Cooking dried beans can feel intimidating at first. It’s easy to get thrown by trying to figure out how much water you need to prevent dry beans that are hard to chew—or what if you cook them too long and they turn into a mushy mess?
But fear not, you’ve got this!
This blog covers three ways to cook dried beans: the stove, slow cooker, and the Instant Pot. These methods will work for mung beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), black-eyed peas, lima beans, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, etc. The examples shown in this article use dried chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and cannellini beans.
How to prepare dried beans for cooking
All bean-cooking methods start with the following three steps:
- Measure the amount of dried beans you want to cook. A general guide is a 1 to 3 ratio: one cup of dried beans will be about three cups of cooked beans.
- Do a quick sort of the beans to remove pebbles or other debris you don’t want to eat. Some people will remove the broken pieces, but I usually don’t since they are still edible. It’s a personal preference. Just dump the dry beans in a pie pan or on a rimmed cookies sheet and browse through them with your fingers.
- Rinse the beans in a strainer.
Now proceed to the method you’re planning to use to cook your beans.
Cooking dried beans on the stove
Before you get too excited about firing up that stove, you’ll want to soak your beans. You can do this one of two ways.
- Overnight (8-Hour) Soak: Put the beans into a bowl and cover them with water by at least 2 inches, letting them chill overnight or all day in the fridge.
- “Quick” (1-Hour) Soak: To do a faster soak, place the beans into a pot. Add enough water to cover the beans with about 2 inches of water. Bring the beans to a gentle boil. Turn off the heat and let sit uncovered for 1 hour.
You’ll know the beans are soaked by the amount of water absorbed from soaking. Your beans will increase in size, and the water level will appear to decrease. But what's happening is that the water transfers into the beans, plumping them up.
When the beans are done soaking, drain away the soaking water and rinse them.
Now it’s time to fire up the stovetop.
Water needed to cook beans on the stove
Put the soaked, rinsed, and drained beans into a pot with water. You’ll want to cover the beans with 2 to 3 inches of water. Aim for 3 inches if cooking chickpeas or 2 to 2 ½ inches if cooking most other beans. Turn the heat up to medium-high to bring to a gentle boil, then partially cover with a lid and reduce heat to low or simmer.
Cooking times on the stovetop
Beans typically take between 10 minutes and 2 hours to cook on the stovetop, depending on the bean’s type, size, and shape. As you can imagine, tiny beans like mung beans will take less time, whereas larger (round) beans like chickpeas typically take more to cook through. Below are estimated cooking times of common beans:
|Dried Bean Type||Stovetop Estimated Cooking Time |
|Mung bean||10 to 15|
|Adzuki beans||30 to 40|
|Black-eyed peas, purple hulled peas||40 to 45|
|Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, lima beans, navy beans, cranberry beans, fava beans||45 to 60|
|Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)||60 to 75|
Monitoring the beans on the stove
Periodically stir the beans and make sure they are cooking to desired consistency. Stoves can vary, so a "low" or "simmer" on my stove may differ from your stove. Also, longer-cooking beans will lose more water through evaporation, so check in on them and add more boiling water, if necessary.
Also, if you cook them too long, they’ll lose their shape and turn into mush. If you’re making refried beans, a blended soup, hummus, or veggie burgers, it’s probably not a big deal since you’re going to smash them anyway. But if you’re making the beans for a salad, buddha bowl, or veggie chili, you’ll be disappointed. So check them frequently.
When the beans are done cooking, drain any excess water and use them for whatever! Here are a few bean dishes for you to check out (click the photo to view the recipe):
Refried Beans (OIL-FREE)
North African Chickpea Soup
The Best Blessed Black Bean Beauty Bowl
Sweet and Smoky Black-Eyed Peas and Greens
Cooking dried beans in a slow cooker
After you’ve measured, sorted, rinsed, and strained the beans, you can add them to a slow cooker with water. There’s no need to soak the beans beforehand. You can put the beans on in the early morning, and they’ll be ready for dinner later that evening.
In the slow cooker, beans can take anywhere from 4 hours to 8+ hours, depending on the bean’s type, size, shape, and whether you’re cooking at high or low heat. As with stovetop cooking, smaller beans cook faster than larger beans. Of course, beans cooked at a high heat setting will be done sooner than at low heat. But if you’ll be away from the house all day, low temperature and a longer cook is actually more convenient, right?
The ratio of dried beans to water
The ratio of dried beans to water is typically 1 to 3½ (or 4)—one cup of dried beans to 3½ (or 4) cups of water. One cup of most dried beans, like black beans, pinto, and black-eyed peas, will need 3½ cups of water, whereas a cup of chickpeas will need 4 cups of water.
Cooking times in a slow cooker
While slow cooker temperatures may vary between brands and equipment performance, high heat settings typically cook twice as fast as low heat settings. I prefer the low heat setting because you can set it and forget it, going about your day without worrying whether it’s going to burn. When I’ve left my beans in too long on “low”, the worst that’s happened is that they start to split. Below are the estimated cooking times by dried bean type:
|Dried Bean Type||Slow Cooker High Heat|
Estimated Cooking Time
|Slow Cooker Low Heat|
Estimated Cooking Time
|Mung bean||1 to 2||2 to 4|
|Adzuki beans||2.5 to 3||5 to 6|
|Black-eyed peas, purple hulled peas, lima beans||3 to 3.5||6 to 7|
|Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, cranberry beans, fava beans||3.5 to 4||7 to 8|
|Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)||4 to 5||9 to 10|
Cooking dried beans in an Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is one appliance I’m so glad I discovered. I purchased mine in 2015, about three years after I adopted a whole food, plant-based vegan diet. This little powerhouse of a kitchen appliance can do several things, including sauté, steam, slow-cook, and of course, pressure-cook your favorite foods. In addition to cooking beans in the Instant Pot, you can also make soups, porridge, rice, sweet potatoes, and even cake!
With the Instant Pot, you again don’t need to soak beans. Yay!
The ratio of dried beans to water
The ratio of dried beans to water is similar to the slow cooker method, typically 1 to 3½ (or 4). That means one cup of dried beans to 3½ (or 4) cups of water. One cup of most dried beans (like black beans, pinto, and black-eyed peas) will need 3½ cups of water, whereas chickpeas will need 4 cups of water.
Cooking times in the Instant Pot
After adding the dried beans and water to the Instant Pot, you’ll need to lock the lid and set the pressure release valve to the sealing position. This enables the Instant Pot to come to pressure when you turn it on. In many cases, it takes around 8 to12 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and start cooking.
Let’s pause and go through how the pressure release works at the end of cooking beans in the Instant Pot. There are three types of pressure release methods: natural, quick, and a combination of the two.
Natural pressure release
A natural pressure release is when the beans are done cooking and the Instant Pot gradually releases the pressure. It can take about a half-hour to finish releasing. When it’s done, you’ll be able to unlock and remove the lid. Using the natural pressure release will continue to cook the beans and come to a slow stop.
Quick pressure release
Quick pressure release is when you carefully switch the valve from the sealing position to release. You’ll want to do this from the side so the steam coming out doesn’t burn your hand. Quick-release can help rapidly stop the pressure cooking process with delicate smaller beans like mung beans to avoid mushy beans.
Combination of natural and quick
A combination of both natural- and quick-pressure release has worked well for me when cooking most beans like black-eyed peas, pinto beans, and black beans. After the program ends, you allow 10 to 15 minutes of natural release and then finish it off with a quick release.
Tap the Bean setting on the Instant Pot and adjust the time according to the type of bean you’re cooking.
|Dried Bean Type||Set Timer to|
|Natural Release Time|
|Mung bean||1||None||Yes, immediately|
|Adzuki beans||12||10||Yes, after natural release|
|Black-eyed peas, purple hulled peas||15||15||Yes, after natural release|
|Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, cranberry beans, fava beans, lima beans||30||30||Yes, after natural release|
|Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)||50||30||Yes, after natural release|
Frequently asked questions about beans
Beans are food that contains both complex carbohydrates as well as protein. They are often mentioned as a good source of protein, but they have both.
If you're new to eating a whole food, plant-based nutrition plan, having gas is pretty standard. However, the longer you eat these foods, including beans, the frequency of flatulence will likely lessen. Your body (i.e., the microbes in your gut) will adjust to this new way of eating. Be sure to chew your food well and eat slower. Also, tossing the cooking water you used to make the beans can help. Finally, consider adding a strip of kombu to the beans while cooking. Be sure to remove it before serving your beans. Kombu is high in iodine, so if you have thyroid issues, please be sure to check with your healthcare provider before adding it to your beans.
Beans are very nutritious. Eating a diet rich in beans (and other legumes like lentils and peas) have been shown to promote weight loss, improve heart health, insulin sensitivity and gut health. Nutritionally, beans are high in fiber, antioxidants, and a good or excellent source of iron, potassium, magnesium, folate, and other B-vitamins.
Absolutely! As a nutritionist and athlete, I typically eat 4 servings of beans or other legumes (like lentils and peas) daily. But other nutrition experts recommend 3 servings daily. A serving is ½ cup of cooked beans (or other legumes). It's also good to have variety so be sure to mix things up!
Beans are nutritious and found to be a staple in the longest-lived populations, often referred to as “Blue Zones.” They are packed with fiber, protein, several micronutrients, and beneficial compounds. While I appreciate the convenience of canned beans (don’t get me wrong, I use those too!), dried beans hold a special place in our hearts. They are budget-friendly and generate less recycling and garbage waste than canned beans. Plus, there’s no added sodium with dried beans.
I hope this how-to guide is helpful. The more you cook with dried beans, the more it becomes second nature. Your feedback is important to us. Please leave a reply below and share. 💖
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