Beans

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Beans are a near perfect health food, low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, iron and folic acid. They're also delicious and an extremely economical and eco-friendly source of protein.

Selecting

Look for smooth surfaces and bright colors. Dull, wrinkled surfaces can indicate age.

Storing

Even though the beans are dried, fresher is still better. Store beans in an airtight container away from heat and use them within 6 months, preferably sooner.

How to Prepare Dried Beans

Sort and rinse

Spread beans out on a clean kitchen towel or rimmed baking sheet, so you can see what's what. Remove any shriveled beans and pebbles. Rinse beans in a colander under cold running water.

Soak

With few exceptions, beans will cook more evenly, tenderly and in less time, if they have been soaked in ample cool water first. (Check specific beans below to see the exceptions.)

Any amount of soaking time is beneficial, but most beans can use a soak of at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours. Or try the quick-soak method: Cover beans with 2 inches of water and boil 2 minutes.

Cook

Drain and rinse beans after soaking. In a large saucepan or pot, cover beans with fresh water by about 1 inch (3 to 4 cups of water for every cup of beans). Partially cover pot, bring beans to a gentle boil, and then lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender. (Taste one to check.)

Cooking time will vary depending on soaking time and age of the beans. Check specific varieties for approximate times. Partially covering the pot will limit evaporation, but check occasionally to see that the beans have enough liquid, and add more as needed.

Yield

One cup of dry beans yields 2 to 3 cups of cooked beans.

Helpful Hints

  • Simmer beans gently. A vigorous boil can cause them to fall apart.

  • Cook beans until barely tender, if they are to be cooked again in a recipe.

  • Add salt to the beans about three quarters of the way through cooking. (Adding salt can lengthen cooking time, which is why it's good to wait. Don't wait until they are fully cooked, or seasoning won't be as effective.)

  • Don't add acidic ingredients (tomato sauce, wine, lemon juice, vinegar) to beans until they are tender. These ingredients can prevent softening.

  • For more flavorful beans, add chopped onion, garlic or bay leaves at the start of cooking.

  • Consider a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker will cook dried beans to tender perfection in a fraction of the time they cook in a saucepan.

 

Soak 

Simmer 

Characteristics 

Serving Suggestions 

Adzuki beans

no

3/4 to 1 hour

Small, reddish-brown beans with a distinctive white ridge along one side and a strong, nutty, sweet flavor. Very popular in Japan. Lower in fat and easier to digest than most beans. 

Combine with brown rice, sautéed scallions, mushrooms and celery, shape into cakes and pan-fry. 

Anasazi beans

yes

1.5 hours 

Reddish-brown beans with white "painted horse" markings. Cooks up very sweet. 

A great substitute for pinto beans. Pairs well with hot chiles, cilantro and lime. Try in chili. 

Baby lima beans

yes

1 hour 

Sometimes called butter beans. Fresh and sweet tasting. 

Combine with corn and green beans for succotash. Add to minestrone soup or cassoulet. 

Black beans

yes

1.5 hours 

Also called black turtle beans. A staple of Latin American and Caribbean cuisines. They have a strong, earthy flavor that pairs well with assertive ingredients and seasonings. 

Combine with cumin and garlic in soups and enchiladas. Toss with olive oil, fresh cilantro and chopped vegetables for a cool bean salad. 

Black-eyed peas

no

1 hour 

Small beige bean marked with a "black eye." Popular in Southern cuisine. 

Traditionally served on New Year's Day for good luck in Hoppin' John, a dish made with black-eyed peas, rice, ham, green peppers, onions and spices. Try tossing with a yogurt dressing, tomatoes and fresh parsley. 

Cannellini beans

yes

1.5 hours 

Also known as white kidney beans. They keep their shape when cooked, so they're perfect for salads. 

Toss warm beans with garlic and fresh rosemary for a fragrant side dish. Feature in minestrone soup and other Italian dishes. 

Chickpeas (garbanzos)

yes

1.5 to 2 hours 

Also known as garbanzo beans, they are round and irregular in shape, with a firm texture and a mild, nutty taste. 

Use in hummus, Indian stews and Moroccan tagines. 

Cranberry beans

yes

1 6–2 hours 

A New England heirloom bean, cranberry beans get their name from their red-flecked skins, which turn creamy white with cooking. A favorite in Italy, where they're called borlotti beans. 

Use in pasta e fagioli or substitute in any recipe calling for pinto beans. Cook with a few cloves of garlic, some peppercorns, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and serve drizzled with olive oil as a side dish or top with canned tuna for a light lunch.

Fava beans

yes

1 to 1.5 hours 

Meaty favas work well in side dishes, soups or salads. The larger ones are the best. 

Add oil, garlic, lemon, salt and cumin to cooked beans, and mash lightly to make ful madames, the famous Middle Eastern dip. They're also delicious tossed with chopped tomato and onion. 

Flageolets

yes

1.5 hours 

These small, pale-green beans are actually immature kidney beans. Common in French country cuisine, flageolet (pronounced fla-zhoh-LAY) is the star in cassoulets and popular side dishes for lamb or poultry. 

Enhance the delicate flavor of flageolets by cooking them with aromatic vegetables and herbs such as onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. 

Great Northern beans

yes

1 hour 

These large white beans hold their shape well, making them a favorite for long-cooked recipes. They have a mild nutty flavor and creamy flesh. 

Toss them into simple pastas or soups or serve as a salad with vinaigrette and roasted vegetables. A great side with lamb or sausage. 

Mung beans

no

1.25 hours

Tiny, round, green and easily digested. Perfect for sprouting (see page 3) or as dahl. 

A delicious addition to Asian-style brothy soups. 

Navy beans

yes

1.5 hours 

Also known as a Yankee bean or a Boston bean because these small white beans are often used in New England-style baked beans. 

Use in chili, soups and stews. Try tossing them with crisp romaine lettuce, seared tuna and basil vinaigrette. 

Pinto beans

yes

2 hours 

Beige with brown streaks, uncooked. They lose their mottling when cooked, turning a uniform pinkish-brown. 

A deliciously creamy texture makes them ideal for mashing and refrying or using in bean dips. 

Red beans

yes

1.5 to 2 hours 

Dark red in color, small in size, and subtly sweet in flavor, these beans hold their shape well when cooked. The star of Louisiana's famous red beans and rice. 

For a Cajun treat, simmer red beans with celery, onion, thyme, cayenne, bay leaves and andouille sausage. 

Red kidney beans

yes

1 to 1.5 hours 

Named for their shape, these mild beans have a meaty texture. 

Combine kidney beans with black beans and white beans to make a colorful three-bean salad. Add to chili con carne, or give tacos a vegetarian twist by using kidney beans in place of ground meat. 

Soybeans

no

3 to 4 hours 

An excellent source of protein, with a firm, nutty flesh that stands up well to reheating. 

Delicious added to stir-fries and soups. Serve with olive oil and lemon for a simple hot or cold side dish.