Learn to Cook Dry Beans: 3 Ways

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3 Simple ways to cook dry beans from scratch using the stovetop, slow cooker, and Instant Pot. Plus our favorite bean recipes!

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Let’s be very honest about something. Eating healthy and cooking from scratch is not easy. We constantly have to choose what is worth our time and what is not.

You probably have a lot of things to do during the day. Cooking absolutely everything from scratch is likely not at the top.

I get it. We make as much as I reasonably can from scratch, and then I draw the line. It’s all about balance and making real food fit into our real life and very real budget.

In our house, cooking dry beans fall on the reasonable side of the line. I make these from scratch and only occasionally buy canned (usually as a Kroger markdown or clearance item).

Is Cooking Beans From Scratch Worth It?

Beans are one of my favorite foods to make from scratch for 3 reasons:

  1. SO CHEAP – canned beans are inexpensive, but for $2 I can make 4-6 cans’ worth of beans and use them for many, many meals.
  2. Simple to make – I know cooking dry beans is intimidating, but the concept behind it is very simple, and once you try it a few times, you may decide the 5 minutes of work is worth it!
  3. Delicious – not as good as pizza, as my kids remind me, but they are a comforting crowd-pleaser that wins

Cooking dry beans requires neither great skill, nor great precision. You essentially cook them until they are soft and call it a day. Because cooking them is so simple and hands-off, and because we eat so many, cooking beans from scratch is worth it to me.

Awhile back, we did a Facebook Live tutorial on cooking dry beans from scratch. We edited it and uploaded it to YouTube, so enjoy it here! Some tips in the video are not mentioned here in the post.

To get our videos and tutorials (as well as most of our live recordings) in one place, go here to Subscribe – don’t forget to Like the videos you find helpful. It lets us know what we should make more of and which ones serve you well!

Conversion Tips:

  • 1 cup dry beans = 2-2½ cups cooked beans
  • One 15-oz. can of beans = 1 3/4 cups cooked beans, rinsed and drained

3 Ways to De-Gas Beans

For a long time, I refused to cook with beans because I didn’t like the way they smelled while cooking, and I didn’t like the way people smelled after eating them.

If you feel the same way, I learned a few tricks that helped convert me.

  1. Soak & Rinse – See the soaking note below and in the recipe. I have found that the longer the soak, the better.
  2. Choose Your Beans – In my experience, the thicker the skin on the beans, the more problems they cause. As a result, we eat a lot of pinto beans, great northern beans, black-eyed peas, etc., while avoiding black and red beans.
  3. “Magic” Spices – Traditionally, some spices are supposed to help remove the gaseous effect. Read more about that here! I didn’t notice a huge difference when I tried it, but everyone is different and might be worth trying.

3 Methods

In the past 10 years, I have made gallons and gallons of beans. Here are the 3 simple methods we follow. In order of favorite to least favorite:

  1. Instant Pot
  2. Slow Cooker
  3. Stove Top

I am nothing if not a lazy day-to-day cook. While our family invests effort for special meals (um… maybe Passover last year?), we keep daily food simple. As a result, much like our bone broth recipe, these methods have been stripped to the bare basics – only what is necessary to make good, real food that you can use in a variety of ways!

A Word About Soaking

If I use the slow cooker or the stovetop, I always soak dry beans for 8-24 hours ahead of time.

It is probably still a good idea to soak them if you use the Instant Pot. However, I usually don’t – for Lazy-Healthy-Cook reasons.

stainless steel pot

Equipment Needed:

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Cook Dry Beans: 3 Ways

3 Simple ways to cook dry beans from scratch using the stovetop, slow cooker, and Instant Pot.

Author: Steph Jenkins
Ingredients
  • 1 lb dry beans
  • water, to soak and cook
  • 2 tsp salt
Optional:
  • 1/2 gallon bone broth, to cook
Instructions
  1. Pour dry beans into a colander or mesh strainer. Rinse under running water, then pick through them in case there are any small rocks or weird, shriveled beans. I'm not sure why we still have rocks in our beans in 2019, but let's just call it "more natural."

Soak:
  1. Transfer beans to a large bowl that is roughly three times the size of the beans. This will give the beans room to swell as they soak overnight. 

  2. Cover the beans with 3-4 inches of water. Cover, and let beans soak 8-12 hours. 

  3. OPTIONAL: If you can't cook them right after 12 hours you can soak them longer (see also de-gassing beans above). Simply strain, rinse, and fill the bowl with fresh water every 12 hours. I have soaked beans for up to 72 hours this way.

Stovetop:
  1. Strain and rinse the beans in a colander in the sink. Pour them into a large stock pot and fill it with water or bone broth, covering them with 1-2 inches of liquid. 

  2. Bring beans to a boil on medium-high heat. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes, using a slotted spoon to skim off and discard any scum that rises to the top.

  3. Cover stockpot, reduce heat, and simmer. The simmer should be very steady with plenty of small bubbles breaking the surface (but not a boil). Cook 1-3 hours (time depends on the kind of beans and age of the beans - check diligently after 1 hour), until beans are soft and can be easily mashed with the back of a fork. You may need to add more liquid as the beans cook, so check the pot regularly. Add the salt towards the end of the cook time.

  4. Turn off the stove, remove the stockpot from heat, and let them cool.

Slow Cooker:
  1. Strain and rinse the beans in a colander in the sink. Pour them into a large slow cooker and fill it with water or bone broth, covering them with 1-2 inches of liquid. 

  2. Cover the slow cooker and cook them on high for 6-8 hours (time depends on the kind of beans and age of the beans), until beans are soft and can be easily mashed with the back of a fork. You may need to add more liquid as the beans cook, so check the pot regularly. Add the salt towards the end of the cook time.

  3. Unplug the slow cooker, and let the beans cool.

  4. TIP: If the smell of cooking beans bothers you, some people plug the slow cooker into their garage or a spare room where it can cook without offending anyone. I have also found that adding plenty of onion and garlic helps add flavor to the beans and makes the smell more appealing.

Instant Pot:
  1. Strain and rinse the beans in a colander in the sink. Pour them into the Instant Pot fill it with water or bone broth, covering them with 1 inch of liquid. The beans and liquid should not exceed the halfway mark on the inside of the Instant Pot insert.

  2. Seal the Instant Pot, set to Pressure Cook Manual setting, and follow the recommended cook time in your Instant Pot Recipe Booklet or Owners Manual, as times vary with each type of bean. Cook for the recommended time and allow the pressure to release naturally. 

  3. Turn off the Instant Pot, and let the beans cool. Stir in the salt.

To Use:
  1. Use homemade beans cup for cup like canned beans. Rinse in a colander if necessary (according to the recipe you are using). Store cooled beans in glass jars or plastic containers in the fridge.

  2. You will probably need to add more salt to the recipe you are using. Home cooked beans have far less salt than canned beans, so always taste test when using beans you cooked yourself.

To Freeze:
  1. Freeze beans with liquid in 2-cup portions. Use glass jars, plastic containers, or quart-size freezer bags.

  2. If using jars or containers, leave at least two inches of space between beans and the top of the jar. This allows the liquid to expand while freezing without cracking the jars. 

  3. If using freezer bags, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing. Freeze flat for easy storage.

  4. When ready to use, thaw in the fridge overnight, then use according to the recipe.

Recipe Notes

Double, triple, or half this recipe as needed!

Here is our stupid-easy bone broth recipe.

Conversion Tips:

  • 1 cup dry beans = 2-2½ cups cooked beans
  • One 15-oz. can of beans = 1 3/4 cups cooked beans, rinsed and drained
Peanut butter chocolate chip hummus bowl and spoon
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip “Dessert Hummus”

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag a photo #cheapskatecook and @cheapskatecook on Instagram.

Our Favorite Bean Recipes:

If you want to dive deep into cooking with beans (sweet, savory, classic, unique), I like the Everything Beans Cookbook – Alfredo sauce made with white beans? Yes, you can! Saves money, fills tummies, and helps us eat less meat.

If you have my cookbook, Dinner for a Dollar: Real food recipes for under $1 a serving, making the beans from scratch helps stretch every meal and every dollar even further.

dinner for a dollar cover

What You Can Do Now:

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