removes leftover phytic acid residue from what I’ve read.
3. At this point, your cooking method is up to you. I typically throw the beans in my pressure cooker, cover with about two inches of water, bring to pressure, and then cook for about 10 minutes on medium-high. I occasionally use the slow cooker for black beans, black-eyed peas, and chickpeas. I put them in the slow cooker, cover with two inches of water, and cook on low for about 8-10 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Many beans, especially kidney beans, need a 5-10 minute hard boil first, which is why I tend to just use the pressure cooker because it’s easier to just dirty one pan and the pressure cooker is so fast anyway. Another alternative is to just put the beans in a large pot on the stove, cover with a few inches of water, bring to a boil, then cover, and reduce to low simmer for 4+ hours.
4. If you’re using your beans right away, I recommend incorporating the cooking liquid into whatever you’re making if possible. Many nutrients leach into the cooking water, and it’s super flavorful too. Obviously, for salads and similar recipes, you may want to drain the beans first. If you’re freezing the beans, I try to freeze beans in two or four cup portions with the cooking liquid. They last for ages in the freezer. Then I use one batch and freeze the other two or three batches for later use. If I have a sudden craving for beans, I just get the jar out of the freezer, run it under some cold water so the beans dump right out, and then add it to whatever is cooking on the stove. If you’re using beans for salad or hummus or something similar, you’ll probably either need a fresh batch or allow the frozen beans to thaw out completely. But I mostly use the beans in soups and stews and things, so it’s easy just to throw the frozen block of them in the pot to thaw out and cook with everything else.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes using beans:
Leave your bean-making and eating tips in the comments!