How to Cook Dried Beans

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on October 27, 2009


Beans. Beans. The Magical Fruit.  Beans. Beans. They make you…

Alright, Alright.

I couldn’t help it.  I’m surrounded by little boys who think that saying the word “toot” is the FUNNIEST thing…EVER!

There really isn’t anything funnier than a little boy giggling after saying “toot.”  That word invokes a special giggle.

And I can’t help but laugh when I hear this “toot-y” giggle. Such is the life as a mom of boys!

No really, beans are good for your heart.  And they are magical.

They are loaded with good fiber and when paired with other foods that are incomplete proteins, they are an excellent source of complete protein.

I love them because they are so inexpensive…and nutritious!

If you’re intimidated by cooking dried beans, let me help…


Place 1 lb. bag of beans into large bowl.


Sift and sort through the beans and remove any pieces of dirt and broken beans.


Fill bowls with HOT water to cover bowls at least 2 inches. Remove any beans that float to the top when soaking.


Beans will at least double in size.  Soak in HOT water for at least 2 hours, but ideally, soak overnight.


After soaking, drain beans and rinse with cool water.


Place in large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water.


Place the lid on top with a slight crack. Bring water to a boil.  (I crack the lid at the start because I find that when I put the lid on all the way and move onto another task in the kitchen or around the house, the water will be boiling over and make a mess on the stove!  So I crack the lid to avoid the spillage.)

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and then cover completely.  Let cook another 1 – 1.5 hours, or until beans are soft.


Drain beans.


Use in your favorite recipe or one of our favorites:

and, don’t forget to check out our Pinterest Board: Rice & Beans Budget to find even more recipes!


Or place into freezer baggies in 1, 2 or 3 cup portions to use in future meals.

I find that making up a big batch and freezing them helps reduce cooking time in future meals.

There you have it!

Cost Effectiveness

  • Cost of cans: at least $.79/can
  • Cost of dried beans: $.97 for 1 lb. bag; makes approximately 8 cups of beans; or 4 cans worth.  So less than $.25 “per can”!

Time in preparation: The total time to prepare dried beans is at least 4 hours, between soaking and cooking.  The actual hands on time is probably a total of 10-15 minutes for the sorting, rinsing and draining!

Of course, cans are more convenient!  But, be sure to read the label and look for no salt added cans and those with no additional preservatives!

I’m all for the healthiest and least expensive option!

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammy October 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

When I cook beans, I soak them overnight in lightly salted water, drain, and rinse. Then, I cook them in the slow cooker on low until they are done. I learned about soaking in salted water from Cook’s Illustrated, though I use less salt than they say. The new crock pots I’ve seen bring food to a boil. The older ones don’t.


kris March 9, 2013 at 8:23 am

i just read elsewhere not to use salt when cooking, it results in a tough bean because the water cant get inside of it.


Sara @ ThrivingMama October 27, 2009 at 1:35 pm

A crock-pot is a great time saver for cooking beans! You can either follow Erin’s steps and then put the beans in the crock-pot to cook, or you can cheat (NO! Not that!) and sort and rinse the beans and throw them in the crock-pot with water (rule of thumb – water should be at least twice as high in the crock pot as your beans). Turn your crock on, walk away for 6-8 hours, come back, let them cool, pack them up and freeze them! Here’s a 3 Bean Chili that I make with this method that is way yummy!


wendy August 31, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I’m assuming you turn your Crock Pot on LOW for 6-8 hours. Please let me know for sure. Thanks!


Donna W October 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Since husband has heart issues, I freeze beans like that for use in recipes. I had not been draining them, though. I will, from now on, because I have always poured off the liquid after thawing. This way I can put them right in the chili (or whatever) and let them thaw in there.


Stephanie October 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm

im doing a science project and this website was super helpful. Thanks!!!


Jenny October 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Thanks so much for these simple tutorials! My mom was not much of a cook, so I missed out on a lot of basics…like how to cook dried beans or cook butternut squash. Thanks for helping me out!


rachel October 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Very interesting! I had one problem with dried beans and was sort of turned off… even though I have a few bags in my pantry. I do eat a lot of beans. Didn’t realize that I could freeze them!! Thanks so much for this tutorial. It’s a HUGE help.


Stephanie October 27, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Great post! Wish I had read this before I cooked my beans this morning, lol! Well, at least I will know how to do it the “right way” next time!


Crista October 27, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Oh, thank you so much for this!


MommaLove October 28, 2009 at 7:28 am

Thanks for the tips! When you say “Soak in HOT water for at least 2 hours, but ideally, soak overnight.”, do you keep the soaking water hot for those 2 hours? How? Or do you just leave the bowl on the countertop? Or in the fridge, if soaking overnight?


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 28, 2009 at 9:51 am


No, just start with HOT water. It will cool down and that’s OK. The heat gets the beans to open up so that water can start soaking in!


MommaLove November 1, 2009 at 7:26 pm
Shannon October 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I saw on a cooking show that you could just throw the beans in your recipe without soaking. You just have to make sure that you sort and rinse them well before you do. I did this with my three beans and sausage recipe in the crockpot and I’ll never go back! I feel like the flavor was soooo much better than cooking them first and then putting them in the recipe. You also have to make sure you have plenty of liquid in there along with your recipe since they do absorb a lot, but this way they absorb all the flavor too, not just water!


Lisa October 28, 2009 at 2:58 pm

I am using this techinique but find that my beans are mushy if I use them in a recipe that I prepare in the crockpot (like Red Beans and Rice). Do you cut back on the boiling time if you are going to be using them in recipes that are slow cooking?


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm


I don’t think I would cut back the boiling time. I would add them into the slow cooker later if the slow cooker is making them mushy. That would be my strategy. Anyone else?


Karen Rivera February 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

My husband learned how to make beans from his mom who is from Mexico. He soaks pinto beans overnight, then rinses them and places them into the crock pot. He adds whatever ingredients he is adding to it (garlic salt, bacon fat, and a whole onion). He puts enough water to cover them by at least 1/2 inch (he checks on them periodically throughout the day and adds water as necessary). He cooks them in the slow cooker for at least 12 up to 24 hours. The longer the time, the softer the beans. There was an article in our local paper that describes the entire process he uses.


Jeanette October 29, 2009 at 9:51 am

Hey, I’ve always soaked the beans in 7-up after sorting and washing to reduce the gas. It works!


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 29, 2009 at 10:37 am


Great tip! Thanks for sharing :)


Barbabra January 10, 2012 at 11:20 am

I will try that!


Tina January 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

This was great. I tried to cook Kidney beans and over cooked them. Now when the beans go on sale I know how to freeze them. Now how about potatoes how do I make french fries and freeze them?


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm


I have not personally made and frozen french fries…so not sure how they would turn out. I do however recommend making up a big batch of mashed potatoes…those freeze, thaw and reheat well!


sue ellen January 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm

how long can dried beans, lentils be stored? when/if do they lose their
nutritive value?


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm

@sue ellen,

Shouldn’t lose their nutritive value…if stored away from humidity (I keep mine in a large airtight container), they can last years!


cdmom January 31, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I rarely soak my beans overnight. I “look” them(that’s what my mom calls picking through them to find small pebbles and rejects), put them in the pot they are to be cooked in and bring them just to a boil and turn them off for a couple of hours. After the quick soak, rinse them and fill pot with fresh water and cook until tender.This step is important because beans are dirty and have to be rinsed! Never skip the the first step because although rare you will occasionally find a rock in the bag of beans. OUCH!


saramariesue February 2, 2010 at 11:00 am

Great – thanks for the post! I didn’t know that I could freeze the beans ahead of time. Now I have a project for this weekend!


Kim February 3, 2010 at 12:18 am

I am so glad I found your blog. This is great information. Sometimes it seems ridiculous to pay so much for a can of beans. Now that I know how to make them myself I put them on my next freezer day plan!


Vicky February 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

You shouldn’t skip soaking overnight. This reduces the gas a lot, as it inactivates anti-enzymes that prevent the beans from sprouting, AND that keep you from properly digesting them.


Becky L. March 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Question about the beans. Can you use them in the crockpot for chili after they’ve already been cooked? I do crockpot chili so it’s ready to eat when we get home from work. I guess they would be ok since the beans in the cans are cooked. I bought black beans the other day for $2.18 for 2 lbs.Not as cheap if beans are on sale in cans but granted there’s no added salt. Does it actually save money doing it the dried bean way? Have a good day! Thanks!


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom March 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm

@Becky L.,

Absolutely…cooked beans can certainly go into a crockpot chili.

A package of dried beans costs $.99 for me. And makes about 8 cups of cooked beans, or the equivalent of 4 cans. 4 cans of beans would cost about $4. So it’s roughly 1/4 of the cost, by my estimation!


Becky L. March 8, 2010 at 10:48 pm

@Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom, Thanks, Erin. It does cut the cost. I guess I better look for cheaper prices on these beans. But a good idea for cooking!


Libby March 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Thank you so much for these directions! I am cooking chickpeas in my crock pot right now for the first time and have been anxiously awaiting to try them all day. I’m also glad to know that they will freeze well as I am cooking a large amount. When you freeze them, do you cover them with water or drain them first? Seems like draining them first would make them easier to thaw, but I don’t want the beans to dry out.

Thanks again!! :)


Laurie March 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I attempted to make Baked Beans yesterday and soaked them overnight before making the recipe. However, they NEVER got soft! I had that happen one other time, years ago, when making split pea soup. I cooked the soup for 36 hours and those hard little pebbles never softened. Is that due to old beans or…? Thanks!


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom March 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm


Hmmm…not sure about that…I’ve never experienced that?!?!


Alicia April 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm

My mom says that if you had salt or any kind of seasoning too early while cooking, it will make the beans hard. I’m not sure if this is what you did but I hope it helps!


Amy April 19, 2010 at 8:57 am

If your baked beans had any tomato product in them then that prevented the beans from getting soft. The acid in tomoatoes prevents beans from cooking thoroughly so you need to use fully cooked beans in any recipe calling for tomatoes.


Vikki May 24, 2010 at 7:37 am

Also if your beans are old, they will never get soft. You could cook them a darn week and they would still be hard.
Salt can also stop them from getting soft. It’s a chemical reaction just like the acid in tomato products it simply stops them from breaking down so they will cook.


LisaE May 17, 2010 at 9:27 am

Like others have said, thanks for this post! I have wanted to use dry beans but didn’t kow how to prepare them….I am not soaking some navy beans to add to chicken n dumplings soup (to bulk up fiber)…..we are not huge “bean” eaters but I want to sneak some into foods we already eat. Thanks again!


Claire October 13, 2010 at 10:53 am

I am going back to my old ways of cooking from scratch and your site is helping alot. I used to cook beans and have not in years. Now with a family of 8 I find the need to start again. I will be doing this in the crock pot to see how it goes. Thank you for the help!


Tanya April 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm

During the last 30 min. to hour of cooking time I throw in chunks of onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Then I use the cooking water as vegatable stock when I make other recipes. This works great if you don’t care about the color of your cooking liquid!


MKS February 16, 2013 at 11:04 am

You use the drained liquid to cook vegetables? My question was going to be: I hate to pour out flavored juice, are there any other uses for it?


Amgela April 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

Adding a little baking soda to your beans while cooking, will also help eliminate the gas problem! I had a friend that lost 50 pounds by eating dried beans as her main meal every day. They are PACKED with fiber and protien. Another tasty hint, add a little liquid smoke for a boost of flavor!


SWETA April 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Use a pressure cooker to cook any kinds of beans. We Indians have always used pressure cookers to cook lentils and beans, and a host of other dishes. After pre-soaking overnight or in hot water for 3-4 hours, just add beans and adequate water and salt to taste to the pressure cooker and cook on high till the first whistle (5-10 minutes depending on the quantity) and then just lower the heat and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Switch off the stove and then let the pressure cooker cool – or let off its steam naturally. This will take another 10 minutes. Any kind of beans, hard or soft, large or small, will cook nicely, soft and mushy within half an hour. Best pressure cookers are the stainless steel ones (Fagor for example) although aluminium and anodized ones are good too. They can be used to cook just about anything that takes a while to cook.


Dawn May 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I love cooking my beans in a crock pot. I’ve added garlic and a bay leaf to add extra flavor to beans, but I always rinse them afterwards. I’ve heard that cooking them with a potato will take up extra gas as well, you just don’t eat the potato.
I’ve also bought black beans at Costco, so the savings are huge for me, I just have a very large container with beans in my pantry.


@FrugalAnnie September 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Very helpful!! Can’t wait to try this method!


Joanna October 5, 2011 at 10:51 am

Thanks so much for sharing this. I end up with dozens of bags of beans (free with the WIC program) because I dislike things that take so long to cook. I usually donate them to a local food pantry. =) I have a huge pot of black beans cooking right now…hoping to try the freezer method of storing them for future meals.

BTW, I have boys too…”toot” does not bother me as much as “fart” boys learned it from someone and now they use it waaaay too much….along with the “sound effects” for added laughs.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 6, 2011 at 8:12 am

LOL Joanna! Glad to hear you are putting your beans to work! And yes…boys will be boys!


Rachel June 29, 2012 at 11:15 am

Thanks for this wonderful info! How do you unfreeze the frozen beans? Do you microwave them or let them defrost in the sink?



Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom June 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Hey Rachel,

I usually run the plastic bag or container under a stream of warm water, or place them in a bowl of warm water, then heat in the skillet or pot that I’m cooking with. I have reheated them in the microwave, after they’ve thawed in the warm water.


Aurora Montelongo July 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Hi, just wanted to say that I just love your recipes and ideas to make life a little simpler, with ingredients that I can find at any store. I am new to your site, and living on a fixed income, so the meals you show are very convenient for me. Keep up the good work!


Laura August 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Oh my goodness. You are my favourite person of the day. I just googled beans and dinner because I have never had “rice and beans” as a meal, and want to drastically cut our grocery budget to save for the holidays coming up. I want to try everything!


Maria September 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Making taco soup and loved your quick cook, easy to follow directions so we can eat it tonight! My husband brought home two big bags of dry beans and I haven’t been using them because of time and “so much work”. I am making taco soup and so glad I found your quick cook, easy to follow directions so we can eat it tonight!

Do you put water in the bag when you freeze the beans or freeze them dry?


Cathy Moen October 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm

First thank you for all your great recipes! I would like to know how to cook beans at an altitude of over 6500 feet? Every way I have tried to make them they will not soften. I tried cooking for days even. :-)


csue January 3, 2014 at 11:41 pm

I grew up at 7,100 feet in elevation and ate a LOT of beans. My mom always used a pressure cooker. Just make sure to pre-soak the beans. I also moved back home in 2007 and cooked beans in a pressure cooker myself so I know it works. While a little bit of and investment, a pressure cooker makes wonderful beans, stews, soups, roasts etc. in a fraction of the time. All of the juices and ingredients are pressure cooked together and are wonderfully flavored. It can be used in place of a Crock Pot that would have to cook the meal all day. The pressure cooker meal would be done in less than and hour.


Cathy Moen October 3, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I just wanted to put in for an email update. thanks!


Daron December 15, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I had to log in here to say this was super helpful and so were the lovely comments here.:-) the comment about the school report made my day. I’m a young man who loves cooking and is also into nutrition and fitness and very soon i am choosing to no longer eat meat. Protein is vital, multiple beans are going to be a big part of this adjustment. You just helped me move forward.Thanks for this! Much Love all, Daron


dawn December 20, 2012 at 11:13 am

I want to know where you get a bag of beans for .97 cents. I usually shop at walmart and I the 15 beans soup bag is almost 3 dollars. That is expensive. Where do you get yours?!


Margaret January 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm



z February 16, 2013 at 10:32 am

I just bought a bag of dried black beans..I HATE the liquid in the canned ones. I haven’t made them yet b/c I knew we couldn’t eat a whole bag before it went bad. I wasn’t sure if it’s was possible to freeze them without them becoming mushy. Thanks for this post, it answered all my questions.


suzanne February 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Love that you can prepare beans with no additives or salt. I do add jalapenos or green chilis or chopped onions and garlic and use low sodium chicken broth in place of some of the water. Overnite soaking and crockpot cooking make it a breeze. I do portion out the beans in sandwich baggies and freeze on a cookie sheet and then transfer to freezer bags. Single servings thaw quickly. I have heard that you shouldn’t reheat in the microwave as they get mushy.


Cindy October 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I would encourage people to look into using a pressure cooker to cook the beans–it is so much faster, which saves a lot on electricity (especially if you need them and forgot to put them into the crockpot in the morning.) But if you don’t have a hambone with fat in there, you need to put a tablespoon of oil in to keep the beans from foaming up and blocking the vent, AND never fill the cooker more than half full. Follow the directions that come with your cooker. Once they get up to pressure, they only take about 5 minutes, then you remove from heat and let the pressure drop on its own. If you don’t count the soaking time, you can have a pot of beans done in half an hour.


Chrissy October 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

We use beef broth to cook the beans in, plus freshly ground garlic, garlic salt and pepper, bacon cut up ( the butcher kind), onion, tomato, and a bay leaf. It turns out so yummy! Towards the end of the process…we take out some of the beans and fry them up in a little bit of olive oil and garlic…then mash them and add it to the crock pot to give some great flavor. For the rice we rinse, brown it in a pan with olive oil and minced garlic…cook in rice cooker but use beef broth instead of plain water. Once you do this with your rice you wont want to try it any other way..sometimes we sneak veggies in like some cut up carrots, and peas we add into the rice.


Cathy March 21, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Does anyone know how to cook beans in high altitude? I have tried the slow cooker. I have tried cooking them on top of the stove with and without soaking overnight and the short term soaking. I think you get my drift.. lol I don’t have a pressure cooker to try. I still get tuff beans.


Susan May 28, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Cathy, I live at 7000 ft elevation and have no problem cooking dried beans in my crock pot. I don’t even pre soak them. I add a lb bag in the bottom of the crock pot and add 6 cups of HOT water with some garlic, onion a D seasonings. Cook on HIGH 5 hours or LOW for 9-10 hours


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