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Dried Beans 101

The Martha Stewart Show, February 2008

Beans are a great addition to your family meals. They are low in fat and high in protein. They are also rich in fiber, B vitamins, and calcium.

Adzuki Beans
The red beans in desserts such as red-bean cakes, their light, sweet flavor makes them good for desserts, but they also add flavor to savory dishes. They don't need to be soaked ahead of time, and contain easily digestible sugars that won't cause gas or bloating.

Black Beans
Black beans have black skin, cream-colored flesh, and a sweet flavor. They are good in soups, salads, and salsas, and have to be soaked before using.

Cannelini Beans
Cannelini beans, also known as white beans, have a rich and creamy texture. They tend to fall apart when cooked, adding body to soups. Cannelini beans can be used right out of the can on salads.

Red Kidney Beans
Red kidney beans have firm skin and hold their shape well when cooked. They have a meaty flavor, and are great for chili and spicy dishes.

It's very simple to cook using dried beans. Start by picking them over to be sure there are no broken shells. Rinse the beans thoroughly in cold water, then soak them to rehydrate them. To soak beans: Place in a large bowl or pot and add water to cover generously (three times as much water as beans). You can refrigerate the beans for at least four hours and up to 24. Cooking times and instructions differ according to the dish, but it's good to turn off the heat 10 minutes before the recipe says they will be done and let them cool in the cooking liquid. This will prevent the beans from splitting.

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Comments (11)

  • whatever22 25 Jan, 2015

    With a title like Dried Beans 101 I was expecting more than brief commentary on only 4 kinds of beans! 4?? Really?? I'm new to this site and so far disappointed.

  • PCMC 12 May, 2009

    I had the same problem with dried beans not getting soft until a friend told me to put 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda in the water before boiling the beans. Worked like a charm! Rinse beans in clear water before making recipe.

  • Kaleroy 31 Aug, 2008

    I live at a high altitude so beans take forever and a day to cook...and then my boyfriend got me a pressure cooker! 45 minutes and they're soft and tender, without being mushy! I was a bit intimidated at first by the pressure cooker, but as long as you keep the valves clean, they work like a gem!

  • paulaz 18 Jun, 2008

    i have had the same experience with 3 different kinds of beans that i've cooked from dried beans - fava, split pea and a third i cant remember. i think dried beans just take a long time to cook. i never gave up, i just kept cooking them tili they were done, but it takes a long time, patience and a lot of stirring.

  • bnet1014 22 Feb, 2008

    Can dry beans be too old? I soaked a pound of split peas for 24 hours, they swelled in size like I expected. Then I cooked them for over 2 hours and they were still crunchy. I had to abandon the split pea soup idea for dinner and bring out leftovers. Now I don't know if I should trash the soup altogether or if there's some way to revive it?

  • nanacakes 19 Feb, 2008

    I make humus a lot and yes, you must cook the dried beans first. I cook all of my dried beans in the crockpot on high heat. It's really easy that way.

  • Susie44 15 Feb, 2008

    How do you spice the beans? Also, what do you do with the bean-soaking water?

  • weholland 14 Feb, 2008

    I was wondering what to do about Garbanzo beans. We make humus all the time in our house, so I was wondering since Humus is not a cooked dish, how do you prepare the dried beans? Can you just soak them and then use them or do you have to cook them, cool them then use them? Anyone have any ideas? - Wendy :)

  • harebare76 9 Feb, 2008


  • sunshine 8 Feb, 2008

    What Martha means is to wash the beans before hand, picking out any bad beans or peddles. This also washes of any dirt that may be on the beans I do this under running water in a colander or better yet with the sprayer in your sink. You then soak the beans in fresh clean water and then you can use the bean water with the recipe.

  • harebare76 7 Feb, 2008

    Martha says on the show to save your bean water. Recently I made some cannelini beans and it said to rinse the beans after you soak them, so I discarded the water. Do you use the water in soup or use in a different recipe?