Basic Bean (& Chickpea) Cooking Method

 Note: There are many theories about the best way to cook dry beans. I particularly like this one but find whatever method works best for you! Do give this a try if you are not yet in the habit of cooking beans. I recently borrowed an Instant Pot and was impressed with the way it cooked beans. 


The two most important things you can do to get hooked on cooking your own dry beans are:

  • Cook a lot of beans to refrigerate and use over 5-6 days and/or freeze for future use.
  • Let the beans cool in their cooking liquid for at least 1-2 hours. This vastly improves their flavor and texture. You do not need to refrigerate them while they’re cooling. Just leave them in the pot on the stove (with burner off) until they’re cool. Then refrigerate what you think you’ll use up in 5 days and freeze the rest. Keep as much of the cooking liquid as you can–it’s wonderful in soups, as a broth on its own, to loosen up beans when making a spread or refried beans, etc. and it also protects them in the freezer.


Place dry beans in a bowl covered by about 4 inches of cold water. Soak for 4-8 hours (or up to 24). If you can’t get around to cooking them after 24 hours, you can drain them and refrigerate them for another day before cooking with no ill effects.


Drain beans and put soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by several inches. If you have time, add a couple of whole, peeled garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a chunk of peeled onion, but skip if you don’t. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let cook covered until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally (this helps prevent some beans from softening before others.) I add salt towards the end of the cooking time and when you do add salt, be generous, as in at least 1 teaspoon sea salt for every 1 cup or so of dried beans. They will likely need more still. The time it takes for the beans to cook will vary depending on the kind/size of bean and the freshness of the dried beans. Pinto types typically take about 30-35 minutes, smaller white and black beans as little as 25. Let beans cool in their liquid (see above). Cooked beans keep in the refrigerator for 5-6 days and for several months in the freezer.

To freeze
: Fill container (1/2 pint, pint or quart—smaller sizes are good for quicker thawing and for quesadillas, burritos, salads & larger ones are good for soups/stews/chilis) with cooked, cooled beans. Cover with cooking liquid and freeze. Remember to put them out to thaw on the counter in the morning or the night before you need them or run hot water over the container and put the whole chunk of frozen beans/bean cooking liquid in a saucepan and thaw on low heat. Beans do not thaw well in the microwave—they go bad very quickly after thawing this way.

Slow-cooked Oven Beans

You can cook soaked or un-soaked beans slowly in the oven as well. Cooking time will depend on whether you soaked them and the size/type of bean.


Preheat oven to 275

Put beans in a heavy ovenproof pot for which you have a lid. Cover with water by 4 inches. Add a few cloves of peeled garlic, sprigs of thyme, sage, and/or parsley, a chunk of onion and a generous splash of olive oil. Bring the pot of beans to a boil on the stovetop, then transfer to the oven and cook, covered with just a small crack for steam, until tender. Give the beans a stir after about an hour and check to be sure there’s plenty of liquid. Soaked beans tend to take about 2.5 hours with this method and up to 4 hours for un-soaked beans. When tender, remove from oven, salt generously and let cool to absorb salt. Use and store as described above.

2 thoughts on “Basic Bean (& Chickpea) Cooking Method”

  • Susan Kirschner says:

    HI Katherine, Just a note to tell you I always love the way you anticipate doubts and questions and give reasons for instructions like “stirring occasionally (this helps prevent some beans from softening before others).” It just never occurred to me that was the reason.

    Btw, I’ve always loved beans, lentils, etc. but I’m learning from you how to build them into my routine cooking. For some reason I was intimidated by them for about 74 or my 75 years. Some of us are slow learners.



    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Thank you, Susan. I’m so glad the guidance is useful and that beans are becoming more part of your routine. Thank you so much for the report.

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