Got a bag of beans? Here's how to cook them properly on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.

Megan O. Steintrager
March 20, 2020

Pictured recipe: Pressure-Cooker Baked Beans

Canned beans are convenient, but dried beans have a lot to offer too: They're cheaper than canned and often have better flavor. You also control the sodium in dried beans, so they can be healthier too. They also last a long time in your pantry. So, got a bag of beans? Here's how to prepare and cook them.

How Long Do Dried Beans Last?

Dried beans are best used within a year or two of purchase. Younger beans typically cook faster than older ones.

Should You Soak Dried Beans?

Soaking beans before cooking helps them to cook more evenly and cuts down on the total cooking time. So if you've planned ahead, soak them. If you don't have time, skip the soaking, but plan to cook the beans longer. Fresher beans, which are less dry, need less soaking time than beans that were harvested more than a year go.

Overnight Soak

Rinse and pick over the beans, then place in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain.

Quick Soak

Rinse and pick over the beans, then place them in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour; drain.

How to Cook Dried Beans

Stovetop

Place (drained) soaked beans in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches (about 2 quarts of water for 1 pound of beans). Bring to a boil, skimming of any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 20 minutes to 3 hours (cooking time will vary with the type and age of bean). Add salt to taste.

Pressure Cooker

Pressure cookers like Instant Pots were made for dried beans. Place (drained) soaked beans in a 4-quart or larger pressure cooker. Add 3 cups water and 1 tablespoon oil for each cup of beans. Secure the lid and bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce heat to lowest setting that maintains high pressure and cook until tender.

Suggested timing:

  • Black beans: 12 minutes
  • Cannellini beans; 16 minutes
  • Chickpeas: 12 minutes
  • Pinto beans; 10 minutes.

Let pressure release naturally before removing the lid.

Slow Cooker

To cook dried beans in a slow cooker such as a Crock-Pot, place (drained) soaked beans in the slow cooker. Add 5 cups boiling water. Cover and cook on High until tender, 1 to 3½ hours. Add salt to taste; cook 15 minutes more.

Note: For safety purposes some dried beans, especially kidney beans, need to be boiled before cooking in a slow cooker. Read Why Cooking Kidney Beans in Your Slow Cooker Can Make You Sick to learn more.

Equivalents

  • 1 pound dried beans (about 2 cups) = 5-6 cups cooked
  • 19-ounce can = about 2 cups beans
  • 15-ounce can = about 1½ cup beans

Recipes with Dried Beans

You can give your dried beans more flavor by adding aromatics, such as celery and onions or herbs and spices such as rosemary and bay leaves. Check out these recipes with dried beans for ideas. And keep in mind that you can use cooked dried beans in place of canned in any recipe. Check out all of our bean recipes for tons of ideas.

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