Getting the Pulse on Dried Beans

Dried beans are delicious, high in protein, inexpensive, efficient to grow, and an absolute staple in so many cuisines. So why don’t Americans eat more of them? The average American eats 7.5 pounds of beans annually. When you do the math, this clearly falls short of the recommended 3 cups/week of beans recommended by the USDA.

Considered both a legume and a pulse, dried beans are nutrition powerhouses. Cooked black eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, and split peas have 7 – 9 grams protein and 6-8 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving. Loaded with folate, potassium, zinc and iron, beans offer the perfect combination of plant-based nutrients and protein. Beans do contain some indigestible sugars that may contribute to GI issues. However, soaking the beans and gradually adding beans into your diet helps to minimize any discomfort from diet-related gas.

Let’s be honest. There are some definite obstacles when it comes to dried beans, beginning with preparation all the way to digestion. To ease into the dried bean world, the US Dried Bean Council offers a quick guide for cooking the perfect dried bean. Keep in mind that with a few exceptions, like lentils and split peas, dried beans and legumes require soaking, a step that rehydrates the beans for more even cooking. 

To prepare dried beans:

  • Examine the beans and throw away any foreign particles or beans that are discolored or shriveled.
  • Rinse the beans with water and then drain the water. Put the beans in a large pot and add fresh water to cover them. Do not use the soaking water to cook the beans as the water will have absorbed some of the gas-producing indigestible sugars.
  • Heat beans and water to boiling, then turn the heat to LOW and cover the pot. Since beans soak up water, you may need to add more water during cooking.
  • Add seasonings to the beans while they cook. Add salt or acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes, or juice, near the end of the cooking time when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they can make the beans tough and slow the cooking process.
  • Always check for the suggested cooking times for different bean varieties. Cooking time depends on the bean but start checking for doneness after 45 minutes. Beans are done when they are tender, but firm. A cooked bean can be easily mashed with a fork. 

Dried beans can also be prepared quickly and easily in a pressure cooker or instant pot. Of note, cooking time and technique will vary depending on the recipe and individual appliance. 

While beans can be reheated in the microwave, microwaving beans during the soaking or cooking process is not recommended.

Good-To-Know Facts: 

  • As a rule of thumb, 1 cup of dried beans will yield 2 to 3 times their original size after cooking. 
  • One cup of dried beans will produce about 4½ cup servings. 
  • A single pound of dried beans yields about 5- 6 cups of cooked beans.
  • If you have extra beans, they can be frozen. To freeze cooked beans, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well, and freeze.
  • Dry beans keep up to 12 months in an airtight container in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight. If stored longer than 12 months, or exposed to unfavorable storage conditions, like moisture, dried beans may never soften sufficiently, no matter how long they’re soaked or cooked. 

Now that you are ready to delve into dried beans, try this easy recipe for Split Pea Soup. No soaking necessary. While soaking split peas will shorten cooking time, they cook relatively quickly on their own. Because they absorb water as the cook, check frequently and add liquid as needed. 

This Black Bean Soup recipe starts with a package of dried black beans. It is simple enough to make, whether you are a dried bean pro or a bean novice. Chili powder and lime juice give this vegetarian soup a nice kick. Make extra black beans and use them for these Shrimp and Black Bean Tacos. YUM! 

Enjoy beans today. Remember – they are good for your heart!

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