Dried beans are a part of my family’s normal stocked pantry. I keep some canned beans on hand for short-cuts, but I prefer the process of cooking beans from the dried state myself when I have time. Beans in a can are usually just water and salt. Homemade beans can have whatever your heart desires. Plus there are so many more varieties of dried beans!
I have been asked a lot about how to cook beans recently. Many people stocked up on dried beans due to the COVID-19 quarantine, and for some this is a first. This is an outline of the method I follow. Please remember there are endless ways to cook beans. This is a flexible template that works for me, but it’s not the only way.
1. Soak your beans overnight. There are quick soak methods, but I find the overnight soak to be the easiest. Rinse the beans in a colander, and then put the beans in a pot. Cover with water. The water line should be about two inches above the beans. Let sit out at room temp for about 8 hours. If the water seems clean, you can use it to cook your beans. If not, drain and cover with the same amount of fresh water. I almost always cook my beans in the soaking liquid.
2. Throw in aromatics. If you’re cooking beans just to have cooked beans, your aromatics can be in big chunks. I throw in an onion, simply cut in half, and even a washed whole head of garlic, with just the dirty roots removed. They will flavor the beans beautifully, even minimally processed. If you’re wanting to make a bean soup, you can cut your vegetables down small so they are soup ready. Usually if I’m making soup I sweat my vegetables before adding them, but not always. Season with salt and pepper too, but start lightly with the salt. You can add more later. Hold off on adding anything acidic until later.
- Fennel bulb
- Bay leaf
- Fresh or dried chillies
- Chili flake
Those are suggestions, but there are endless possibilities! Think about the flavor profile you want to go for. How are you using the beans? For me onion and garlic are almost always included. The rest changes.
Flavor Families I Enjoy:
- Onion, garlic, Mexican Oregano, bay leaf and chili flake
- Onion, garlic, celery, rosemary, thyme
- Preserved lemon, onion, garlic, tomato paste, chili flake (I learned this one from Alison Roman in Nothing Fancy. )
3. Add fat. My go to is generally 4-8 ounces of olive oil for a pound of dried beans. Bacon and ham hocks are fantastic source of fat and flavor. Beans simmered with a ham bone are always my favorite. You may still need to add additional fat.
4. Cover with water by a 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Cook until tender. Check periodically for doneness. Add more water if necessary. Adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper) to your liking when the beans are almost done. Some varieties of beans will be done in an hour. Larger varieties will take longer.
5. Add acidity. Hold off on adding acidic foods like lemon or tomatoes until the beans are tender or they will have a hard time cooking through. According to Rancho Gordo sugar should also be added later, but I never put sugar in my beans.
5.Enjoy! Your beans are ready to be enjoyed as is. More often than not I eat mine with fresh herbs, some chili oil, and perhaps a side of rice.
For more bean information:
Rancho Gordo has lots of recipes and information on their website about cooking beans.
I will post more bean recipes soon!