How to Cook Beans from Dry: Charts for All Your Favorite Beans

Updated

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I don’t know what I’d do without beans and lentils. I love ’em and I eat them all the time! They’re one of the healthiest foods you can eat, providing high-quality protein, low glycemic carbs, and a ton of soluble fiber. But how do you cook them? Each bean is different, works best for certain occasions or in certain dishes, and requires different cooking times and amounts of liquid. It’s taken me a long time to perfect the amount of time necessary for each.

The band Kiss didn’t start making music for the love of music, they wanted to create the concert they never got to see as kids. They’d go to concerts of their favorite rock legends, and be let down every time. That doesn’t mean the concerts were bad! It’s just that they had an idea in their heads of what they were about to see, and no band ended up fitting the bill. If you’ve been to a Kiss concert, you know what I’m talking about. They rock the house!

This guide to cooking dried beans is my attempt at a Kiss concert. I cook beans all the time. But every time I feel like I need to look and make sure I’m soaking them for the right amount of time, or cooking them just right. Even for the beans I cook often! So I would jump online and look up how long to cook them for. Each time I have to read all of these long, drawn-out explanations about the benefits of beans and what protein is. All I really wanted was a guide, a chart of some sort, that had all of the most common beans, how to soak them, and how long to cook them on the stovetop and in a pressure cooker.

So, I spent the last 6 months cooking the most common beans. I cooked them on the stovetop. I cooked them in my Instant Pot. Sometimes I soaked them first, other times I didn’t. I long soaked and I quick soaked. I like my beans firm, close to the consistency of canned beans. I don’t want them mushy. The times in the charts to follow will give you that result.

Use my data and you should come out with perfect beans.

Here’s my research and everything you need to cook perfect beans.

Do You Need to Soak Dry Beans First?

If you are going to cook your beans on a stovetop, the answer is yes. You need to soak them first. If you are going to cook your beans in a pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot, there is no need to pre-soak. The high pressure will take care of everything for you.

If beans tend to make you gassy (it’s okay, we all get gassy from time to time), soaking can help. You can also add some Kombu or baking soda (about 1/16 of a teaspoon) to the soaking water. Either of these will help to break the raffinose down even further!

Personally, I process beans just fine. I’ve been vegan for five years as of this writing, so my digestive system processes them no prob! But I still soak my beans first.

Soaking has some huge benefits! It rehydrates the dried beans, shortening the cooking time. I’ve also noticed that my beans tend to come out more uniform and evenly cooked if I soak first. I don’t end up with some that are perfect, some that are mushy, and a few that don’t seem to be cooked at all (I’m not sure where those uncooked ones were hiding, but kudos to ’em). It also helps to break down some of the oligosaccharides (complex sugars) that can lead to digestive distress and gas. This is huge!

And, it breaks down phytates. Beans have phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient. Phytic acid can block the absorption of some key minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium. Soaking the beans reduces it, thereby increasing nutrient absorption. So, especially if you’re vegan and eat a lot of beans and other foods that have anti-nutrients, soaking is definitely a good idea.

But more than that, this is a must for certain beans, like kidney beans. Kidney beans contain so much phytic acid that they can make you sick.

And, you never need to pre-soak lentils. Simply rinse, cook, and enjoy.

Here are three methods for soaking beans.

Quick Soak Stovetop Method

I love the quick soak method. It allows me to have a bit more spontaneity in my diet since I don’t have to prepare dry beans the day before I want to eat them.

Step 1: Start by rinsing your beans under running water and picking through them. Look for and get rid of any debris that has gotten mixed in with them.

Step 2: Place the rinsed beans in a pot and cover them with water. The water level should be about 3 inches above the beans.

Step 3: Cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes.

Step 4: Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and leave to soak for 2 hours.

Step 5: Drain and rinse the beans when the 2 hours is up, and then follow the directions in one of the charts below. Don’t cook your beans in the water used to soak!

Quick Soak Instant Pot Method

Step 1: Place the beans in the Instant Pot and cover with plenty of cold water. You should have at least 3 inches of water above your beans.

Step 2: Seal the lid and hit the Pressure Cook button, set to high pressure, for 2 minutes.

Step 3: When time’s up, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, switch the valve from Sealing to Venting and release any remaining steam.

Step 4: Drain the beans and rinse.

Traditional Soak Method for Dried Beans

This is my favorite method. I feel like this method does the best at breaking down the raffinose in the beans, which helps limit the amount of gas the beans are going to cause.

Step 1: Rinse just the same as with the quick soak method.

Step 2: Place your rinsed beans in a bowl and cover with water. The water level should be about 3 inches above the beans to give them room to expand.

Step 3: Cover them with a lid, leave them on your counter or pantry, and let them soak overnight. Roughly 10-12 hours, but at least 8 hours minimum.

Step 4: Drain your beans before cooking. Do not use the soaking water to cook the beans.

Cooking Dried Beans on the Stovetop

When cooking dried beans on the stovetop, with the exception of lentils, you need to soak them first. Soaking will rehydrate the beans and break down some of the complex sugars, especially raffinose, which can lead to digestive distress and gas. It will also cut down on the total cooking time.

Cooked Kidney Beans on the Stovetop

Some quick notes:

  • 1 cup of dry beans will give you about 3 cups of cooked beans.
  • Cooked beans and lentils should be firm but tender.
  • Once they finish cooking, drain them using a colander and rinse with water.
  • Short on time? Add a small amount of baking soda (1 teaspoon per cup of beans) to your cooking water! According to Dr. Guy Crosby from America’s Test Kitchen, baking soda creates an alkaline environment for the beans to cook in, which helps the beans soften much more rapidly. This can cut your stovetop cooking time in half! Times listed in the charts that follow do not account for the addition of baking soda to the cooking liquid. If you add baking soda, start checking your beans halfway through my recommended cooking time.
  • Tomato products, lemon, sugar and vinegar all slow down cooking time! If these are going to be part of your recipe, know that your beans will take longer to cook, or add these ingredients toward the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.
  • Enjoy!

Stovetop Cooking Times Chart for Soaked Beans

Bean (1 cup dried)Water (cups)Cook Time (minutes)
Adzuki beans345 to 50
Black Beans450 to 60
Back-eyed peas345
Cannellini beans460
Chickpeas (garbanzo)460 to 70
Great northern beans3 1/250
Kidney Beans3 1/250 to 60
Navy beans3 1/250
Pinto beans3 1/250
*Do not pre-soak lentils
Brown lentils
Black or green lentils
Red lentils

3
3
3

25 to 30
30
10 to 15

Cooking Dried Beans in a Pressure Cooker

I love appliances, and along with my Vit-a-Mix, my Instant Pot is my favorite thing. I cook everything in it! It’s so fast and easy!

With an Instant Pot you don’t have to pre-soak your beans. But you can, and I usually do. I’ll give you cooking times for both presoaked and not-soaked beans in the charts to follow.

Start by rinsing your beans under running water and picking through them. Look for and get rid of any debris that has gotten mixed in with them. If you’re going to soak, do that now. If not, just toss your beans into your pressure cooker and follow the directions in the charts.

Add your beans and water to the Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker that you have) and seal the lid. If you have an Instant Pot you can choose the Bean/Chili button, or the Pressure Cook button. I always choose the Pressure Cook button. Make sure you are set to High Pressure and turn off the Keep Warm button. Then add the appropriate amount of time from the tables below.

Once your beans finish cooking, let the pressure release naturally. This will take about 20 minutes. If you’re in a rush, you can let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then manually release any additional pressure. I count on this natural release as part of the cooking process.

Definitely do not manually release the pressure right away! Not only will your beans not be fully cooked, but the rapid release of that amount of pressure will cause your beans to split. I learned that one the hard way!

Remove the lid, empty your beans into a colander, and rinse them with cool water. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Tips

Cook Time is the number that you will set the Instant Pot to. This will be longer than the total time to cook. The Instant Pot will warm up and get to pressure, and then will need to release pressure before removing the lid.

The times I have listed in the following tables should produce beans that are great in chilis, soups, salads, stews, or on their own. They will be slightly firm. If you like your beans a little mushier, add 2-5 minutes. But start with the times listed here and adjust for future batches based on your preferences.

If you feel that your beans aren’t cooked enough, simply place the lid back on and set your timer for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Instant Pot Cooking Times Chart for Unsoaked Beans

Bean (1 cup dried)Water (cups)Cook Time (minutes)
Adzuki beans220
Black Beans325
Back-eyed peas320
Cannellini beans440
Chickpeas (garbanzo)445
Great northern beans335
Kidney Beans330
Navy beans325
Pinto beans325
*Do not pre-soak lentils
Brown lentils
Black or green lentils
Red lentils

2
2
1 3/4

8
8
5

Instant Pot Cooking Times Chart for Pre-Soaked Beans

Bean (1 cup dried)Water (cups)Cook Time (minutes)
Adzuki beans28
Black Beans318
Back-eyed peas35
Cannellini beans412
Chickpeas (garbanzo)415
Great northern beans322
Kidney Beans38
Navy beans315
Pinto beans315
*Do not pre-soak lentils
Brown lentils
Black or green lentils
Red lentils

2
2
1 3/4

8
8
5

Add Flavor to Your Dried Beans

Beans are incredibly good for you and should be eaten often, but no one is going to eat bland food. Simply cooking them in water is not going to give you the tastiest result. All beans taste different and have their own unique textures, but without adding flavor they are pretty boring.

Here are some tips to make tasty beans your whole family will love!

  • Cook beans in vegetable broth instead of water, or throw in a vegetable boullion cube or two (or three!). Ieans with half vegetable broth and half water.
  • Spices for the win! I almost always add black pepper, and usually some salt if I am using a salt-free or low sodium vegetable broth. Then I add some of the following combinations depending on the recipe or cuisine I’m going for:
    • thyme, oregano, paprika, and garlic
    • thyme, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed, black pepper, cayanne
    • cumin and garlic, topped off with lime juice after finished cooking
    • onions, carrots, garlic, and celery
    • rosemary, sage, and thyme
    • coriander, cumin, chili powder, garam masala, turmeric, and curry (great with red lentils!)
    • cumin, coriander, chili, onion, garlic, and ginger
    • onion powder, gralic powder, salt, black pepper (this is my go-to when I’m feeling lazy)
  • A quick note on salt. If you have hypertension, high blood pressure, or other heart conditions, you’ve probably been told by your doctor to limit your salt intake. Spices will help a ton! If you don’t have heart concerns and like to salt your food, add the salt to the cooking water, not after. Cooking in salted water, especially in the Instatnt Pot, will infuse the beans with salt, which adds flavor without the beans being overly salt.

Experiment to find flavor combinations that you love, but don’t take it too seriously. When in doubt, throw some salt and black pepper in with your cooking water and let those infuse into your beans and you’ll have beans that everyone will love.

My Favorite Way to Add Flavor to Beans and Lentils

Set your Instant Pot to Saute and toss in some vegetable broth and half a chopped onion (white, yellow, or red; your choice).

Let that cook for 2 minutes, until the onion turns translucent.

Add a few cloves of minced garlic and whatever spices you want to use tonight.

Cook that for an additional minute or 2.

Add 1 cup of vegetable broth and scour the bottom of the Instant Pot to release any crust that has cooked to the bottom.

Add your beans and however much water is necessary for the type and amount of beans you are cooking (minus the 1 cup’s worth of vegetable broth – so 2 cups of water, plus the 1 cup of vegetable broth would equal the 3 cups necessary to cook 1 cup of black beans).

Seal your Instant Pot, set your timer, and try to be patient.

That’s a Wrap

Beans are one of the healthiest foods you can eat and are a great source of protein for all my plant-based friends out there. Soak your beans if you have time, use a pressure cooker if you forgot, or just don’t want to, soak, and add some kombu or baking soda to cut down on the gas. Use the charts in this guide to cook perfect dried beans, save some money, and keep chasing those fitness gains.

*Author's Note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It's always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, or exercise routine, or trying a new supplement.

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AUTHOR
Matt Walter, CHN, M.A.T
I studied Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University and interned as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the WSU football team. I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and former personal trainer and competitive CrossFit athlete. My mission is to make embracing and adopting a healthy vegan lifestyle simple and fun!