How To Cook Beans

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Do you love to cook beans? I’ve been wanting to talk about how to cook dried beans in four different ways for some time now. There is something awesome about a pot of beans simmering on the stove. You can flavor so many kinds of beans with different seasonings, and the magic of several new meals begin.

I grew up eating beans and made pinto beans into mashed beans to fill burritos to freeze in bulk with my daughters. I must admit right here that ONCE I missed a chunk of dirt, it must have been very small but big enough that it took one of my daughters years before she would eat refried beans again. Yep, she bit into a burrito with a chunk of dirt.

I know we need to open the bag and spread the beans out and check for rocks, debris and small chunks of dirt. Dang, I missed a chunk! Anyway, just giving you the heads-up to look through the bags of beans you decide to soak or not soak before cooking them. Today, when I made these beans I found a 1/4 inch rock, this is why I use a mesh strainer to inspect my beans before I soak or cook them.

I love storing beans in my pantry and food storage because they are nutritious, hearty, versatile and inexpensive. When fall comes, I immediately think of chili served with cornbread. I make chili with white beans, red chili beans, or a combination. Man, my mouth is watering just thinking about a pot of chili.

Can I Still Cook Really Old Beans?

Here’s the deal about beans, if they are really old, as in 25 years old, that were stored in big cans (mine were green) then they may not have the food value we would all like after that many years. BUT, they would fill the belly, and if you have a pressure cooker you may be able to cook those old hard, and I mean really hard beans.

I was in a pressure cooker class a few years ago and the instructor showed us how beans will soften if cooked in a pressure cooker. If you added some cooked quinoa and some vegetables along with the cooked beans you would at least feel full after an emergency in your neighborhood. I have friends that eat old beans almost every day of the week and they are healthy, so life is good if you store lots of beans.

I like to rinse my beans before I pre-soak them or cook them. You don’t have to pre-soak the beans, but just giving you the heads-up here, it takes longer to cook the beans when you don’t. I didn’t pre-soak the beans for my pressure cookers. I used two different electric pressure cookers below so I could compare them side by side. I purchased both of them just so you know I am not getting paid to review these pressure cookers.

Cooking Beans:

Please note, I cooked the dried pinto beans four different ways using only the following:

  1. 1 cup dried beans (sort for rocks/debris, wash and drain)
  2. 3 cups of water
  3. No salt, seasonings or oil/fat added
  4. I didn’t pre-soak any of them before cooking. PLEASE NOTE, I would for sure pre-soak the beans for cooking beans on the stovetop, in the oven, and the slow cooker. Just giving you the heads-up here. Pre-soak is always the best way to cook beans. Nothing has changed except maybe the pressure cooker cooks them a little faster. BUT, I will pre-soak all my beans going forward. I’ve pre-soaked them for years, but I wanted to see if I could cook them without doing pre-soaking. Nope, it helps to cook them faster.

Tips For Gas From Beans

Tana: My dad taught us a trick to help with potential “gastric disturbances” often accompanying meals with beans later on. Depending on how large a pot you cook up, he would add 1/4 to 1 cup of any grain to the beans during cooking. You can’t even tell they’re in the beans! He often used barley, brown rice or millet.

Four Ways to Cook Beans

Cook Beans-Stovetop:

I would for sure pre-soak the beans at least 6-12 hours minimum covered with water in the refrigerator. After pre-soaking them, drain the water from the pan and cover with at least one inch of fresh water. Cook without a lid on medium heat until the water comes to a boil, simmer until tender, this time period will depend on how old the beans are.

I had some beans that were about two years old and they took 8 hours to cook. I didn’t pre-soak them, big mistake. You can add your favorite seasonings, garlic, jalapenos, green chilies, onions, etc. There is something awesome about making your own homemade pinto beans, or whatever beans you have in your pantry. I added my favorite seasonings like chili powder, cumin and garlic halfway through the cooking. I didn’t add oil or fat of any kind.

Cook Beans-Slow Cooker:

I would for sure pre-soak the beans at least 6-12 hours minimum covered with water in the refrigerator. After pre-soaking them, drain the water from the pan and cover with at least two inches of fresh water in your slow cooker.

I would start by setting the slow cooker on high and then lower it to low maybe halfway through the day, depending on the temperature of your slow cooker. I realize different brands cook at different temperatures. Cook at least 6-10 hours or until tender. I added my favorite seasonings like chili powder, cumin, and garlic halfway through the cooking. I didn’t add oil or fat of any kind.

Cook Beans-Oven Cooking:

I have to tell you this was the easiest way to cook them! I grabbed one of my Dutch ovens, but any deep oven-safe pan would work. I would for sure pre-soak the beans at least 6-12 hours minimum covered with water in the refrigerator. After pre-soaking them, drain the water from the pan and cover with at least one to two inches of water in the Dutch oven or pot.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake without a lid for 90-120 minutes. Longer if your beans are older. Cook until tender to your taste. I added my favorite seasonings like chili powder, cumin, and garlic halfway through the cooking. I didn’t add oil or fat of any kind.

Cook Beans-Electric Pressure Cookers:

dried beans

I have purchased both the Fagor 3-in-1 pressure cooker and the 7-in-1 Instant Pot so I wanted to compare the two side by side. I am partial to the Fagor because I have taken several classes from Chef Brad who teaches so many wonderful classes everywhere.

He suggested at the time we buy a Fagor, so I did. Then the Instant Pot became popular on Facebook and on blogs recently. I decided to buy an Instant Pot before I did a giveaway with one last year. They are both great machines.

You can see the mesh strainer above, I use it to rinse my beans before I soak or cook them. As you know, I will go back to soaking my beans overnight once again after today’s experiment. NOTE: you must be careful with beans in a pressure cooker because of the foam they create.

Read the instructions about cooking beans in your pressure cooker’s owner’s manual. Most say to keep the pot fully cooked below 2/3 or 1/2 full. Please check your book because beans will expand and fill the pot, possibly too full.

Cook Beans-Fagor:

The ratio for cooking beans is 1 part beans to 3 parts water. You lock the lid in place and turn it to “pressure”, HIGH 50-60 minutes and push start. I used the natural release to release the pressure after cooking.

Cook Beans-Instant Pot:

The ratio for cooking beans is 1 part beans to 3 parts water. You lock the lid in place and turn it to “Beans/Chili”, then push the high pressure. The time comes up for 30 minutes, but my beans didn’t get cooked in the 30 minutes, but my beans are two years old. They may cook in 30 minutes if you have a fresh bag of beans, but these two-year-old beans were not cooked. Next time I will push 50-60 minutes. I used the natural release to release the pressure after cooking.

Release on pressure cookers:

Here are two ways to release the pressure, be sure and use a hot pad or washcloth or you will get burned from the steam:

1. Natural Method:

After cooking you will press the START/STOP button to stop the cooking process. Unplug the unit and wait for the pressure to naturally release….approximately 20-30 minutes. After this time move the pressure regulator to vent to make sure all the pressure has been released.

2. Quick Release Method:

After cooking press the START/STOP button to make sure the unit is completely turned off. Turn the pressure regulator to vent and allow the pressure to release. Caution! Keep hands and face away from the escaping steam as it is extremely hot and can cause injury. I use a washcloth to cover the release vent when turning it to help from getting burned by the very hot steam.

Why We Need To Buy Beans by Linda

Homemade Chili

4 from 1 vote
3 Frugal Chili Recipes Made From Scratch by
Quick And Easy Chili by FSM
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
6 hrs
Total Time
6 hrs 10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8 people
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 28 -ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2-8 ounce cans tomato paste
  • 2-16 ounce cans kidney beans (do not drain) or equal amount of freshly cooked beans
  • 4 -ounce can of chopped green chilies
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  1. Brown the ground beef with the onions and drain the grease. Get the slow cooker out and start adding the browned ground beef, onions, and the remaining ingredients. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Final Word

Please store some dried beans, they are inexpensive and you can cook them outside with charcoal and a Dutch oven or a Sun Oven if you have a lot of sunshine where you live. Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected. May God bless you and your family for being prepared.

My Favorite Things:

30 thoughts on “How To Cook Beans

  • April 1, 2019 at 7:39 am

    4 stars
    I have a question. If two year old beans are hard to cook, how hard to cook would the 20 year old beans be? They are selling beans in 5 gallon buckets and saying they are good for 20 years. Are they? Would adding baking soda help old beans get softer?

    • April 1, 2019 at 8:00 am

      Hi Victoria, beans are beans. The older they get the harder (longer time) they are to cook. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t store some, but we need to be prepared to use more fuel to cook them. If you have a Sun Oven, it may take three days to cook them. I don’t know how long they would take to cook in a Sun Oven if they are 20 years old. We could always pressure can them if we have the fuel. Yes, they may be good for 20 years but I highly question the food value. I’m not a scientist, so I can’t predict the food value. I’ve never heard about using baking soda. Linda

    • May 19, 2020 at 2:34 pm

      Baking soda can act as a tenderizer for dried beans. Dried beans that just won’t get tender, despite following soaking and simmering directions to the minute, are typically caused by hard water, beans that are old, or beans that have been improperly stored. The next time you forget to set your dried beans to soak the night before you need them, your beans can still be tender on time if you use the standard quick soak method and a little baking soda. 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking water.

      • May 19, 2020 at 3:58 pm

        Hi Dora, thanks for the tip on the baking soda and the hard beans!!! Linda

  • April 1, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Yes, baking soda works to soften old beans. You don’t need very much, maybe 1/2 t.per pound of beans. I don’t measure. Just add it at the beginning or if your beans have been cooking awhile and they aren’t softening like you think they should you can add it then and they will soften. This doesn’t affect the taste of the beans or the recipe.

    • April 1, 2019 at 9:59 am

      Hi Kimberly, thanks for letting us know. I love learning new tricks!! Thank you so much, Linda

  • April 1, 2019 at 9:06 am

    I have the funniest story about cooking beans!!

    When I moved away from home, one of the things I missed about Mom’s cooking was her ham and beans! So, I was living in Nebraska and it was getting pretty cold so I thought I would make some – how hard could it be? Soak the beans, cook them with a ham hock!

    So, one evening, I put my beans to soak. I could almost taste the soup!! The next morning, I went to rinse the beans and get them cooking. Well, I threw them out! I then called my Mom in Washington to find out what was wrong with my beans. The pan was full of little white worms! I thought my Mom was going to die laughing. She then told me that the beans must have been pretty fresh and they sprouted overnight!! It was quite a learning process! So, I started all over and went to the store for more beans! I will NEVER forget that. Turns out, the beans were actually grown locally and they were that year’s beans so they were very fresh – the checker told me that they had just gotten in the year’s supply a few days prior to me purchasing them!

    So, if you get fresh beans or grow them yourself, be aware that they may sprout in the soaking!

    • April 1, 2019 at 10:02 am

      Oh Leanne, this the best story ever! I have never purchased fresh beans so I have not seen the sprouts. I love this!! Linda

    • April 2, 2019 at 10:16 am

      HaHaHaaaaaaaaaaaa, Leanne that`s the best story i have heard in a long time, thanks for sharing it with us……

      • April 2, 2019 at 10:21 am

        Hi Hearl, isn’t it fun to talk to each other right here!! Life is so good!! Linda

        • April 3, 2019 at 7:31 am

          Yes it is Linda, thank you for making it possible.

  • April 1, 2019 at 10:03 am

    I, too love beans and stuck with canned beans because I had a lot of trouble with them splitting or bursting. America’s Test Kitchen did a segment on dry beans and they recommend adding 1 T. salt per gallon of soaking water, then completely rinse the beans before adding new water and cooking. I had always heard not to add salt when cooking beans as it would make the skins tough and ATK confirmed that was true but soaking in salt water, essentially a brine, and RINSING the salt away has a totally different effect. Now my beans cook perfectly. Thanks for encouraging folks to cook dry beans.

    • April 1, 2019 at 11:58 am

      HI Debbie, I love your tips on cooking beans! Thank you so much! Linda

  • April 1, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Hey Linda,

    You are on a subject we are working on here at our house. One aspect of cooking beans was how much fuel it takes to turn the dry product into edible product. So soaking is a must, but the question we’re considering is what about soaking extra long to get more softness into the bean. You can’t leave them too long or they could ferment, but so far with the beans we’ve tried, a 24 hour soak is bringing back some pretty old beans with extended cooking time. We’re trying a longer soak to see if we can get the cooking time down. It might be just a matter of replacing the water to bring back all the flavor.

    • April 1, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Debbie, I love your comment!!! Here’s the deal, we need to practice cooking “old” beans so we won’t use as much fuel when our fuel supplies are dwindling. Thank you, Linda

  • April 1, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    I live at 6,000 feet in New Mexico. When we moved to New Mexico from Tennessee we could not get beans to cook right. A friend told us what we do is rinse the beans and then we take and cook them until they boil for about 5 minutes. Then we turn them off and let them soak for about 5 hours. Drain the beans and put them in boiling water and cook for another 1-2 hours and they turn out great. I use a old pressure cooker that can’t be used for presser cooking but it still works.

    You can also use baking soda to cook your beans and that will soften them but my husband does not like them cooked that way.

    • April 1, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Jackie, thank for the tip on soaking beans. I love all the tips we are getting on cooking beans. I really believe we will be eating more beans than we ever have. Thank you so much! Linda

  • April 1, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    I have a bucket of pinto beans that are 4 years old. I have to pressure cook them for about an hour to get them soft. (When I first started storing beans and rice, I put them in a large Mylar bag,sealed in 5 gallon buckets . I wish we had done 1 gallon mylar bags now). I can’t taste any difference in the 4 year old beans and ones we got this year. The only reason I know this is my daughter bought a bag of pintos last month, not realizing I had an open bucket LOL. We do not need anymore pinto beans. ( Or rice for that matter. We do eat a lot more rice than beans). Love the recipes. My daughter in law does not eat beans. But she did eat them in your chili recipe. Do you have a favorite recipe for refried beans ? If so, I would love to try it. Thanks for ll the info and recipes. God Bless

    • April 1, 2019 at 5:12 pm

      Hi Judy, I’m working on a refried bean recipe post. I love Mexican food of any kind. I will work on that one ASAP. I’m glad to hear the beans tasted the same with only 4 years in age difference. I used to cook beans older than four years old. I have never cooked beans that were 10 or 20 years old. When raising a family we would go through 100 pounds of beans in about 3 years or so. I love pinto beans. I will try and share my simple recipe very soon. Linda

  • April 1, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Hi, I tried submitting this earlier, but I guess it didn’t go through. It’s really important to be careful with kidney beans and slow cookers. The reason is that kidney beans have a high amount of toxin that needs to be inactivated by boiling for at least ten minutes. Kidney beans can’t go straight from soaking to cooking in a crock pot because the crock pot temperature isn’t high enough to inactivate that toxin. And for that same reason, they have to be cooked before going into a sun oven as well.

    • April 1, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Jennifer, if a comment has a link with an “http” instead of an “https” my website will halt the comment for security reasons. I have a secure site and it would compromise my website. Thanks for your tip on the kidney beans. Good to know, thank you so much. Linda

  • April 2, 2019 at 9:18 am

    My Dad used to tell us a home was a home with a pot of beans simmering on the stove! He really knew how to do beans! He taught me to sort them on the table, looking for rocks and bits of hard dirt. Rinse them, cover well with water and add a table spoon of baking soda (he always made a big pot for our large family) . Soak overnight. Then rinse again. Cover with water and bring to boil on stove, turn down and simmer with lid.
    Never add salt until the beans are soft. They won’t soften up if you do. When soft you may add the seasonings you prefer. Dad always added a cube of butter to his beans when done. He taught us a trick to help with potential ‘gastric disturbances often accompaning meals with beans later on. Depending on how large a pot you cook up, he would add 1/4 to 1 cup of any grain to the beans during cooking. You can’t even tell they’re in the beans! He often used barley, brown rice or millet. He explained the science behind it but I can’t remember it now. I just know that it really does help. I can tell when I forget to add the grain. Another secret he had for his famous chili was a good heaping spoonful of plain Cocoa powder! His beans were always incredibly good!
    He had a lot of beans in his food storage so they were sometimes a few years old. He said if they sprouted during soaking that was even better, and they often did.
    He would sometimes take the soaked beans and put them in a few freezer bags and freeze them. Later he had some ready to go and would bring a pot of water to boil and toss the frozen beans in,
    Which would help crack the beans when they hit the boiling water. They cook up a little bit faster. I did this with my solar oven a few weeks ago. They took a day to cook up and were pretty good!
    Linda, your post has made me decide to go soak a pot of beans! I also want to try your recipe you show for your mint brownies!!! They look incredibly good! ☺️ Thank you for your inspiration each day for so many of us!

    • April 2, 2019 at 10:09 am

      Hi Tana, oh you made my day! It’s people like you who keep me going. I LOVE your comment, I have got to try the baking soda and the cocoa!! Oh my gosh, we all learn so much from each other!! I’m for sure going to try the “grains” to the pot of beans! This is an awesome trick! You have got to make those mint brownies, oh my gosh, they are so good! Thanks again, Linda

    • April 2, 2019 at 10:12 am

      Tana, P.S. I’m adding your dad’s tip about the grains to my post!!!

  • April 4, 2019 at 9:44 am

    It’s interesting to me how differently people use, cook, season and serve beans. Based on my Spanish, Latin or as the government says’ it, my “hispanic” heritage I regard beans as usually being a side dish that one usually lays on top or their rice or the beans are made into a dish with rice. I grew up eating red, pink, sometimes black and on rare occasion white kidney beans either the large or small varieties. And they are usually seasoned with such things as onion and garlic powder, Adobo, sofrito, tomato sauce, and some people toss in bits of cooking fat and onion, green pepper and bits of ham and/or diced potato and even tomatoes.

    For better health, I omit pork fat, ham or any salty meat. I do like to toss in a bit of cooked ground meat or a chunk of beef and I season with onion powder and a dash of garlic powder or minced garlic. I also add onion and green peppers if I have them but I eat them without all that too. We can all agree they’re very versatile in regards to spices and what they can be mixed with or have added to them.

    You can also make an easy bean salad with canned (They have to be fully cooked) red, pink and white beans (black are fine too), green pepper and onion and a little vinegar. It’s good to rinse the beans just a bit so they won’t be “thick” and sticky from the sauce in the can.

    • April 4, 2019 at 10:30 am

      Hi Frank, wow, now I want to make a bean salad with vinegar! You know how to make beans, my friend! I love your comment! Great ideas, Linda

  • April 7, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    I just subscribed and love the comments and advice on cooking beans. Could you tell me about how much garlic, chili powder and cumin you use for a batch of beans? Thank you.

    • April 8, 2019 at 9:14 am

      Hi Sue, I’m writing a post right now about refried beans. Is that what you are talking about? Linda

      • April 8, 2019 at 9:44 am

        No, what I was writing about is how much garlic, chili powder and cumin you use when cooking a pot of beans in the Instant Pot, Crockpot, etc. I enjoy your website very much and look forward to learning more about prepping. Thank you

        • April 8, 2019 at 10:01 am

          Hi Sue, oh gotcha. Stay tuned I will be writing a few posts on using beans. Linda


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