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4 Techniques for Soaking Dried Beans Before Cooking Them

Updated on June 9, 2010

Before you cook dried beans you typically need to soak them. The reason for this is because the beans need to rehydrate in order to be soft enough for cooking. Just how long do you need to soak your dried beans before you can use them? The answer varies depending upon the type of beans that you're eating. More importantly, however, is that the length of time it takes to soak your beans depends on the soaking method that you use. If you have less time before you need to prepare a recipe, you want to choose a soaking method that will rehydrate the beans quickly.

Here are the four basic options that you have for soaking your dried beans before you use them:

  1. Rapid soaking option. If you need to put dinner together soon and don't have a lot of time to wait for your dried beans to rehydrate then you will want to use the rapid soaking option. It will still take an hour or two but that's a lot less time than the other methods of soaking beans will take you. To do rapid soaking of your dried beans, you want to bring a pot of water to boil. Add your beans when the water is boiling rapidly. Let the beans boil for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the beans sit in the hot water for approximately an hour. They should be ready to use after that.
  2. Fast soak without boiling. Another option for rehydrating your beans quickly is to use the same method as above but to skip the part where you boil the beans for a few minutes. In this case, you simply boil the water then turn it off, add the beans and cover the pot. If you do this, it takes 2-3 hours for the beans to be ready for use. The benefit for this tradeoff is that you may get a fuller flavor and more nutrition from your beans since you didn't actually boil them.
  3. Traditional soaking. The most common method of soaking dried beans is the overnight soaking method. You put your beans in a pot and cover them with water from the tap. You do not heat or boil the water. You cover the pot and leave it at room temperature or put it in the refrigerator. The beans should be ready to use after about six hours but most people wait overnight for the beans to be used in a recipe the next day.
  4. Soaking to reduce gas. There is one final method for soaking beans that you might want to be aware of. This method helps to get rid of the indigestible sugars that are in dried beans. The reason that you want to do this is because those sugars are what cause beans to make you gassy. If you want to eat beans without the embarrassment and discomfort of having gas afterwards then you can go ahead and try this method of soaking your beans. To do this, follow the steps that you used for rapid soaking: boil the water and then let the beans boils for a few minutes. The difference here is that you then cover the beans up and let them sit overnight instead of just for an hour. In the morning, drain the beans and rinse them off. Most of your indigestible sugars will be gone and your beans shouldn't cause you gas.
There are benefits to all of these methods of soaking your beans before you cook them. A shorter soaking time is more convenient for you but may reduce flavor. A longer soaking time without boiling retains nutrients but requires advance preparation for making your recipes. A longer soaking time with boiling takes longer and reduces nutrients but also means that you won't have gas after you eat the beans. Which option is right for you?

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