Beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants and protein. Many people choose the simplicity of canned beans over cooking dried beans. However, canned beans are more expensive per serving and often have other added ingredients. Cooking dried beans is not difficult. Here is some basic information.
Soaking the Beans
Always sort through beans to remove tiny stones or debris
Rinse well with water before adding beans to a large bowl
Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
Beans will be fully hydrated within 4 hours, but can soak for up to 24 hours
In hot weather, refrigerate beans while they soak
Quick Soak Technique
Combine beans and water in a pot and heat to boiling
Cook for 3 minutes
Remove from the heat, cover tightly, and set aside for an hour
Dry beans should always be cooked in soft water or they will be tough
You can add a pinch of baking soda to the pot if you have hard water
Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the skins and increases cooking time
Dry beans have a shelf life of one year
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place
Always store leftover beans in their cooking liquid and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months
Dried Bean Guide
1/3 cup dry beans = 1 cup cooked beans
1/2 cup dry beans = 1 1/2 cups cooked beans
2/3 cup dry beans = 2 cup cooked beans
1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
Basic Recipe for Cooking Dried Beans
- 1 pound dried beans
- Pinch baking soda
- 1 carrot, cut in half
- 1 celery stalk, cut in half
- 1/2 onion, cut in half
- 1 sprig rosemary or 1 bay leaf
The night before serving, rinse the beans, picking out any bad ones and place in a large bowl. Cover with water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak at least 12 hours.
The next day, drain well. Place the beans in a heavy stock pot with the vegetables and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender.
Check them after 30 and 45 minutes because they may be done, depending on how fresh the beans are.
Remove the vegetables and rosemary sprig. Refrigerate until ready to use the beans. Drain and use the beans in the recipes below.
Clams and White Beans
- 2 cups cooked white beans
- 2 tablespoons cubed pancetta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 pounds clams
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- Salt and freshly grated black pepper
In a large frying pan, add the pancetta and the olive oil and cook on medium heat until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate, reserving the fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.
Add the oregano, crumbling it with your hands to release the flavors, and then add the clams.
Continue cooking the clams, shaking and tossing them, until they all open. Discard any clams that do not open. Add the wine and beans, stir and return the pancetta to the pan. Heat until the beans are hot. Test for seasoning and add salt if needed.
In each bowl, ladle a portion of beans, some of the clams and their sauce, and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve with plenty of freshly grated black pepper.
Large White Beans with Vinaigrette
These giant beans and vegetables go well together. Serve with sandwiches, over greens or as part of an antipasto platter.
- 1/2 pound dried gigante beans or lima beans
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 2 cups)
- 3 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped pepperoncini
Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches cold water. Let soak overnight.
Drain beans and place in a large sauce pot. Cover with 4 inches water and add the onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. Drain well.
Steam cauliflower and carrots until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt and chili flakes. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in oil until blended. Add beans, pepperoncini and vegetables, mix well and let marinate at least 4 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.
Sautéed Spinach with Cannellini Beans
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
- 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped, (or escarole, curly endive, mustard greens, kale or broccoli rabe)
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cans no-salt-added cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained or 4 cups dried beans as cooked above
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the broth to the skillet and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits. Add beans and simmer until hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add greens (in batches, if needed) and cook, tossing often, until wilted and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot with the cheese as a garnish.
Tomato Soup with Beans
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or canned Italian chopped tomatoes with juice
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 cups pinto, cannellini, kidney or black beans, canned and drained, or cooked, as directed above
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the chopped onion and cook on medium heat until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more.
Add the tomatoes and broth. Cook about 20 minutes
Stir in the brown sugar. Add half of the beans to the mixture. Use an immersion blender to blend the beans into the soup. Add the rest of the beans and salt and pepper to taste. Heat until hot.
Beef and Bean Burger
My favorite steak seasoning is Penzey’s Chicago Steak Seasoning that contains salt, Tellicherry black pepper, sugar, garlic, onion, lemon zest, citric acid and natural hickory smoke flavor. You will need to add salt to the recipe below if your favorite steak seasoning does not have it.
- 1/2 cup home cooked or canned (black or pinto) beans, rinsed and drained well
- 3/4 lb lean ground beef
- 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
- Olive oil for brushing on the burgers
- 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
- 4 thin slices Cheddar cheese
- 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
- Thinly sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion and lettuce leaves
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium. Oil the grill grates.
Place the beans on a cutting board and mash with the back of a fork or large spoon until smooth, but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add the beef, bread crumbs and steak seasoning; mix until well combined.
Divide the beef mixture evenly and shape into 4 patties, each a bit larger in diameter than the hamburger buns. Create a small dimple in the center of the burger patty by pressing down with your fingers.
Brush both sides of the burgers lightly with olive oil.
Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers about 160°F, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Place cheese slices on top of the patties one minutes before they are done. Transfer the burgers to the toasted buns. Serve with tomatoes, sliced onion and lettuce leaves.
What makes beans so good for us?
Here’s what the experts have to say:
Chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease all have something in common. Being overweight increases your chances of developing them and makes your prognosis worse if you do, says Mark Brick, PhD — which means that trimming your waistline does more for you than make your pants look better. Brick, a professor in the department of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, is investigating the ability of different bean varieties to prevent cancer and diabetes.
More than just a meat substitute, beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week.
“Beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories “, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Wellness Institute in Chicago and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. But they really shine in terms of fiber and water content, two ingredients that make you feel full, faster. Adding beans to your diet helps cut calories without feeling deprived.
Our diets tend to be seriously skimpy when it comes to fiber (the average American consumes just 15 grams daily), to the detriment of both our hearts and our waistlines. One cup of cooked beans (or two-thirds of a can) provides about 12 grams of fiber – nearly half the recommended daily dose of 21 to 25 grams per day for adult women (30 to 38 grams for adult men). Meat, on the other hand, contains no fiber at all.
This difference in fiber content means that meat is digested fairly quickly, Brick says, whereas beans are digested slowly, keeping you satisfied longer. Plus, beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger. When you substitute beans for meat in your diet, you get the added bonus of a decrease in saturated fat, says Blatner.
A study conducted at the University of Kentucky has shown that only three weeks of increased bean intake (3/4 cup of navy or pinto beans) lowered the men’s cholesterol by an average of 19%. This reduces the risk of heart attack by almost 40%.
In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, researchers measured the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods. Small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans made the top of the list. And three others — black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas — achieved top-40 status.
How To Cook With Beans
Beans certainly hold up better in the industrial canning process than many other vegetables, but there are still many good reasons to cook your own, not the least of which, is the fact that so many canned varieties come packed with way more sodium than you need. Canned beans are a convenience but the taste difference in using cooked dried beans is very noticeable.
This recipe gives the beans a relatively neutral seasoning that leaves them easy to take in different directions. If desired, you can add herbs and spices to the cooking liquid, but resist the urge to add anything acidic, such as tomatoes, citrus, or vinegar, until the beans are cooked, or the skins of the beans will not soften as they should.
- 1 pound dry beans of any variety
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small yellow or white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 large cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, or more to taste
1. Rinse the beans, picking through them to remove any debris. Pour them into a bowl and add enough water to cover them by about 1 inch. Soak for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.
2. Pour the oil into a medium pot over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the beans and their soaking liquid, and add more water as needed to cover by about 1 inch.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low or medium-low so that the liquid barely simmers, cover, and cook the beans until tender, 1 to 2 hours (or even longer, depending on the variety and age of the beans).
4. Add the salt, and cook for another 10 to 20 minutes so that the beans absorb the salt. Taste, and add more salt if needed. If you’re not using the beans immediately, cool to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or portion into heavy-duty freezer-safe plastic bags and freeze for several months.
Turkey Sausages with Spicy Beans
Serves: 6 servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 turkey sausage links
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 3 dried red hot peppers
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups cooked beans or 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 5 fresh bay leaves
- 2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
Heat a large high-sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to heat. Once hot, add the sausages and brown on all sides, for about 8 minutes total. Remove the sausages from the pan to plate and reserve.
Add the garlic, and saute until golden and brown. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chopped tomatoes and red peppers and season with salt and pepper. Lower the flame, and cover the pan with a lid, simmer for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and thickened to a sauce-like consistency.
Add the browned sausages (and any juice left on the plate), beans, and bay leaves to the thickened tomatoes. Stir well and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Add the chopped parsley before serving.
Borlotti Bean Ragu
- 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 teaspoons finely chopped thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 7 cups cooked borlotti beans
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup chopped chives
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot; preheating the pan will prevent the pancetta from sticking. Cook until crispy. Add the oil, shallots, garlic, 3 teaspoons of the thyme and the vinegar and stir and simmer for a minute. Add the beans and the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer to heat the beans through. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and additional salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chives and serve.
Note: Borlotti are one of the many beans in the cranberry bean family. Originally from Colombia, Italians have bred them to have a thicker skin and possibly a creamier interior, making them ideal for dishes like this and for pasta e fagioli.
Lentil and Chicken Stew
Serve with slices of whole-grain baguette and a green salad.
2 servings, 1 3/4 cups each
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander or fennel seed, crushed (see Tip)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed (see Note)
- 1 – 6 ounce bag baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring once or twice until no longer pink in the middle, about 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and heat over medium-low heat. Add carrot, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in broth and lentils, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes (brown lentils take a little longer).
Add the cooked chicken, spinach and lemon juice and return to a simmer. Cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in dill.
- Cover and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.
- Place whole spices in a plastic bag and crush with the bottom of a heavy skillet or pulse in a spice grinder.
- French green lentils are firmer than brown lentils and cook more quickly. They can be found in natural-foods stores and some large supermarkets.
Tuscan Shrimp with White Beans
- 3 cups cooked with reserved cooking liquid or canned cannellini white beans, undrained
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 16 large shrimp, peeled (tail left on) and deveined
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 small serrano chile, thinly sliced or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 cup peeled, seeded and diced fresh tomato, canned or fresh
- 1 cup whole basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Drain the beans over a bowl and reserve the liquid. Put the white beans in a large skillet with just enough of their liquid to moisten them. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and bring the beans to a low simmer. Keep them warm while you prepare the shrimp.
Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp, season with salt and cook for about 1 minute, tossing frequently. Remove the shrimp with tongs to a bowl. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until the garlic browns. Add the serrano chile or chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and basil and stir briefly, then add the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute, and then stir in the shrimp. Toss well and cook briefly to reheat the shrimp. Remove the shrimp mixture to a plate and sprinkle with parsley.
Spoon the white beans on a platter or individual plates. Drizzle them with the best olive oil you have, and then top with the shrimp. Serve warm.
Toscana Soup with Ditalini and White Beans
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 32 ounces low sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups cooked or 1 can (19 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
- 4 large (about 4 cups) plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1-1/2 cups Ditalini pasta
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley, divided
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
Heat oil in large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; sauté 3 to 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Add broth and beans; heat to simmer.
Stir in tomatoes, Ditalini, 2 tablespoons parsley, oregano, pepper and salt.
Boil 10 to 12 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining parsley and 1/2 cup cheese.
Serve with remaining cheese, crusty bread and a drizzle with olive oil, if desired.
- Cool Creamy White Bean Basil Hummus (inspireandindulge.wordpress.com)
- Colombian-Style Red Beans with Plantains (tastespace.wordpress.com)
- Happiness Delight: Beans on Toast (exhilaratedliving.wordpress.com)
- Grilled Mackerel with Toasted Pine Nuts, Borlotti Bean, Roast Red Pepper & Marjoram Salad (guyawford.wordpress.com)
- Today’s Recipe: Summer Braised Chicken and Vegetables with Heirloom Beans (williams-sonoma.com)
- Today’s Recipe: Grilled Steak with White Beans and Salsa Verde (williams-sonoma.com)
- Italian vs. Southern (ckenb.blogspot.com)
Popular Italian Beans
The region of Tuscany is famous for its bean production. Cannellini or white kidney beans, are, perhaps, its most popular bean. Borlotti is a bean of northern Italy. Borlotti is also considered to be the healthiest due to its high iron concentration. This bean, in particular, is a popular meat substitute. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn a dark brown on the outside and yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a creamy consistency to any recipe.
Fresh or dried fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania and Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available. Purchasing beans that are already skinned and split is the preferred method for ease of preparation. Buying whole beans in their protective skins calls for hours of soaking as well as a tinge of bitterness when they are cooked. Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not require soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour.
With the exception of a few types of beans, like lentils, most should be soaked at least eight hours or longer. Some cooks add a bit of baking soda during the soaking, which seems to help the beans remain intact during cooking. Be sure to discard the water, the beans soak in, before cooking with them.
Also, when cooking beans, be generous with the water – a good rule of thumb is six cups for every cup of beans. One cup of dry beans will yield two cups of cooked beans. Try adding a bit of olive oil to the water the beans cook in because it will add flavor and keep them from sticking to each other. Cooking times will vary, of course, but generally Borlotti take about an hour, chickpeas require about an hour and a half of cooking time and lentils may be ready after a half hour.
Some of the most popular Italian dishes that call for beans include minestrone, bean soup, lentil soup, pasta with red bean sauce, fava beans and pasta, lentil stew with sausage and penne with chickpeas. Beans are used in spreads, soups, sauces and main courses. Beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants and protein. Many people choose the simplicity of canned beans over cooking dried beans. However, canned beans are more expensive per serving and also have added sodium. With a little bit of planning, you can work with dried beans. You will taste the difference in fresh cooked dried beans.
Soaking the Beans
The night before serving, rinse the beans, picking out any bad ones and place them in a large bowl. Cover with about 2 inches of water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak overnight. The next day, drain well. Place the beans in a heavy soup pot with 1 carrot, cut in half, 1 celery stick, cut in half, 1/2 onion, peeled and quartered, 1 sprig of rosemary and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the beans are tender. Drain and discard the vegetables. Adding salt to beans at the beginning of cooking toughens the skins and increases cooking time, so add it to taste toward the end of the cooking time. Most types of beans cook in about an hour but taste for tenderness. You can serve the beans as a side dish or refrigerate the beans to use in recipes on another day.
Here are some recipes I recommend using cooked beans.
Beans and Greens
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 1 bunch Swiss Chard, cut into one inch pieces or any greens of choice
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups cooked cannellini beans
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add Swiss Chard, and stir slowly, allowing it to wilt slightly. Add chicken broth, herbs, and salt; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the beans, and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the greens are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve warm, garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.
Tuscan Country Bean Soup
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup chopped fennel
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped carrots
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
- 3 cups cooked dried cannellini beans
- 1 carton (32 oz) low sodium chicken broth
- 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel, celery and carrots and saute for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the drained beans, chicken broth and tomatoes to the pan along with the thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with the grated cheese.