May 31, 2010

How to Cook and Prepare Beans and Lentils

Beans! Beans! Are good for your heart
But the more you eat, the more you...have health smarts!

Beans and lentils are healthy types of protein and contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals - making them something that everyone should eat all the time. Lentils and legumes are quick-cooking and require no soaking, and can often be cooked in as little as 30 minutes. Beans are available dried, canned, and frozen. Frozen and canned beans are all pre-cooked and can be used immediately. Dried beans require soaking and cooking. Once soaked, beans can be cooked on the stove, in a slow cooker or in a pressure cooker.

Lentils and legumes include: red, green, and yellow lentils, split dhals like channa, tuver and masoor dhals, adzuki beans and mung beans.

Dried beans and peas include: black beans, red and white kidney beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, navy beans, garbanzo or chickpeas.

How to cook beans, also the soak and cook method:
1 cup of dried beans yields approx. 2 cups of cooked beans, or enough for 4 people.
  1. Place 1 cup dried beans in a large bowl and cover with a quart of water. Let soak overnight, or at least 6 hours. 
  2. When ready to cook, drain the soaking water and rinse beans with fresh water.  In general, soaking hydrates the beans and makes the complex starches within the beans available. Rinsing soaked beans and draining off the soaking water reduces the raffinose sugars that can cause gas.  Some methods include saving the soaking water due to nutritional content. Save the water or bean broth, once you've cooked the beans - as most of the nutrition is in the bean and some may be found in the bean broth water (after it's been cooked). 
  3. In a large stockpot (such as 4 qt stock pot) add rinsed beans and 2-3 quarts of water. 
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover slightly. Cook for 45-60 minutes, testing beans to see if they are soft enough.  
  5. Once cooked you can add them into your recipe, or store them, with their broth either in the freezer or fridge. Cooked beans in broth will last up to a week in the fridge; cooked beans without broth will last a few days. 
How to cook lentils:
1 cup of dried lentils will yield approx. 2 cups of cooked lentils, enough to serve at least 4 people.
  1. Rinse 1 cup lentils to get rid of any duds or grit, then add lentils to a large stockpot (such as a 4 qt stockpot) with 2 quarts of water. 
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover slightly. Cook 25-30 minutes. 
  3. Once cooked you can add them into your recipe, or store them, in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.  Cooked lentils with broth will keep for 1 week in the fridge, and for a few days without broth.
Notes: because lentils take much less time to cook they are ideal additions to soups, because you don't have to add much extra water to cook them.  

Asafoetida powder can be added to the cooking water when cooking beans and lentils and is thought to help make the beans and lentils more digestible (e.g gas reducing).

Bean broth can be used just like vegetable broth in any other dish you are cooking.  I toss in a bay leaf while cooking beans to season the broth and it gives the kitchen a very nice aroma. 


  1. I hate to ask and sound like a drag, but what is your stance on the when-to-add-salt issue when cooking beans?

  2. Nico - you never sound like that - I never add salt. But if you were to add salt (or anything with acidity), add it towards the end of the cooking time. I think if you add it before it prolongs the cooking time.