Beans and dried legumes require soaking in room temperature water, a step that rehydrates them for more even cooking. Before soaking, pick through the beans, discarding any discolored or shriveled ones or any foreign matter. Depending on how much time you have, choose one of the following methods:
Slow soak. In a stockpot, cover 1 pound dried beans with 10 cups water. Cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
Hot soak. In a stockpot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover tightly and set aside at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
Quick soak. In a stockpot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil. Boil 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
Gas-free soak. In a stockpot, place 1 pound of beans in 10 or more cups of boiling water. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Then cover and set aside overnight. The next day 75 to 90 percent of the indigestible sugars that cause gas will have dissolved into the soaking water.
After soaking, rinse beans and add to a stockpot. Cover the beans with three times their volume of water. Add herbs or spices as desired. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender. The cooking time depends on the type of bean, but start checking after 45 minutes. Add more water if the beans become uncovered. Other tips:
Add salt or acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they slow the cooking process.
Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.
To freeze cooked beans for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well and freeze.
One pound of dried beans yields about 5 or 6 cups cooked beans. A 15-ounce can of beans equals about 1 1/2 cups cooked beans, drained.
Type of legumesCommon uses
Adzuki beans Also known as azuki beans, asuki beans, field peas, red oriental beans Rice dishes and Japanese or Chinese cuisine
Anasazi beans Also known as Jacob's cattle beans Homemade refried beans and Southwestern recipes — especially soups
Black beans Also known as turtle beans, black Spanish beans and Venezuelan beans Soups, stews, rice and beans, Mexican dishes, and Central and South American cuisine
Black-eyed peas Also known as cowpeas, cherry beans, frijoles, China peas, Indian peas Salads, casseroles, fritters, bean cakes, curry dishes, and Southern dishes with ham and rice
Chickpeas Also known as garbanzos, garbanzo beans, ceci beans Casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup, Spanish stews and Indian dishes, such as dal
Edamame Also known as green soybeans Side dishes, snacks, salads, soups, casseroles, and rice or pasta dishes
Fava beans Also known as broad beans, faba beans, horse beans Stews and side dishes
Lentils Soups, stews, salads, side dishes and Indian dishes, such as dal
Lima beans Also known as butter beans, Madagascar beans Succotash, casseroles, soups and salads
Red kidney beans Stews, mixed bean salad, chili and Cajun bean dishes
Soy nuts Also known as soybean seeds, roasted soybeans Snacks or as garnish to salads