Grocery shoppers have been stocking up on non-perishable pantry items, as it looks like the coronavirus crisis could have us hunkering down at home for a while.

One items a lot of home cooks don’t have experience cooking is dried beans. The reason is simple: Canned beans are so quick and convenient. There’s no overnight soaking. They’re already cooked and seasoned. And they are relatively inexpensive source of fiber and plant-based protein.

But dried beans are even less expensive – about one-third the cost of canned. And they don’t have all the sodium you’ll find in their canned counterparts. And because they freeze well, you can cook big batches and store them in 1- or 2-cup portions in your freezer for future easy meals.

Whether you’ve stocked up on garbanzo, pinto, navy or black beans, the basics of preparing them aren’t that different. The key are soaking, seasoning and simmering.

Back in 2010, Oregonian food writer Danielle Centoni compiled these handy tips for newcomers to the dried bean world. After her tips, we’ve got a master recipe from food TV pioneer Sara Moulton, along with 7 of our go-to bean recipes.

How to cook dried beans

Cranberry beans.Martha Holmberg, The Oregonian/OregonLive


  • Rinse dried beans and pick through them, discarding any shriveled, wizened, broken or generally icky-looking beans, and any dirt clods or stones (yes, it is common to find at least one pebble in a package of dried beans).
  • The purpose of soaking beans is to reduce the substance that causes gas. After you soak the beans, be sure to discard the soaking water and rinse the beans thoroughly.
  • There are two ways to soak beans. For the overnight method, soak 1 pound of beans in 10 cups of cold water for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours in a cool place. If it’s hot in your kitchen, refrigerate the beans so they don’t start to ferment.
  • To “quick soak” the beans, place them in a pot, cover with several inches of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for one hour. Drain off the liquid, rinse and proceed with cooking the beans.
  • When cooking beans, cover them by at least 3 inches with cold water (and maybe add some chopped onion, carrot, a celery stalk and a few smashed garlic cloves to infuse them with flavor as they cook). Bring to a boil, skim off any foam, then reduce to a simmer and let the beans cook.
  • Depending on the bean, this will take anywhere from one to two hours (check the label on the bag). If there is no cooking time listed, start testing the beans for doneness after 1 hour. Covering the pot, even partially, will speed up the time, but you will end up with more broken beans.
  • Conventional wisdom says not to add salt to beans while they cook because it can toughen the skin, making it take longer for the beans to become tender. However, the prevailing wisdom says it’s not salt but acid that’s the culprit, so add any vinegar, wine, lemon or tomatoes when the beans are almost done.
  • To freeze the beans, pack them in containers, such as canning jars, in portions you’re most likely to use. You don’t want to have to defrost 6 cups of beans when you only need 2 cups. Portions of 1-1/2 cups are convenient because they can be used in place of 15-ounce cans. Cover the beans in cooking liquid to keep them from drying out, seal, label and freeze.
  • To defrost frozen beans, put them in the fridge the night before you need them. Alternatively, you can defrost them in the microwave or under cold running water.

— Danielle Centoni


Makes 10 servings

13 to 15 hours (15 minutes active) | Easy


  • 1 pound dried beans
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 medium carrot, cut crosswise into 4 pieces
  • 1 celery stalk, cut crosswise into 4 pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme


Sort through the beans to pick out any random stones or sticks among them, then rinse and drain the beans.

In a large bowl or pot, dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts of water. Add the beans, stir, then cover and soak overnight at room temperature. The next day drain the beans and rinse them.

In a large saucepan or stockpot, combine the beans with 7 cups of cold water. Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, skimming the scum that rises to the surface with a skimmer or slotted spoon (that scum is protein solids). Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the beans, regularly skimming the scum, until no more scum rises to the surface.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme, then simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the beans are just tender.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid (if desired) and discard the onion, carrot, celery and thyme stalks.

Use the beans in recipes or freeze them in 1- or 2-cup portions.

Slow-cooker method: Soak the beans as described above, then drain and rinse them. In a slow-cooker, combine the beans with the 2 teaspoons of salt, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch, then cover and cook on high 4 to 6 hours, or until completely tender.

— Sara Moulton


Looking to take your bean-cooking game even further? Here are 10 of our all-time favorite recipes.

Cannellini Bean Curry

How to cook dried beans

Cannellini Bean Curry.Ross William Hamilton, The Oregonian/OregonLive

This curry hails from southern India, where a sweet local bean would be used. The recipe comes from the essential Indian cookbook “Anjum’s New Indian” by Anjum Anand. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

Recipe: Cannellini Bean Curry.

Madras Chili

How to cook dried beans

Madras Chili, a recipe from Sara Perry’s 1991 cookbook “The Complete Coffee Book.”Grant Butler, The Oregonian/OregonLive

This recipe came from longtime Oregonian contributor Sara Perry’s “The Complete Coffee Book,” which came out in 1991, when upscale coffee was still emerging as a key element of Portland’s psyche. Perry was always on the hunt for the perfect bowl of chili, and this one uses coffee to enhance its richness. Serve with hot cornbread and ice-cold beer.

Recipe: Madras Chili.

Tortilla Soup

How to cook dried beans

Tortilla soup is one of the delicious and easy recipes found in “Soup Night.” In it, local cookbook author Maggie Stuckey shows how people can build community over pots of soup.Faith Cathcart, The Oregonian/OregonLive

Portland’s Heather Frederick credits her friend Jennifer Sammons with this soup, which is a hit for any occasion where friends and family gather. The soup is vegan, and can be adapted to vegetarian and meaty versions, depending on how eaters customize their bowls with the garnishes. Serve it with corn chips.

Recipe: Tortilla Soup.

Black Bean Soup

How to cook dried beans

Black Bean Soup.Nathan Hostler, Special to The Oregonian/OregonLive

This recipe from longtime contributor Joan Harvey doesn’t require an overnight soak. This soup is a bit more fussy than many bean soup recipes, but it’s well worth the effort. Be sure and get real, small, black turtle beans, not ones that are labeled “black beans” but are just dyed red beans (how do they get away with that?). This makes a lot of soup, about 12 servings, but you’ll be wise not to reduce it, because it is so good the next day.

Recipe: Black Bean Soup.

Tunisian Garbanzo Bean Soup

How to cook dried beans

Lablabi, a Tunisian garbanzo bean soup, from Mollie Katzen’s “The Heart of the Plate.” Motoya Nakamura, The Oregonian/OregonLive

This recipe comes from vegetarian cooking legend Mollie Katzen. Garbanzo beans, with gracious help from cumin, onion, garlic, olive oil and lemon, transform their cooking water into a perfect soup. Iterations of this dish are commonly served in Tunisian restaurants, often for breakfast. It seems too simple to be as special as it ends up. The soup should be made with dried, not canned, beans, since the cooking liquid becomes the delicious broth, which is untouchable by any store-bought vegetable broth.

Recipe: Tunisian Garbanzo Bean Soup.

Protein-Happy Quinoa Wraps

How to cook dried beans

Protein-Happy Quinoa Wraps, from “Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!” by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes.Celine Steen, Fair Winds Press

Super-packed with protein, courtesy of the quinoa and cannellini beans, this Mediterranean-inspired roll will fill you with such tremendous energy that you’ll keep hacking away at the day’s chores without ever wanting or needing to stop. OK, slight exaggeration, but just barely.

Recipe: Protein-Happy Quinoa Wraps.


How to cook dried beans

Ribollita is a rib-sticking stew of white beans, vegetables, kale and stale bread flavored with garlic, pancetta and olive oil. It’s economical, healthful, simple and a great way to recycle hunks of stale baguette sitting in the bread box.Mike Davis, The Oregonian/OregonLive

This stick-to-your-ribs dish comes from longtime contributor Matthew Card. The foundation of the dish is his master recipe for Tuscan White Beans. He says this is a great dish for using up odds and ends from the vegetable bins, and that he considers the amounts in the ingredients mere guidelines: Add ingredients to suit what you have on hand.

Recipe: Ribollita.

— Grant Butler

503-221-8566; @grantbutler

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Did you stock up on dried beans? Here’s how to cook them the right way, plus 7 great recipes

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