Cook great beans
This article was originally published in September 2012
Beans are one of nature’s perfect foods — high-fiber, low-fat, with antioxidants and 8 grams of protein in every 1/2-cup serving.
They keep in the pantry for quick, inexpensive meals and are as versatile as they are delicious: Try a pot of pintos simmered and served with spicy salsa, or whip garbanzos into a creamy, nutty hummus to spread on crackers. Heirloom Anasazi beans make hearty bean burgers, while local lentils make fabulous salads and of course, soups galore! There’s no need to be intimidated by cooking beans from scratch — just give yourself some time to soak them first. The results are far better than what you get in a can. Here are our best bean-cooking tips.
For best digestion and to shorten cooking time, most beans benefit from pre-soaking. Smaller beans, including adzuki, mung, lentils, black-eyed peas and split peas generally need no pre-soaking but are more easily digested if soaked, drained and cooked in fresh water until very tender.
Quick soak: For each cup of rinsed beans, add three to four cups water to a heavy cooking pot and bring to a boil for five minutes. Turn off heat, cover and let stand for one hour, then drain.
Longer soak: For each cup of rinsed beans, add three to four cups water and soak 8 to 12 hours, then drain.
Place soaked, drained beans in a pot and add sufficient water or broth to cover beans by two inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, cover with lid slightly ajar and cook until tender. When able to mash a bean easily between your fingers, add salt or acids such as citrus juice, vinegar or tomatoes. For tips on cooking beans in a pressure cooker or crockpot, see our guide, Choosing and Cooking with Beans.
Some people avoid beans because they fear intestinal discomfort. You can tenderize beans and promote digestibility by using seasonings in bean dishes such as bay leaves, cilantro, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger and peppers. Or, add a 6-inch piece of kombu (seaweed) to the cooking pot, then remove after cooking. Gradually increasing portions of well-cooked beans over several weeks helps, too.
Local, heirloom beans
PCC has many specialty beans and lentils from Northwest farmers.
Spanish Pardina brown lentils — Flavorful, quick-cooking lentils that hold their shape.
Pedrosillano café garbanzo beans — Tiny, but they double in size after soaking and make great hummus.
Christmas Lima beans — Chestnut-flavored Peruvian heirlooms. Eat with nothing but butter, garlic and fresh parsley.
White Emergo beans — Extra large and plump with a creamy texture, popular in French cuisine. Serve with savory herbs, fruity olive oil, sea salt and lemon.
Cranberry beans — Used in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, with a sweet, mild flavor. They make a hearty addition to soup, salads and casseroles.