How to cook a variety of nutritious beans

Dry beans are an excellent source of nutritional value and are considered to be a low-cost food item.

Photo credit: Scott Bauer, USDA
Photo credit: Scott Bauer, USDA

It’s important to nourish your family during these chilly winter days for a sound balanced diet. Dry beans are an excellent source of food that will provide your family with an abundant amount of nutritional value and are considered to be a low-cost food item. The guide below, adapted from University of Connecticut Cooperative EFNEP Extension’s  “Bean Magic”, will help you learn the bean basics, including how to cook dry beans and a variety of bean types.

To Cook Dry Beans:

  1. Check the beans, a handful at a time and throw away dirt, small rocks or beans that are broken, discolored or shriveled.
  2. Place the good beans in a pot, strainer or colander.
  3. Rinse a few times with cold running water.
  4. Put clean beans in a large pot. Add water to cover the beans. Remember, dry beans will soak up liquid and can double or triple in size, so make sure you add plenty of water.
  5. Soak the beans in one of these ways: If using the beans the same day, follow steps 1 – 4. Bring water to a boil, and boil rapidly for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let the beans soak in the water for about 1 hour. If planning to use the beans the next day, follow steps 1 – 4. Soak the beans overnight.
  6. Drain the soaked beans. Rinse and drain.
  7. Put beans in a large pot, cover with fresh water (see the chart for how much water to use).
  8. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low. Cover the pot and cook beans slowly until tender.
  9. You may need to add more liquid before the beans have finished cooking.
  10. The beans are now ready to use in other recipes that call for cooked beans.
  11. For some recipes that have a long cooking time (soups or baked beans) you can use the beans after step 6 and follow the directions in the recipe.
  12. Free some cooked beans to use later. Simply defrost and use as you would use canned beans.

Bean Basics:

Dried, canned, cooked. Kidney, garbanzo, pinto. White, black, red, pink….so many kinds! Beans are full of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber that are important for your health. Because beans are very high in protein, you can use less meat, chicken or fish in meals that include beans.

                                                                 Bean Cooking Times                                                                                 

Dry Beans – 1 Cup

Makes about 3 cups of cooked beans.

Cook in how much water?

Cooking Time

Black Beans

3 cups

About 2 hours

Blackeyed peas, cowpeas

2 ½ cups

½ hours

Great Northern beans

2 ½ cups

1 to 1 ½  hours

Kidney beans

3 cups

About 2 hours


2 ½ cups

(Do not soak)

½ hour

Lima beans

2 ½ cups

45 minutes to 1 hour

Navy or Pea beans

3 cups

1 ½ to 2 hours

Pink or Pinto beans

3 cups

2 hours

For recipe ideas for beans, please see the attached Bean Magic PDF. Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children. To learn more about our services, please visit Michigan State University Extension.

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