One step when making a recipe with dried beans is to soak them first. There are two different ways you can go about doing that. If you’re ever wondering, how do you soak beans? I’ll explain both methods so you’ll know when and how to soak your beans.
Dried beans are a pantry staple and you should always have some on hand. You can make plenty of great inexpensive meals that can last for days. I keep a variety of beans stocked – especially red beans – for whenever the mood strikes me to make a pot.
But sometimes it can be confusing when it comes to soaking the beans. Is it necessary for all types of beans? What beans benefit from a soak? Should I even worry about it?
Why do you need to soak beans?
Soaking the beans cuts down the cooking time and helps them cook evenly. There’s also the matter of digestion. It’s been said that by soaking your beans you’re helping to reduce the amount of sugars responsible for causing digestive issues.
Which types of beans need to be soaked?
Soaking times can vary based on the size of the beans, but if you are using a heartier style, like red beans, you may want to soak them to reduce the cooking time. Here is a listing of beans that could be soaked “overnight”:
- baby lima beans
- fava beans
- kidney beans
- lima beans
- pinto beans
- white beans
Beans like black-eyed peas or black beans only need about 4-6 hours of soaking while lentils and split peas only need 2-4 hours. But it’s generally not necessary to soak lentils or split peas – I never do.
No need to wash these red beans:
Here is my wife’s favorite recipe: Blue Runner Red Beans and Rice.
How to soak beans overnight?
Soaking the beans overnight is the traditional method and most popular way to prepare the beans.
STEP 1: Sort through the beans to make sure that there are no small pebbles or other debris.
STEP 2: Rinse thoroughly.
STEP 3: Place the beans in a large enough bowl where you can cover the dried beans with about 2-3 inches of water. Make sure that there is enough space for the beans because they will swell in size.
STEP 4: Cover and let sit.
How long do you soak the beans?
To simply soak the beans overnight is a pretty vague statement, right? You should soak the beans for a minimum of 6 hours while 10 hours should be the max.
The “overnight” title should be referred to loosely. If you plan on cooking beans for dinner, and you’re using one of the above-mentioned beans, begin the soaking process in the morning and time it accordingly to when you need to begin cooking the meal.
Why discard bean soaking water?
For a while, I was trying out red bean recipes and using the soaking water in the recipe. I don’t know if I heard someone else doing it or not, but I tried it.
There was an extra flavor to the beans and I liked it. But as I ate more of the beans, the less I liked what I was eating. I tried this a couple of times, then ultimately stopped.
Why? Because I thought about the reasons why I was soaking the beans in the first place. One of the reasons for soaking them is to help make them more digestible and another reason is that soaking cleans them more thoroughly than just a rinse. The soaking water now contains the elements that we are trying to extract from the beans.
Now you see why you should discard the water.
However, some say that small amounts of the minerals and nutrients come out of the beans while soaking, and these minerals and nutrients stay in the water. Why lose out on those nutrients? Research has shown, according to CentralBean.com, that the amounts are so small that it’s still not worth saving the water since the discomfort of the released sugars is a far greater risk.
In the end, retaining the soaking water is a matter of preference. I pour it out. If you’re concerned about losing the nutrients, use this water to water your plants.
How do you soak beans using the Quick Boil Method
When you use the Quick Boil Method of soaking the beans, you not only speed up the process of soaking them, this method can also break down the complex sugars that typically cause beans to be hard to digest.
STEP 1: Sort through the beans for any debris then rinse them off.
STEP 2: Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with cold water by about 3-inches.
STEP 3: Bring the water to a rolling boil, cover the pot, and remove it from the burner. Let the pot sit for 1 hour.
STEP 4: Drain the water and start the recipe as instructed.
TIPS FOR SOAKING BEANS:
- Do not rinse the beans unless you are ready to start soaking and cooking them. By getting the dried beans wet from rinsing, the water will start the rehydration process.
- When soaking the beans, place them in a large enough bowl or pot where they can be covered by at least 2-3 inches of water. Plus, you’ll want to have enough room for when they absorb the water because beans can almost triple in size once rehydrated.
- Don’t let the beans soak longer than 12 hours because they can absorb too much water and lose some of their texture and flavor.
- It is OK to soak your beans with salt. Many suggest waiting for the beans to be close to the end of cooking time to add salt out of fear that the salt will cause the beans to harden. If your beans are still hard after soaking, or cooking, you are using old beans. Soaking the beans with 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, or adding salt earlier in the cooking process, will help the beans become more tender in the end.
- Do the beans need to be refrigerated when soaking? No. I’ve never done this. Covered on the counter at room temperature is fine. The only time fermenting could be an issue is if your house is extremely hot and you’ve soaked them for well over 12 hours.
My favorite bean recipes:
If you have any tips and tricks on how you soak beans please leave them in the comment section below. What process do you use? Do you use the overnight process, the Quick Boil Method, or skip it altogether?
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Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.
This was helpful, thank you!
Red Beans and Eric
Thank you very much, Cary!