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How to Cook with Dried Beans

How to cook dried beans by

I usually cook about 2-3 pounds of dried beans every week. That’s the equivalent to about 10-12 cans of beans a week but keep in mind, we’re a family of 4 BUT still – we eat a lot of beans! Whether we eat beans for breakfast, lunch, after school snacking, or dinner, they taste great, they’re healthy, and they’re inexpensive.

Feeding my family beans that I’ve soaked and cooked rather than canned beans that I’ve purchased costs so much less and there’s nothing to throw away or recycle. When I cook the beans myself, I know my family is eating food that’s low in sodium and preservative and chemical free.

Beans are so versatile and can be added to soups, pasta, dips, burritos,  and scrambled eggs. They can be used to make hummus or as a substitute for more fattening foods like mayonnaise. I like to add white beans to broth-based soups as a gluten-free thickener, too. Once cooked, white beans break down easily and are hardly even noticed by bean-dis-likers.

Go Gingham: Beans ready to soak
Dried beans ready to have water added for soaking overnight.

Buying a can of beans is definitely healthier and better for you than buying a processed frozen burrito but make sure to check the ingredients. Canned beans can have sugar, preservatives, calcium chloride, calcium disodium, and color protectors – basically a bunch of junk – read the ingredients. In one can of beans, there are about 3 1/2 servings and what you get is about 1 heaping cup of beans, plus liquid. The cost of one can is about $1.00 (on average).

When buying dried beans, you can purchase them by the pound in a 1-pound or 2-pound package or in the bulk food section. Be sure and check the price per pound to make sure you’re getting the best price. Dried beans usually cost about a $1/pound and if you buy a 25-pound bag you’ll save even more money – you’ll also get a workout! It takes us about 3-months to use a 25-pound bag of beans and I usually buy only pinto beans in this quantity since that’s what we eat the most of.

Go Gingham How to cook dried beans
Cold water added for soaking beans. Sage leaf added for viewing the water only.

How to Cook with Dried Beans

  1. Pour your dried beans into a large pot or slow-cooker and cover them with several inches of cold water to soak. If I’m cooking beans in the morning, I let them soak overnight and then turn on my slow-cooker in the morning. (I cook 6-cups of dried beans which is about 2-3/4 pounds. The yield – meaning what I get after cooking the beans – is about 15-cups of beans.)
  2. After the dried beans have soaked at least 2-hours or overnight, I turn on the slow-cooker and set it to high for 5-hours. You may need to adjust cooking time for your slow-cooker. Test beans for doneness after 4-hours if you’re not sure.
  3. If I’m organized and not running late in the morning, I’ll add a chopped onion and garlic to the slow-cooker to add flavor while the beans are cooking.
  4. After the beans have finished cooking, I strain most of the liquid off and then put them into freezer containers in amounts our family will use.
Food storage containers
I save all of our glass jars to use for food storage both in the pantry and freezer.

More bean details…

  • Dried beans can be cooked in a slow-cooker, a pressure cooker, or on the stove top. They all produce the same result but length of cooking time will vary. Using a pressure cooker is the fastest, followed by stove top and lastly, slow-cooker.
  • Dried beans need to soak for a couple of hours before cooking. If I’m cooking dried beans in the morning, I soak the beans overnight and turn on my slow-cooker in the morning. After a busy day, I’ve got an easy dinner when our dried beans have been cooking all day.
  • Cooking dried beans in a slow-cooker that automatically shuts off means no one has to be home to tend the stove.
  • When cooking dried beans, I always make a large batch, use what I need, and freeze the rest in sizes that are right for my family to use. Be sure and label the freezer containers.
  • When recipes call for a “can of beans” the dried beans that have been cooked equivalent is about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of beans. See the picture below.
  • If I really want to flavor the beans, I add 1-2 cups of homemade chicken broth to the batch after they’ve soaked overnight. You could also add vegetable broth as well. I don’t soak the beans overnight in chicken broth.
  • Beans, beans the musical fruit….okay, you probably know the song but they really are good for us!
Canned beans
Contents of 1-can of black beans: heaping cup, liquid, and salt, etc.

Cooking with dried beans adds fiber and protein to a meal – without adding fat. They’re also gluten free. Dried beans are very inexpensive and usually cost about a $1/pound and if you buy a 25-pound bag you’ll save even more money – you’ll also get a workout!

Do you cook with dried beans? Are you an overnight soaker?

Go Gingham related links:

Why I cook with dried beans – complete with money saving chart!
Very easy and tasty white bean dip
Corn and black bean salad – made with dried beans
Spicy hummus – yes, spicy and made from dried beans!
Lentils and pork – lentils are similar to beans but there’s no soaking
After school snacks that involve beans – and no small packages
How our freezer gets used – what I keep in our freezer and how I utilize the space

19 thoughts on “How to Cook with Dried Beans

  1. I’ve never cooked dried beans before, but my husband and I are trying to get away from the BPA and other yucky things in canned goods so we’re about to start cooking them.
    I have some ham bones in the freezer leftover from our summer meals. I’ve put ham & beans on our monthly menu for this fall and my plan is to use the slow cooker to make this dish.
    Your post makes cooking the beans seem so easy! Thanks for the tips!


    1. Shannon,
      You’re welcome!
      You should try cooking the beans with a ham bone – that’s how I make split pea soup. So tasty.
      I hope you’ll try the beans. You’ll never go back to canned, I promise!
      Thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂


  2. I love this idea. … New Orleans we love red beans and I do a super large gumbo pot of them about twice a year and freeze and they come in so handy…..I leave them in the fridge to defrost while at work and it makes an easy meal with rice after a long hard day……Charles 🙂


  3. Thank you for these great tips! I’ve been cooking with dry beans, but I was cooking a cup of raw beans a day. I soaked and then put them in the saute pan. It’s quite time consuming every morning and they also never get soft enough. Thanks to your crockpot suggestion, I have a feeling I’m going to save a lot of time and have better beans to eat to boot. I’m going to make them on Saturdays and have them the whole week or so.

    Thank you!!!


    1. Tina, you’re welcome!
      I can’t wait to hear if you’ve tried the slow-cooker and made them for a week at a time.
      Hats off to you for making them every morning. Very impressive!
      Thanks for leaving a comment.


  4. As a huge energy saver I “cook” beans in my Thermos Bottle (for small amounts equal to 1-can of beans) or Thermal Cooker (for large amounts), or one of my several homemade “Wonder Ovens”, when I want to cook large quantities and use less energy and keep the kitchen cool. You can find on-line information about thermal cooking.

    The Solar Oven is another good method to use. I use quart jars spray-painted with black paint (heat-resistant paint made for BBQ grills) on the outside of the jars (black/dark containers and cookware work best in Solar Ovens), and load a number of those into the Solar Oven. I can cook several kinds of beans/grains at once using this method.

    More recently I’ve started sprouting beans first. It takes less time to cook them after they are sprouted, increases the vitamins and minerals, reduces the carbohydrates, increases the protein, and neutralizes the phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, and it also breaks down difficult-to-digest complex sugars. All big pluses for a little extra work when using large quantities of beans as a meat substitute in your diet.

    You can also dehydrate cooked beans for “instant” beans, or mill dehydrated beans into bean flour for added nutrition and protein in baked goods, etc. As an example, I add dehydrated navy beans to tuna or salmon patties instead of bread/cracker crumbs. Karen G.


    1. Karen,
      These are wonderful tips! I especially want to try the dehydrated beans – I bought a dehydrator at an estate sale and have been trying different foods. The beans would be great to bring camping, too.
      As always, I appreciate your approach and methods. Thank you!!


  5. How funny is this: I’m trolling the Costco aisles today and my wife asks if we need a rack of canned beans. We agree to go with dry beans instead.

    She has a great recipe.


    1. Well done, David! I saw that same Costco aisle and was glad to not be buying canned beans. They’re expensive for what they are!
      Do tell on your wife’s recipe! I always need new bean recipes.
      Thanks for leaving a comment and tell your wife good job! 🙂


  6. This really does sound easy! I need to find just one recipe that my kids will eat with beans – something they will love! – to change their minds and help them see that beans are not “totally disgusting!” I have one child who is a vegetarian (actually a carbo-tarian) and I would like to help him develop a taste for beans to get some protien in his diet. Thanks for the good ideas for preparation and saving time!


    1. Annie, you’re welcome!
      I forgot to tell you that I used your slow-cooker and made a batch of beans during our home exchange. I left you some beans in your freezer. Labeled 😉
      ps for spicing beans….add onion, garlic and cilantro. You can’t go wrong with black or pinto beans and those ingredients!


  7. What is your opinion on when to salt your beans? When you start cooking or when they are almost done? It seems like if I miss the window, I can’t get them seasoned correctly.


    1. I am curious about this as well.

      Also, I made a whole batch this weekend following these instructions and it’s already cut my morning breakfast making by a fourth!!!


    2. Here is a great “How-To” video from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School. Bridget Lancaster explains the science, salting, and an interesting brining method.


    3. Kris,
      I don’t salt them before cooking them or during. I usually only salt them in a recipe (a little) or seated at the table. Try onion, garlic, cilantro – those will give you flavor without sodium – and YUM!


  8. Thanks for the great post. I have cooked beans in different ways – stove top, microwave, pressure cooker, but not slow cooker to date. Which do you think is the most economical of the 4?


    1. If you have a Kill-A-Watt electricity use monitor (I got mine at, you can see exactly how much electricity you use for different tasks, including cooking beans.

      -If you sprout beans first, they take the least amount of time to cook using any method (plus they are better for you and easier to digest).

      -Solar Ovens are free energy, but you first soak and bring the beans to a boil on the stove; place in the pre-heated solar oven and they will continue to simmer for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until tender.

      -Thermal cooking (Wonder Oven, Thermal Cooker or a Thermos Bottle) is supposed to use up to 80% less energy than traditional stove-top cooking. When using a Thermal Cooker you bring soaked beans up to a boil for 10-20 minutes on the stove (less time for small beans and more for large varieties), place the pan in the Thermal Cooker and they are ready in 2-4 hours (depending on size of bean). You use the same method for a Wonder Oven using a heavy pot. If you make a small amount of beans (pre-soaked) in a Thermos Bottle, the amount of energy is the hot tap water you place in the Thermos to pre-heat it (then dump out) and the boiling water it takes to “cook” the beans (great for an overnight method). The total stove-top time for a Thermal Cooker or Wonder Oven compares fairly closely to the total time it takes for a pressure cooker if you soak the beans first. A pressure cooker takes longer, therefore more energy than a Thermal method, if you use beans that haven’t been soaked.

      Although we all love the convenience of a slow-cooker (aka Crock-Pot), they can take more total energy over a long period of time than the short cooking time in a pressure cooker or a thermal cooking method. You can increase the energy savings a little for Thermal or Pressure Cooking by using an Induction Cook-top (faster and more energy efficient) instead of your regular electric or gas stove.

      I’ve never used a microwave for cooking beans because it usually takes 60 to 90 minutes, and would actually be one of the more expensive methods.

      Maybe someone else has a different experience and more tangible numbers.


    2. Well, I like Karen’s suggestions –
      I had a pressure cooker but it broke so I’m without one right now. That is the quickest way to cook beans! The slow-cooker is nice because I can leave the house – or cook them overnight if I need to.
      If you have a slow-cooker or pressure cooker, try those. If not, go with the stove top and see how it fits your needs.
      Good luck! Can’t wait to hear how it works. 🙂


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