Monday, February 21, 2011

The Easy Way to Cook Dried Beans

One of the best budget-friendly protein sources that I can think of is dried beans. You can buy dried beans in the packages or bulk bins at the grocery store for next to about $1.99 per lb. You can of course buy cans of beans since they are convenient for quick meals on the fly, but dried stretches your dollars further because dried beans expand to about double in size when cooked and it's much more green friendly because of less packaging and processing.

I have many childhood memories sorting pinto beans and smelling them cooking on the stovetop. My mom added bacon slices, onion and garlic as she cooked them on the stove and it smelled amazing. I've found an easy way for cooking dried beans to fit into my hectic lifestyle without slaving away in the kitchen.

I soaked these pinto beans on Friday overnight, then cooked them in the slower cooker on Saturday during the day. I used the cooked beans on Saturday night for vegetarian chili and Sunday night for homemade refried beans (frijoles). More on the refried beans later...

Why eat beans and legumes? Beans are packed with protein, fiber, and iron. As recent vegetarians, Aaron and I have been eating more beans than ever and they are very filling and tasty. Beans are so versatile and can be made into patties (Falafel), stews, chili, filling for burritos or tacos, or plain on a salad for protein. Beans are great combined with whole grains like brown rice, barley or quinoa. Our favorites are chickpeas (for curries, soups, hummus) and pinto (in the picture) for burritos, chili, and tacos. We also like kidney for soups (minestrone) and black beans for enchiladas, chili and burrito filling. We love Lentil Stew served over brown rice. The possibilities are endless!

Cooking dried beans is super easy. If you plan ahead you can save money and time for future meals. Store your dried beans in a sealed container in the pantry, marking the type of bean and the date that you bought them. The easiest way to cook dried beans is to do it in batches, then use the beans for multiple meals. The slow cooker is energy efficient and easy.

Step 1: Soak Overnight
With dried beans, you need to soak them in water to help the cooking process. You need to soak all beans except for lentils, split peas, and black eyed peas.
  • First, sort the beans and make sure you don't have any debris.
  • Rinse the dried beans in water and drain.
  • Use a mixing bowl to soak beans overnight in water. Fill the bowl a couple inches above the water.
Step 2: Slow Cook
In the morning, the soaked beans will double in size and most of the water will be absorbed.
  • Drain the beans and rinse.
  • Add the beans to slow cooker with fresh water covering the soaked beans a couple inches above.
  • No need in adding any seasoning since you can season later. It's better to cook them plain so they will be more versatile for different dishes.
  • Cook on Low setting for 8-hours, stirring infrequently and making sure to replenish water, if needed.
Step 3: Store
After the beans are cooked, I like to store beans that won't be used that evening for future meals that week.
  • Use cooked beans in any dish, any way you like. Use a slotted spoon to use the beans you need for that night.
  • Keep cooking liquid for some recipes such as refried beans or hummus, according to your recipes.
  • Let beans cool, then store in resealable containers for the refrigerator. I've never tried freezing them.
That's it! It's really easy!


  1. Love the slow-cooker idea! Another pitfall of the canned beans is that BPA is in the can lining and leaches into our food. Ick! I haven't been able to give up canned tomatoes in the winter, but I plan to 'can' my own in ball jars this summer. :)

  2. I always forgot to use my slow cooker for cooking dried beans. Thank you for the reminder and tips! My beans cooked up beautifully!

  3. Carol, that's great! I love the slow cooker because it's so easy and I like to make a big batch for multiple meals.

    My favorite is making refried beans from cooked pinto beans. I have a follow-up blog post coming!

    Amie, that's a good call. I hate opening cans, but the BPA aspect is such a bad side effect.

  4. How long do you keep your cooked beans in the refrigerator? Black beans are a staple of Charlie's diet, and we eat quite a few too. I'd love to nix the cans!

  5. Hi Karissa, I can usually keep them in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. I try to make some for soups and save some for casseroles or refried beans depending on the beans that I'm cooking. I rotate between black and pinto beans. That's great that Charlie likes black beans! I'm dying for Ava to eat them!