Dried beans should be one of the essential dishes you know how to cook up for some versatile and delicious quick meals. Knowing how to work with dried beans can add so much flavor and save so much time and money that there is no reason not to learn.
In this article, we are going to break down the basics of dried beans and how to cook them to perfection.
What are Dried Beans?
Beans come from a family of plants known as legumes that produce their fruit in pods. Out of these pods come the beans we all know and love to include in our meals. However, not all beans can be considered dried beans. From this category, we are excluding soybeans, string beans, and green beans.
The physical shape of legumes can differ with beans, lentils, and peas all coming from the same roots. Beans are either kidney or oval-shaped. Peas are little round seeds while lentils are flat and disk-shaped. Dry beans in the market are beans that have been dry-packaged and sealed within a bag.
Difference Between Dried and Canned Beans
Both types have their own set of benefits for users with the final choice based on the cost, convenience, and control they offer.
Try this delicious healthy black bean salad.
Dried beans are preferable over canned beans since they offer so much more apart from the commercial convenience that comes in a can. They have more texture, flavor, and taste in comparison to canned beans.
You can almost always get dried beans cheaper than their canned counterparts. Dried beans, when prepared properly, are easy to cook and customize in your own recipes. They offer a fresher twist to beans with a chewy, delicate, and creamy interior within every bite.
They are also lower on sodium making them a better option for people watching their sodium intake. Yes, there is more effort involved in the prep work, but it is the nutritional density you get that make dried beans so much more worth it.
Canned beans are more expensive compared to dried beans given the additional processing they undergo for customer convenience. They are quick and convenient solutions though the fresh taste isn’t as prominent.
Dried Beans Know-How
Here are a few tips when getting around to selecting and making the best out of your dried beans.
- Make sure to always check the manufacturing and expiry date. The lifespan of dried beans is two years at most with the first year delivering better results.
- Also, make it a point to always wash the beans before using, even though they come packaged.
- When making dried beans, make sure to leave an ample gap between soaking and cooking your beans. Even if you are in a rush, there should be soaking time, before you jump into cooking them. If time is not on your side, then skip beans and go straight to lentils as they can be prepared without soaking.
- Rather than cooking beans in water, cook them in a broth. This adds more flavor and richness to the beans.
There is a fair variety when it comes to dried beans. The options listed below are just a few of the many options there are to choose from.
These are smaller, scarlet red beans that come with a pleasantly sweet flavor. These are favored in soups, stews, and salads for a little kick in every bite. They cook quickly and provide consistent results.
These beans are also known as turtle beans and are the highlight of many Latin American dishes. They are mostly used in soups and stews.
Chickpeas, also widely known as garbanzo beans, have a strong, nutty taste to them that makes them fan-favorites as main courses rather than side dishes and toppings. You can still have them in your salad, but they are better off being the center of your soups, stews, and dips. You can also enjoy them fried or roasted.
These large, red beans are the attraction for chilis and salads where they really pop out in taste and appearance. They tend to be harder to digest so soaking before use is a must.
These white beans share a similar nutty taste with chickpeas but are heavier and thicker. This means you will need to soak them well before cooking. They do cook quickly so are good for spontaneous dishes.
Pinto beans are small beans that come in a brown to pink color. They are good when used in chilis and stews of various sorts.
Split peas can come in two colors of green or yellow. Best known for their use in soups and Indian dals, these are a quick fix with no prior soaking required.
Try this delicious oil-free hummus recipe.
How to Prepare and Cook Dried Beans
Now that you have a basic know-how of your dried beans, it’s time to turn them into spectacular dishes ready to be served and enjoyed.
Preparing Dried Beans
The first step is to soak your beans before you cook them. If you are using lentils or split peas, you can skip this step and head straight to cooking. You’ll want to soak your beans in clean filtered water overnight. This provides the best results for chewy, creamy beans.
Make sure the beans are covered with a few spare inches of water and tuck them into the fridge for the night. Don’t leave them out since they can go bad. Once it’s time to cook them in the morning, take them out and drain the dirty water.
If you are in a rush and don’t have time to soak, then try this quick fix instead.
A quick soak will also require you to cover the beans up once again with a few spare inches of water in a pot. This time place the beans over the stove instead of in the fridge and boil the water.
Once the water is at boiling point, cover the pot, turn off the heat, and leave them be for at least half an hour. Once the half-hour has passed, drain the beans, and get ready to start cooking.
Cooking Dried Beans
Next up is cooking time. After you have drained your beans, place them in fresh, clean water. An exact amount isn’t required, just make sure they are well submerged.
Place your pot over the stove and bring the water to a simmer. Don’t let the water boil as it will break the beans apart and make them much too soft. Salt the water lightly so the bean skin gets taken off and cooking happens quicker.
You can add additional ingredients such as your veggies, herbs, and garlic. Add in ingredients that will contribute to the flavoring of the beans while they roll in the water. This is best done towards the end of the cooking process to preserve maximum flavor.
You will know when you have reached the next step to turn off the heat when the beans are tender, firm, and edible. This typically takes between 30 minutes to an hour, so give it time.
Once the beans are ready, you can now season the water. This is also when you should add in any acidic ingredients so that they do not prevent the beans from becoming tender.
If you are going to taste test, be sure to try the broth, not the beans. It will still take around half an hour more for the beans to properly seep in the flavoring.
If you don’t intend on eating the beans right away, let them cool completely before you pack them away.
Storing Dried Beans
Time to clean out your pantry. This is a great article to check out before you start storing new food.
Storing your beans is easy enough since beans tend to last quite some time. If you intend on placing them in the fridge, they’ll be good for about a week. If you’re placing them in the freezer, then there is no worry as to when they’ll go bad. You’ll surely finish them before then.
Never throw out the broth, even if you’re going to freeze the beans. The broth makes an excellent addition to soups, stews, pasta, and can even be drizzled on meat and barbeques for a fresh and crisp taste.
Why do we Soak Beans?
One question many people tend to ask is why beans need to be soaked in the first place. Sure, all the recipes tell you to do it, but why?
First off, soaked beans will cook faster and evenly. You will get the desired texture and quality you want if you soak them beforehand. Beans are also easier to digest after they have been soaked since the protective layer gets removed gently from the bean. If you want to make sure of this, then make a brine that will break down the skin clean.
Remember, soaking is only for thicker beans, and not lentils and split peas.
Now that you know how to cook up dried beans, they will surely become one of your most practiced dishes. This base recipe is just the start of some creative kitchen innovations you can compose for delicious dishes.
If you want more tips and advice on beans and how to cook them to perfection, be sure to check out the Plant-Based Eva YouTube channel for recipes and practical tips. And for anyone looking to take their culinary skills up to the professional level, check out the Everyday Culinary Nutrition program.
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