With the convenience of canned beans, many of us have never even considered cooking with dried beans at home. In fact, the long and seemingly finicky process may even intimidate you. The truth is, cooking beans on the stove takes nothing more than dried beans, a pot, some water, and a few hours at home.
While beans are a wonderful way to add protein and fiber to meals, canned beans have some characteristics that make them less desirable than their homemade counterparts:
Sodium: Canned beans contain on average 400-500 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup serving. To put that in perspective, dietary guidelines for Americans suggest limiting sodium to 1,500 mg or less, and strongly recommend an upper limit of no more than 2,300 mg per day. Considering most bean servings are closer to 1 cup, you’re consuming more than half of the suggested sodium daily intake in one serving of canned beans.
BPA: Many studies have recently warned us of the risks of consuming canned foods due to the presence of a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) in the cans themselves. BPA can leach into food and has been associated with concern for hormone levels, brain and behavior problems, cancer, heart problems, and many other conditions.
Cost: Canned beans cost on average 3 times more than dried beans.
Preparing beans at home on the stove does take quite a bit of time, but very little effort. So little effort, in fact, that you can prepare beans while you watch TV, run an errand, or even while you sleep.
The first thing you’ll need to do is soak the beans. The process for preparing dried beans is the same regardless of the type, so choose your favorite and get soaking! One pound of beans makes about 5 cups of cooked beans, which is plenty for one recipe, but you may want to consider making extra beans to freeze to use your time most effectively. You’ll simply want to place your beans in a large bowl, cover with water, and allow them to sit for twelve to twenty-four hours. You can leave them soaking on the counter while you’re sleeping or at work without having to worry about them becoming over-soaked.
While some cooks argue that long soaking decreases the flavor of the beans, the soaking process helps the beans cook more evenly and a bit more quickly. To boost the flavor of your cooked beans, simply add some aromatics like garlic, onion, or bay leaves to your pot while simmering.
The amount of time required to simmer your beans will depend on the type and size of bean as well as its freshness. While beans are simmering, you’ll simply want to set a timer to check on them after about an hour and a half, then about every 30 minutes to check for doneness.
Once your beans are tender, you can enjoy them right away in soups, burritos, salads, and other quick meals all week long.
- 1 lb. dried beans
- Filtered water
- 2- 3 tsp. salt
- Optional: garlic, onion, bay leaves
- To soak beans, place them in a large bowl and cover with water at least 1 inch above the beans. Leave on the counter for 12-24 hours.
- Once the beans are soaked, drain the liquid and rinse them gently.
- Transfer the soaked beans to a large stockpot and cover with 2 inches of fresh water. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer so the water is just moving. Too much movement from the water can cause the skins to break. At this point, add any aromatics like garlic, onion, bay leaves, and salt. Simmer for 2-4 hours, until beans are tender.
- Once tender, cool the beans in their cooking liquid, and then transfer to containers to store in either the refrigerator or freezer, still in their cooking liquid.