Kidney beans in a bowl


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Often overlooked for vegetables and whole grains, the humble bean is full of health benefits that can enhance a diet. Rich in plant protein, fiber, B-vitamins, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc, beans are affordable, filling, and easy to incorporate into a variety of recipes.

You may have tried cooking beans starting with a bag of dry ones to save money — and you may have found it discouraging when they didn't soften in time. But fret not: These foolproof ways to prep and cook are sure to deliver healthy and delicious meals for the whole family. 

Step 1: Soak 'em

This step is important because it enables the beans to absorb water and dissolve starches that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Beans may double or triple in size during the soaking process as they soften.

  • Begin by going through your beans; discarding discolored, dry, or shriveled ones and removing any impurities you see.
  • In a large pot, add 10 cups of water per pound (2 cups) of dry beans. For a hot soak, heat the water until it reaches a boil and let boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for up to 4 hours. Hot soaking is preferred because it reduces cooking time and helps dissolve more of the beans' gas-causing substances. It also results in more tender beans. 
  • To do a traditional overnight soak, place dry beans in a large container, add 10 cups of water, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight.
  • For an even quicker soak, add 6 cups of water per pound of dry beans and heat to a boil. Let boil for 2 to 3 minutes, remove from heat, cover pot, and soak for at least 1 hour. This method may not result in the softest beans.
  • For the quickest soak — taking all of a half-hour — you'll need an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Just put the beans inside and pour in water until it's about 1 inch above the level of the beans, advises Paint the Kitchen Red. Adding some salt is optional.

After the beans are done soaking, run them under cold water to rinse out any lingering impurities. They should now be ready for cooking. 

Step 2: Get cookin'

Beans are some of the most versatile ingredients to cook with because they can stand on their own as a star dish or serve as additions to rice, vegetables, and meats. 

To cook beans in a pressure cooker, cover them with 4 cups of fresh water, making sure the beans are covered by about 2 inches of water. Seal the pressure cooker and set cooking time according to the manufacturer's instructions. While cooking time will vary depending on the type of bean you're using, here are approximate lengths:

  • Black beans: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Kidney beans: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Navy beans: 25 to 35 minutes
  • Pinto beans: 15 to 20 minutes

Slow Cooker Bean Recipe

For a delicious vegetarian take on a classic chili, try this recipe, which has more than a half-million views on TikTok. (With it, you don't need to soak your beans beforehand.)

Begin by finely dicing onion, tomatoes, garlic, and serrano pepper (optional); set aside, and prep the beans by removing any dry or cracked ones. Heat some butter or lard in a pan and toss in the vegetables. Season with black pepper, oregano, tomato bouillon, chili powder, and salt. Let the veggies sauté for about 5 minutes until softened. In the slow cooker, add 8 cups of water, beans, and sautéed vegetables. Cover and cook on high for 7 to 8 hours. 

To make this meal even more substantial, try adding ground beef — or, for a leaner option,  turkey. 

Frijoles de Olla

Another fan favorite — frijoles de olla — are a staple in Mexican cuisine, and translate to "beans in a pot" in Spanish. The recipe, which results in gooey, flavorful beans, is as delicious as it is filling and nutritious.

Start by rinsing beans (pinto beans preferred) in a colander to remove impurities. Place them in the cooking pot with a bay leaf and onion for added umami, and cover with 3 inches of water. Let beans soak for at least 3 hours before cooking. Dice onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes before adding to the beans. Let it all simmer on low for about 2 hours, season with salt and chopped cilantro and enjoy with a side of white rice, or by themselves. 

@alexafuelednaturally Why are frijoles de la olla soo goood 🥲 #beans #food #recipe ♬ Al Norte - Silvana Estrada

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