Bean FAQs

The Real Food Living FAQ and reprints are provided as information only. The comments contained in the FAQ are the opinions of our readers. Before making any radical changes in your diet, please talk with your personal health care provider.

1. I have never cooked dried beans! (Don’t laugh!) Please tell me how!

A. We promise we won’t laugh! Every one has to try this the first time. Dried beans need to be re-hydrated by cooking in simmering water. Many things can affect the cooked result. Things such as the age of the beans, how they have been handled and stored, or the altitude at which the beans are cooked. (Beans cooked at higher elevations take longer to soften.) You have to consider the degree of water hardness (more minerals can make for longer cooking times). Acid ingredients such as tomatoes, vinegar, or citrus juices will greatly retard cooking times if added early on during the cooking process. Cooking dried beans is very easy. Here are the steps:

a. Before cooking, rinse the beans in a strainer and pick out any dirt, tiny stones, or other debris.

b. Bring the cooking water to a rapid boil, then add beans. Bring to a second boil, reduce the heat to very low, and cook covered (this is important) until tender.

c. According to our ~~bean music~~ expert (bean music is our code word for flatulence from beans), cut up carrots into 2-3 inch chunks. Add them to the cooking water with the beans. As the beans cook, they help absorb that ~~bean music~~ enzyme. When the beans are done, discard the carrots!

d. To check beans, take a spoonful out of the pot and blow on them gently. The skins should split easily. If the “skin test” works, taste one or two to see if they are soft.

2. Do I have to soak my beans?

A. Presoaking beans only shortens the cooking time about 30 minutes on large beans. There is little notice in the difference in texture or taste. Some people think that soaking several hours (or overnight) and then dumping that water, getting fresh water for cooking, reduces the ~~bean music~~ potential. You can cook your beans overnight in a slow cooker and not bother to soak them. I sort and rinse my beans, then place in slow cooker. In a 6 quart slow cooker, I use 6 cups of rinsed, uncooked beans. I cover with water up to 2 inches below the slow cooker rim. Place lid on and cook on HIGH about an hour, turn to LOW then I go to bed. In the morning, my beans will be cooked and ready for my recipe. One thing to consider though is not to overfill or underfill the slow cooker with beans or water since you won’t be checking on it. If the beans are not covered in water, they will not soften in the slow cooker and you will get bean rocks.

3. How do I store dried beans?

A. When purchasing beans, buy them from a store that has a high turnover so you will know they are fresh. Store them in their original packaging or in a canister on a cool pantry shelf. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can dehydrate them further and may cause them to never soften enough when cooked to be able to eat them. Dried beans stored correctly can last indefinitely, but the older they are, sometimes the longer they may take to get soft in cooking. I use my older beans in long-cooking recipes, or cook them in the slow cooker.

4. Can I pre-cook beans and use them later?

A. YES! I can share one thing that I do. One evening or sometime during the week-end, I will soak and cook a big pot of pinto beans. We usually have refried beans sometime during the week-end and bean burritos during the week. And, beans and legumes freeze very well, I do it *all* the time. You can freeze them seasoned or unseasoned.

5. Where do you get recipes for beans you cook yourself? Every recipe I have starts with “one can of xyz beans”.

A. Try cookbooks like Country Beans by Rita Bingham (my favorite!!) Laurel’s Kitchen, More With Less Cookbook to name a few. There are many recipes on the Internet and through books in your libraries. These cookbooks also have a good variety of recipes, which are healthy for you as well. Also see, the equivalent measures below. Also, you can take any recipe that uses canned beans and substitute your home cooked ones.

6. What are the measures for dry beans vs. cooked? I’d like to use the recipes I have and that I know my family will enjoy.

A. Here are some approximate measures

  • 1 pound dry beans = 2 – 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup dry beans = 2 – 3 cups cooked beans
  • 1 (19-oz) can cooked, drained beans = 2 cups
  • 1 (16-oz) can cooked, drained beans = 1 3/4 cups
  • 1 (15-oz) can cooked, drained beans = 1 1/2 cups

7. My husband really doesn’t like beans. Do you have any suggestions on how to wean him away from his “steak and potatoes” diet?

A. I found that my husband preferred bean dishes, which had an ethnic flair. For example making refried beans for Mexican dishes or a spicy casserole. With a nice salad and fresh muffins or bread on the side, he never noticed it was a meatless meal! I also tried making rice and beans as a side dish, or black bean dip with tortillas with a meat entree to help introduce the idea that this IS “real” food!

8. OK, now I know how to prepare beans. But I need recipes!

A. Here is a selection from our Real Foods Digest submissions:

Recommendation: Use organic whenever possible.

Black Bean Hummus
Vickilynn Haycraft

Yield: 2 cups Preparation Time: 5 minutes

  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 3 cloves minced garlic, more to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons tahini (sesame butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Place everything in a food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides as necessary. Add more seasonings to taste.

Per 1/2 cup serving:: 92 Calories; 4g Fat (34.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 340mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat.

Rachel’s White Chicken Chili
Rachel Jones

Yield: 6 servings Preparation Time: 25 minutes, divided

1. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until chicken is done:

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 4-6 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into very small chunks

2. Stir into chicken and onion mixture and simmer for 30 minutes:

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups chopped jalapeno peppers or green chilies, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Cilantro to taste

3. Stir in and cook for 10 more minutes:

  • 40 ounces canned (or 4 cups) cooked great northern beans, drained
  • Salt to taste if you are using your own dried, cooked beans

Garnish with cheese if desired. Serve with green salad, tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream.

Per serving: 433 Calories; 6g Fat (12.9% calories from fat); 52g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 256mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Grain (Starch); 6 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat.

Black Bean Peanut Butter Cake
Adapted by Vickilynn Haycraft

“There are many variations of this recipe; this is my family’s favorite.”

Yield: 12 slices Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: 45 minutes

  • 2 cups cooked black beans, drained
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups sucanat
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter, natural variety, nothing added
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender, food processor or with a stick blender, mix the beans and eggs together until very smooth. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Mix until very smooth (not lumpy).

Spoon batter into an oiled 10-inch pie plate and bake about 45 minutes, or until done in center and top is crackled. (It will puff and then sink.) Let cool completely (it will be very soft and moist) and cut into 12 wedges. Dust with cocoa or powdered sucanat if desired.

Per serving: 74 Calories; 2g Fat (30.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 35mg Cholesterol; 88mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Split Pea, Potato and Turkey Bacon Soup
Vickilynn Haycraft

Yield: 11 cups Preparation Time: 15 minutes

  • 1 pound dry split peas
  • 6 cups water or organic chicken broth
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 8 ounces turkey bacon (I prefer Applegate Farms, organic, non-nitrite, uncured), cooked

Sort, rinse and drain split peas and place in slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients and cook on HIGH for 4 hours, then turn to LOW and cook until tender, stirring well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with crumbled, cooked natural turkey bacon and serve.

Per cup serving: 185 Calories; 1g Fat (2.6% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 13mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable.

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About Vickilynn Parnes

A student of health and nutrition for 40+ years, Vickilynn Parnes has over 30 years of actual hands-on experience reviewing and personally using different tools of the homemaking vocation, focusing on the areas of health and nutrition. Vickilynn is a magazine columnist, product reviewer, cookbook author and radio talk show host, as well as being full-time mom to 5 children.