How to Cook Beans

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This step-by-step tutorial will show you how easy it is to cook beans from dried. Once you master cooking beans at home, you'll never go back to canned.

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Soaking Time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 50 minutes

beans in a bowl

This step-by-step tutorial will show you how easy it is to cook beans from dried. Once you master cooking beans at home, you’ll never go back to canned.

Liz squeezing lime juice over cooked beans.

One thing I wish I learned earlier in life was how easy it is to cook dried beans. While canned beans may be convenient, cooking beans from scratch allows you to really customize the flavor and cater them to the dish or cuisine you’re pairing them with. If you’ve ever wondered before, wonder no more! Here is my go-to method for how to cook beans.

Know Your Beans

There are a lot of beans and legumes in the world, but these are the 12 most common that you’ll come across in recipes and grocery stores. This method will work with all of them!

  • Black beans– small and black, as the name would suggest, these full-flavored beans are common in Mexican dishes.
  • Black-eyed peas– a staple of southern style cooking, these beans are creamy in color with a single black spot, hence the name.
  • Cannellini beans– also known as white Italian kidney beans, they are frequently found in soups and chilis, especially in Italian cooking.
  • Chickpea (garbanzo beans)– round, nutty, and firm, they are most popular for being used for hummus.
  • Great northern beans– large, white beans with a light texture, often used in soups and chili because of their ability to absorb flavor.
  • Kidney beans– vibrant red skin with white interior, mild in flavor and often used as a staple bean in most chili.
  • Lima beans– white or greenish in color, these beans are soft and buttery, but can easily turn mushy if cooked too long.
  • Pinto beans– small, speckled orangish-brown beans that are often mashed in Mexican cuisine as refried beans.
  • Fava beans– large and green with a thick skin, that needs to be removed, they have a sweet, nutty flavor often used in Middle Eastern cuisine like salads.
  • Navy beans– also known as a Boston bean. Small and white with a nutty flavor, they are most often used to make baked beans and traditional English breakfast.
  • Cranberry (borlotti beans)– beautiful cream colored with red speckles, mild and nutty flavor often found in Italian dishes like minestrone soup.
  • Adzuki beans– small, sweet, and red, these beans are usually mashed into a paste and used in Asian desserts and sweets.

How to Cook Beans

Putting dried beans in a bowl

Regardless of what kind of bean you’re cooking, you’ll want to soak them first.

Adding water to beans in bowl

I like to use a large measuring cup for easy draining later, but any medium to large bowl will work. Fill till the water is 1-2 inches above the beans.

Beans soaking in water

Set aside and soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight. If you have pets or small children, I’d also recommend covering the bowl to keep out curious hands.

Liz draining water from beans

Once your beans have finished soaking, drain all of the liquid.

Adding beans to pot

After draining, put your soaked beans into a large pot.

Adding aromatics to beans

Next, add your onion, garlic, and salt. Regardless of the type of bean or recipe you’ll be using them for, these ingredients add a lot flavor that mix well with almost anything. Here is where you’ll add your other aromatics as well, like chipotle peppers in adobo, rosemary, or other spices.

Adding water to beans

Then add cold water to the pot, enough to cover your ingredients by 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30-50 minutes, until beans are soft and tender. Length of time will vary depending on the variety and size of your beans.

How to Cook Beans

Once done, they’re ready to be mixed into a recipe or served on their own.

Speed Things Up

You can frequently skip the soaking step if you cook your beans in a slow cooker or an Instant Pot. This allows your beans to cook while they soak, and saves you time.

  • In a slow cooker: throw your beans and aromatics in with water, and cook for 8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high.
  • In an Instant Pot: again, throw your beans and aromatics in with water, set pressure to high, and set for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes are up, let the pressure naturally release. All in all, takes about an hour and a half.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What do you recommend adding to black beans?

I typically pair black beans with Mexican dishes, so in addition to the garlic and onion, I like to add hatch green chiles, cumin, jalapeños, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and chili powder.

How long do cooked beans keep?

Kept in an airtight container, cooked beans (of any type) should keep for 3-5 days in the fridge.

Can I replace canned beans in recipes with cooked dried beans?

Yes! I’ll make them in bulk and then freeze them in 1-2 cup servings in freezer safe bags, using them in recipes for soups, chilis, or tacos and burritos.

What if I forgot to soak my beans?

You can still cook dried beans without soaking them, it’s just a bit more hands on. You’ll need to plan an additional hour or two to your cooking time, and keep an eye on the water level in your pot, adding more when needed.

Cooked beans

Recipes to Try

Now that you know the method, here are some more recipes to pair with cooked beans.

person eating cooked beans

When you start to cook your beans from scratch, a whole world of possibilities opens up for you. Recipes and flavors become customizable, and you’ll never want to go back to canned.

Your fork is waiting.

beans in a bowl

How to Cook Beans

Rate It!
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how easy it is to cook beans from dried. Once you master cooking beans at home, you'll never go back to canned.
PREP: 5 minutes
COOK: 45 minutes
Soaking Time 8 hours
TOTAL: 8 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 12


  • 1 pound dried beans (any type such as kidney, black, navy, pinto, etc.)
  • 1 medium onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 3 cloves garlic (peeled, whole)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (or more to taste)
  • chipotle peppers in adobo, fresh herbs, etc. (optional aromatics)


  • Place dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.
  • When you're ready to cook the beans, drain the soaking liquid then place soaked beans in a large stock pot. Cover with enough cold water until it reaches about 2-3 inches above the beans.
  • Add in quartered onion, garlic, salt and any optional aromatics. I love adding in chipotle peppers in adobo whole but fresh rosemary is great too.
  • Bring pot to a boil then reduce to low. Simmer beans until tender, about 30-50 minutes depending on the variety. Serve warm or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.


Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 132kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 9gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 586mgPotassium: 530mgFiber: 6gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 3mg

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