How To’sday: Soaking and Cooking Legumes

Legumes are simply plants, or fruits of certain plants. You know them, they include peas, beans, lentils, mesquite, carob and yes, peanuts. Most can be eaten raw and almost all can be sprouted (not kidney beans or limas). All can be cooked and they can also be ground into flour which is excellent for those with gluten intolerance. I tend to use fava bean and garbanzo flour quite a bit in my gluten-free baking. Most beans can be fermented into products like Miso (my fave is soy-free adzuki bean miso), and also made into noodles for recipes like Purple Kale & Mung Bean Noodles with Miso Onion Sauce.

Legumes are super versatile and cooking them is easier than you may think. They definitely take time, but the health benefits of proper preparation are tremendous. I will usually pick a day of the week and put a variety of beans in separate bowls and soak them overnight while I sleep. You can rinse them in the morning and store them in airtight containers in the fridge for about 5-7 days (rinse them every few days) until you cook them for recipes/salads.

Why no canned beans? I know it’s easier to use canned beans, but easier isn’t healthier. Aluminum, even in small amounts, can be very toxic. It’s linked to diseases like Alzhiemer’s and Osteoporosis and ailments like chronic fatique. It makes it’s way into everything from drinking water to baking soda, so it’s best to control what you can by avoiding it when you can. Cookware, toothpaste, antacids, vaccines, infant formula, cigarette filters, medications, antiperspirants, dental amalgams, bleached flour, grated cheeses, table salt, beer and most processed foods also contain aluminum. The best way to ensure that your food is clean is to make the time to prepare it yourself.

Place legumes in a strainer and sort through them carefully to remove any tiny rocks or other debris. Remove any discolored or badly formed ones, too. Then wash/rinse them well. Place legumes in a bowl and cover them with pure water and a pinch of sea salt and soak 8-12 hours. Larger legumes take longer to soak than the smaller ones. The longer you soak legumes, the less time you need to cook them, but it’s important to not oversoak or start fermentation. We are trying to reduce gas, not increase it.

Read all about the necessity and benefits of soaking as well as how to sprout legumes, seeds and grains. It’s important to gain an understanding about why these extra steps are important for optimal health. The more you know, the easier it will be to prioritize and make the time to prepare them yourself.

Always discard the soak water and rinse soaked beans well before cooking.

Since dry beans must rehydrate, they will expand to about 2 1/2 times their dried measure size.
1/2 cup dry legumes = 1 1/4 cups cooked
1 cup dry legumes = 2 1/2 cups cooked
2 cups/1 lb dry legumes = 5 cups cooked

You can cook legumes with a homemade veggie stock for rich flavor or with pure water. Note: for those of you who live at altitudes above 3,500 it may take you a bit more time to cook legumes.

1. Place soaked and rinsed legumes in a large saucepan or pot and add enough water so the legumes are covered completely the entire time they are cooking.

2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer uncovered until cooked. Some folks say that adding salt to cooking legumes lengthens cook time. Since I pre-soak legumes, I haven’t found this to be true. I almost always add a small strip of kombu seaweed to legumes when I cook them. It doesn’t impart a sea flavor (it’s pretty neutral) but it does add loads of minerals. Sea veggies are also alkaline-forming and known to bind to heavy metals and radioactive substances—pulling them from our bodies. So any chance I get to sneak them into foods, I do, and cooking legumes is a great way.

Now, you can cover with a lid while the boil lightly rolls—I have heard that it decreases cook time, but since I always soak my legumes first (which already decreases cook time), I haven’t noticed a difference more than about 5 minutes. If you need those 5 minutes back that badly, try covering your legumes as they cook (wink).

If you have to add more water to the pot to keep legumes covered while cooking, go ahead. You will more than likely have to do this for the legumes with longer cooking times like Garbanzo beans. I all too often make the mistake of letting the water boil off when I’m cooking Garbanzos. One burned chickpea ruins the whole batch, so make sure you keep adding water to the pot as they cook.

Legumes are done cooking when they are firm enough on the outside, but can easily smoosh between your fingers (or can easily mash with a fork). Be sure to try a few in case they haven’t cooked evenly. If your legumes are cooked and there is still water in the pot, just drain.

Some legumes will foam when cooking (ie: Garbanzos), this is just protein. You can leave it or spoon it off.

Storing Cooked Beans:
Keep in an airtight glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze cooked beans for 2-4 months.

Popular Legumes & Cooking Times (post soaking)
Adzuki Beans: 40 mins
Anasazi Beans: 1 hr
Black Turtle Beans: 1 -1/2 hrs
Black-Eyed Peas:45 mins
Butter Beans: 1 – 1 1/2 hrs
Cannellini Beans a.k.a. White Kidney Beans: 1 hr
Chestnut Beans: 1 1/2 hrs
Fava Beans: 1 hr
Flageolet Beans:  1 1/2 hrs
Garbanzo a.k.a. Chickpeas: 1 – 3 hrs
Kidney Beans: 1 1/2 hrs
Lima, Large: 45 mins – 1 hr
Lima, Baby: 45 mins – 1 hr
Great Northern Beans: 1 hr
Peas, Whole Green: 1 1/4 hr
Peas, Whole Yellow: 1 1/4 hr
Split Peas, Green: 1 hr
Split Peas, Yellow: 1 hr
Lentils, Brown: 20 – 30 mins
Lentils, French: 20 mins
Lentils, Black: 20 mins
Lentils, Green: 20 – 30 mins
Lentils, Red: 10 mins
Mung Beans: 45 mins
Navy Beans: 1 – 1 1/2 hrs
Pink Beans: 1 – 1 1/2 hrs
Pinto Beans: 1 – 1 1/2 hrs
Small Red Beans: 1 – 1 1/2 hrs
Soybeans: 3 hrs

Stock your pantry with a variety of dry legumes in airtight glass containers. Recycled salsa-size jars work great too. And be sure to get your legumes in the bulk section for savings. They store in a dry, dark pantry for decades, but note that the older the legumes, the longer they take to cook.

Try out legumes in these recipes:
Ethiopian Chickpea & Sweet Potato Wat
Ethiopian Lentils with Berbere Spice
Mixed Vegetable Curry with Brown Basmati Rice
Lentil, Kale & Sweet Potato Empanadas with Creamy Chimichurri
Lentil & Portobello Umami Sliders
Vegan Chili with Gluten-Free Pasta (prepare your own beans)
Spicy Sweet Potato & Refried Bean Burrito (prepare your own beans)
Purple Kale & Mung Bean Noodles with Creamy Miso Onion Sauce

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  1. This is a great bean resource. I love how you have an extensive list of bean cooking times even though it definitely varies from batch-to-batch. I’ve overcooked chickpeas in an hour, oops!

    I also think that storing the dry beans in glass jars is a great way to decorate your kitchen as well.

    This is a peek at my bean collection in its Mason jar glory.

    • Now THAT is what I call a prepared kitchen, Janet! I thought I had a big collection, wow…

  2. Hi Heather,

    being a legume cooker with pan and pressure pans for a while now, i find very interesting your comment on cooking with the pan unconvered.

    Can you further explain why you do this? I tend to find that when covering the pan, i get shorter cooking times.

    It is difficult to find a precise adjective to demonstrate the quality of your site. Please keep the good energy!

    • Hi there Sergio~
      Thanks for the feedback and your question about covering lentils while cooking. For lentils, you definitely can cover with a lid while the boil lightly rolls, but since I always soak my legumes first (which already decreases cook time), I haven’t noticed a huge difference between covered and uncovered—maybe 5 minutes. Do you soak first? Thanks Sergio!

  3. Megan

    Do you store the beans in the fridge with the cooking water, fresh water or drained?

    • Heather Crosby

      Hi Megan~
      Great question. Store them rinsed and drained. If they are raw, you don’t want to drown them, so after soaking on the counter (or in the fridge if you like) for the recommended amount of time, rinse well with pure water. If you aren’t cooking them right away, drain them and store in the fridge in an airtight glass container. When you cook them, make sure to use fresh, pure water, not the soak water—the enzyme inhibitors we are trying to release with soaking are still in there, so use fresh water. Once cooked, if there is any water left in the pot, drain your legumes before storing—you don’t want them to turn into soggy mush. Hope that helps 😀

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