The Natural Gourmet Institute shares secrets and a recipe to really nail the texture and flavor of beans.
Beans have a lot going for them: they’re cheap, versatile enough to star in everything from soups to salads, and healthy in so many ways. Satiating fiber, ample plant-based protein, and gut-loving prebiotics make beans a true superfood. For many people though, cooking beans from scratch is the hardest part to love. Here, five game-changing tips to guide you through cooking up a flavorful pot of beans and that won’t turn out tough, bland, or disappointing:
5 Tips for Making Great Beans
1. Soak them overnight.
This greatly reduces cooking time and enhances digestibility. The night before you cook them, add beans to a pot and cover them with four times their volume in water.
2. Make a built-in stock.
Adding aromatics like onions, carrots, and herbs to the beans while they cook infuses them with layers of flavor as they simmer. Kombu, a type of seaweed, adds tons of minerals and enhances flavor. Use it if you can find it.
3. Don’t drown them.
To cook, cover them with 2 inches of water before simmering to avoid watery, weak beans.
4. Simmer down.
A rapid boil will make beans burst and turn mushy, so cook at a low, constant simmer to keep skins intact.
5. Avoid old beans.
Beans that have been on the grocery store shelf for eternity won’t cook, no matter how long you soak them. Buy your beans from bulk bins, which are likelier to have been rotated frequently, and use up within a year.
My Favorite Basic Beans Recipe
(Yield: About 6 cups)
1 pound dried beans, soaked for 8 hours
1 large carrot, peeled or scrubbed, cut into quarters
1 yellow onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
2” piece of kombu (optional)
Fine sea salt
1. Drain and rinse beans. Transfer to a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add water to cover by 2”.
2. Add vegetables, bay leaves, kombu (if using), and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender but not mushy. Cooking time will vary depending on bean size and age.
3. Start checking beans for doneness after 30 minutes and continue checking until up to 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender.
4. Remove carrot, onion, bay leaves, and kombu. Add 2 teaspoons salt and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve in broth or drain beans for use in another recipe.