How to Cook Beans
Learning how to cook beans gives you access to the cheapest and most delicious source of nutrition. Done correctly, cooking beans requires time, but little effort. This recipe is versatile. Keep it simple or build upon it. Once you know how to cook beans, you can make anything!
Cook Time Passive Time
2hours 12hours
Cook Time Passive Time
2hours 12hours
  1. Soak beans overnight (up to 24 hours). See recipe notes for more information. Drain and rinse.
  2. Add beans to a stock pot. Cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add bay leaves and/or kombu (optional, see recipe notes below). Reduce heat to medium low and cover (but don’t seal.) Cook times will vary (see recipe notes). Best to cook when you are home and can periodically check.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer, cover (but don’t seal), and cook for 30 minutes to 2+ hours (the lower the heat, the longer it takes, but the more tender the bean). Skim froth that forms. When beans are soft (about 3/4 done), add salt. Set timer for 10-15 minute increments. Add more water as necessary to keep beans submerged. When beans are tender, and skins are wrinkly, and they taste perfect, they’re done.
  4. Once beans are nearly done, increase heat to medium high. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, onion and garlic. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, until beans are done. Remove bay leaves and kombu.
  5. To finish off my beans, I added a dried vegetable and seasoning blend I picked up at a local market that sells Italian products. Scour your own pantry for blends you’ve purchased and saved for a rainy day. This basic recipe for how to cook beans can serve as a base for anything.
Recipe Notes

Beans and Digestion: Soaking improves digestibility and nutrient absorption, and breaks down anti-nutrients like phytic acid and leptins. Furthermore, bay leaves and kombu not only enhance the flavor of beans, but also improve digestibility and add essential minerals. Since I began soaking for 24 hours and adding bay leaves and kombu, the bloating, gas, and stinky “dutch oven” that roasted in our bedroom post legume consumption is a thing of the past. Knowing how to cook beans from scratch has one clear benefit—the “potlicker” broth. Potlicker is vegan bone broth. It retains nutrients and minerals lost during the cooking process, serves as a thickener and is very flavorful.

Cooking Time: Many recipes for how to cook beans give specific cooking times. But how long it takes can’t be predicted. Cook times will vary based on the age of your bean (how long it’s been sitting on the shelf) and the mineral content of your water. This is why I cook on the stove top (versus crock pot or pressure cooker). Monitoring for doneness prevents overcooking and allows you to get it right every time.  Best to cook when you are home and can periodically check.

Salt: There are a lot of opinions out there for when and if to add salt, and how much to add. Experts are divided and there is lots of conflicting science. I’ve tested various methods, and adding it towards the end of cooking works best for me. By all means, experiment to find what works for you. Read more . . .

Veggie Broth vs. Bouillon: Store bought organic veggie broth can be very expensive. I use Organic Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base, which allows me to make as little (or as much) as I need without paying $1/cup (it’s about $0.20 cents/cup).

Get Creative: What are your favorite flavors? There are so many ways to serve beans. Think about adding BBQ sauce, red onion, and a dark beer. Add veggies (canned, frozen or fresh) and season with your favorite flavors. Go for Mexican, Italian, Asian, or create a fusion of your own design. Check out these bean recipes for more ideas. 

Vegan Black Bean Queso Blanco


Simple Spicy Red Beans


Cheater Chili


Caribbean Beans & Rice