Cooking a Pot o Beans

If you're short on time, go for canned, frozen, or fresh beans. If not, try the traditional way, by soaking dry beans first. Tip: Dry legumes need soaking; lentils or split peas don't.

To soak beans, do this:

  • Leisurely method. Reduce cooking time by up to half by soaking beans for at least four hours or overnight in a pot filled with room-temperature water. Choose a pot that's big enough; beans expand!
  • Quick method. Time short? Then bring water to a boil, and let beans soak in hot water for one to four hours, depending on the variety of beans.

To reduce the gas you might experience, rinse beans, discard the soaking water and any debris, and cook in fresh water. Not to worry—the beans, not the soaking water, retain most of the essential nutrients.

To cook, cover beans with fresh water: about 6 cups of fresh water for each pound of dry beans. Add seasonings to the cooking water. Salt toughens beans by taking out the moisture; and acid foods, such as tomatoes or vinegar, slow their softening. Wait until the end of the cooking time to add these ingredients.

Cover the pot partially. To keep legumes from foaming as they cook, add a little cooking oil (V4 teaspoon) to the water. Simmer beans until they're cooked. See the chart "Bean Bag" in this chapter for simmering times. Add cooked beans or peas to your favorite dish.

Bean Bag

Beans of all kinds are sold as dried, canned, frozen, and fresh. Each type has a distinctive appearance and flavor, varying cooking times, and somewhat different uses. Use of a variety bag that includes several types of beans is an easy way to taste the flavors of many types of different beans.

On average, 1 pound of dry beans equals about

2V4 cups of dry beans, or 5 to 6 cups of cooked beans. The yield for lentils is less; for 2V4 cups of dry lentils, figure about 3V2 to 4 cups cooked. One can (15V2 ounces) of drained, canned beans or lentils equals about 1% cups cooked. As an aside, rinsing canned beans reduces the sodium content by 23 to 45 percent.

Simmering Time

Beans and Peas Size and Color Flavor (hours)* Common Uses"

Simmering Time

Beans and Peas Size and Color Flavor (hours)* Common Uses"

Adzuki or azuki bean

Small, red, shiny

Slightly sweet

V2 to 1

Salads, poultry stuffing, casseroles, soups

Black bean

Small, black, shiny, kidney-shaped

Slightly sweet

1 V2 to 2

Stew, soup, Brazilian feijoada, Cuban rice and beans

Black-eyed pea or cowpea

Small, cream-colored, ovals with black spots

Vegetablelike, full-flavored

1 to 1 V2

Southern dishes with ham or rice, bean cakes, curries, Hoppin' John

Cannellini or white kidney bean

Elongated, slender, creamy white



Soups, stews, salads, casseroles, Italian side dishes, pasta e fagioli

Chickpea, or garbanzo bean

Golden, hard, pea-shaped


2V4 to 4

Casseroles, cooked with couscous, soups, stews, hummus, caldo gallego

Fava or broad bean

Broad, large, oval, light brown


1 V2 to 2

Stews, side dishes

Flageolet or green haricot bean

Small to medium, pale green


112 to 2

Mixed bean salads, vegetable side dish

Great northern

Large, white


1 to 1 V2

Soups, casseroles, mixed bean dishes


Yellow, green, or orange



Soup, pease pudding, dhal, curry dishes

Lima bean

Large or small, creamy white or pale green, kidney-shaped

Like chestnuts


Casseroles, soups, salads, succotash

Mung bean

Small, olive green



Soups, casseroles, purees, Asian and Indian dishes, "sprouted" for salads

Navy bean

Small, oval, white


1 to 1 12

Boston baked beans

Pigeon pea

Small, round, slightly flat, beige, brown flecks


34 to 1

Caribbean peas and rice

Pinto bean

Orange-pink, with rust-colored flecks, oval

Earthy, full-flavored

1 to 1 12

Mexican rice and beans, refried beans, stew

Red kidney bean

Dark, red-brown, kidney-shaped

Full-flavored, "meaty"

1 V2 to 2

Stew, mixed bean salad, Cajun bean dishes, chili con carne


Small, yellow or black


3V2to 4

Side dish, soups, used to make tofu (bean curd), "sprouted" for salads

  • Simmering time for dry beans.
  • Traditional and ethnic dishes, italicized throughout the chart, commonly use the type of bean indicated. ^Lentils don't require soaking, only shorter cooking times.
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