Beans sign at farm
Beans and other legumes are considered superfoods, with nutritional benefits that are helpful to people with many types of health concerns or dietary restrictions. Paired with vegetables, beans and legumes can be considered a complete meal and healthy source of protein.

Beans are available dried and canned. Canned beans have been fully cooked and can be used immediately, but dried beans must be soaked and cooked until tender before they are eaten. Soaking will soften their skins, allowing them to hydrate slightly; this makes for faster and more even cooking.

Before soaking, sort dried beans by spreading them into a single layer and removing any stones and other debris and any moldy beans. Rinse the beans with cold water to remove any dust.

To soak, there are two methods that are commonly used, the long-soak method and the short-soak method. Except for time, there is no appreciable different between them.

For the long-soak method, place the sorted and rinsed beans in a container and add enough cool water to cover them by about 2 inches. Let soak in the refrigerator for 4 hours or up to overnight, depending on the type of legume or grain.

Quick-soaking the beans for soup.

For the short-soak method, place the sorted and rinsed beans in a pot and add enough water to cover them by about 2 inches. Bring the water to a simmer, then immediately remove the pot from the stovetop and cover. Let the beans steep, off the heat, for about 1 hour.

To cook the beans, drain the soaked beans and transfer them to a medium stockpot. Cover with cool water or other liquid, like stock or broth, by 3 inches, and add salt. Simmer the beans over medium heat until they are completely tender, depending on the type of bean (check out our chart at the end). If necessary, add additional water, keeping enough liquid to cover the beans as they cook.

Beans are done when they are completely tender and creamy on the inside but still retain their shape. They should be soft and easy to mash with a fork or spoon. Reserve the beans in their cooking liquid until ready to use.

Mashing beans with a fork

It is just as easy to cook a large amount of beans as a small portion, so think big and cook extra beans that can be frozen for future meals. They defrost quickly and can be added to soups, stews, and salads. Freeze the cooled beans in a layer on a sheet pan, then transfer to a zip-top bag for easy grab-and-go use.

Chart of legume cooking times


  1. Is their a health issue to place soaking beans in a refrigerator versus on a cold stove top overnight?

    I’ve been told to freeze the beans in their cooking liquid versus what is written here. Are they both right?


      You can freeze beans in their cooking liquid, if you like. But freezing them on a sheet pan and transferring to a zip-top bag makes them much easier to throw into soups, pasta, or quick dips. As for the safety of soaking beans in or out of the refrigerator, do what makes you most comfortable, but left out in a cool room should be ok. If it’s warm, put them in the fridge or they might start to sprout or even ferment!

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