Pictured recipe: Basic Black Beans
I went to a Latin restaurant with some friends over the weekend. Our waitress came by the table at the end of our meal and tried to get one of my friends to finish his vegetarian taco filled with black beans. He said something along the lines of, "I'm so full—plus, beans don't sit well with me." Our waitress surprised us all when she said, "We add baking soda to our beans here, so they won't make you gassy." We kind of laughed it off at first, but of course we all then took out our phones and Googled it. Turns out, there's some truth behind the baking-soda-in-your-beans trick.
Here are three reasons you should be sprinkling a little baking soda into your water before cooking your beans.
If you love beans but can't stand the way you feel after eating them (read: bloated, gassy), you're definitely not alone. Beans are particularly gas-inducing because of their oligosaccharides, a type of sugar our bodies can't digest well. Oligosaccharides can make it all the way to our large intestine before they're digested, which can cause the production of excess gas and make us feel uncomfortable.
But according to a study from 1986, adding a little baking soda to the water while soaking dried beans decreased the raffinose family of oligosaccharides—aka the gas-causing stuff—found in the cooked beans.
You remember learning about basic, neutral and acidic substances in middle school chemistry, right? Well, creating an alkaline (or basic) environment by adding a small pinch of baking soda to your cooking water can actually help your beans cook faster.
Here's why: "The addition of baking soda to the cooking water does two things: It adds sodium ions that weaken the pectin, and more importantly, an alkaline environment causes the pectin molecules to break down into smaller molecules that greatly weakens the pectin causing the beans to soften much more rapidly. Beans cooked with a tiny amount of baking soda (about one teaspoon per cup of dry beans) added to the cooking water cook in about half the time as beans cooked without," Guy Crosby, Ph.D., of America's Test Kitchen told The Bean Institute.
Michael Solomonov's hummus recipe (pictured above) went viral a few years ago for its buttercream-like texture. We could speculate all day about what gives Solomonov's hummus its incredibly fluffy, whipped texture, but we're betting at least one of the reasons is that he soaks his chickpeas in baking soda and water overnight.
This smart maneuver raises the water's pH and softens the chickpeas' skins to help them break down well for creamy hummus.
Beans are a great way to get a boost of fiber and plant-based protein, so we're all for any tips or tricks that'll help you eat more of 'em! Give the baking soda trick a try the next time you cook up a batch. You can sub home-cooked beans for canned beans in any healthy bean recipe. Here are a few of our favorite bean-based recipes: Cauliflower Tikka Masala with Chickpeas, Composed Bean Salad with Basil Vinaigrette and Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajita Bowls.