Soaking and cooking beans

Beans are a staple around the world. There are so many different types, but they are all similar in some ways. The way they are prepared plays a big part in how enjoyable they are to eat. They have a bad reputation, mainly of causing digestive discomfort. Below, I’ve detailed the process I use to cook my beans to maximize their digestibility and make them taste great.

An overview of beans


  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Small red beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Mayacoba beans*
  • Kidney beans*

Not included

  • Lentils
  • Mung beans


Although soaking is sometimes considered an optional step, it is important to rehydrate them to make them easier to digest.

How to soak beans

As the package of many beans will say, 8 hours is a very good soaking time for beans. Any more than that and they may become waterlogged and the skins can start to fall off. This results in mushy, unpleasant beans. Not soaking long enough isn’t as much of a problem, but it doesn’t maximize the potential benefits soaking provides.

Things to consider

One important factor in soaking the beans is the temperature. Soaking beans in ice cold water will produce a drastically different result than if they were soaked in boiling water. Soaking in ice water won’t produce really have an effect, as it will be difficult for the water to permeate the beans. On the other hand, soaking in boiling water is called a “rapid soak”, and should be done for 2 hours at most. Ideally, if going for a longer soak, the water will be around room temperature, between 68°F and 75°F.


Sprouting beans is another optional step, but one that I’ve found very beneficial in the process of making beans. Sprouting is usually done in gardening, to prepare a seed for implementation into the ground. In cooking, sprouting is done to simulate that process to a lesser extent. This allows the beans to break down their defense mechanisms, in turn increasing their digestibility.

How to sprout beans

Sprouting can be a delicate process. Many factors play into it, including timing, temperature, and moisture. In my house, I typically leave rinsed beans on the counter overnight in the spring/fall/winter (70°F), or for 4-6 hours in the summer (80°F). This allows them to slightly start the sprouting process. From there, I can boil them with good results.

Timing: How long beans are sprouted for is an important consideration. Not sprouting for enough time is far better than over-sprouting. Once the beans are over-sprouted, there is no going back. They have long, unappetizing tails and become very mushy.

Temperature: Like with soaking, the temperature matters in the sprouting process. However, this is more about the room temperature. If beans are left to sprout at 85°, they will do so much faster than if left out at 65°. This has to be considered when deciding how long to sprout them for. Either temperature is fine, it will just require some adjustment.

Moisture: Water also plays an important role in sprouting. Too much water, and the beans are being soaked; not enough water, and the beans won’t sprout. Rinsing plays a large role in the ability for mold to grow. For an overnight soak, it is not very necessary to rinse beans. However, for other things like alfalfa sprouts, this is certainly something that has to be taken into consideration.


This may be the only step actually necessary, as it is how beans go from inedible to edible. However, I like to break it down into two steps, to increase the digestibility of the beans that much more. Many people use flavorings in their beans, but I often find the beans on their own have a great flavor, enhanced only with the use of salt.

How to cook beans

The two step process for boiling beans contains two parts: the “rapid soak” step, and the final cooking step.

1. Rapid soak: On many cooking instructions of beans, they will give the option to forgo the traditional long soak in favor of a rapid version. Basically, you bring the water to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, and allow the beans to sit in it for 2 hours. Then, you drain it and proceed with cooking. I do the same method, except I soak and spout the beans beforehand. This step isn’t entirely necessary, but I’ve found it beneficial.

2. Final cooking: Out of all the steps, this is the only step that cannot be overlooked. Because each type of bean is different, they each have their own cooking times that produce fully cooked, soft beans. In general, I do the same few steps, regardless of the type of bean I’m making:

  1. Cover beans in 1”-2” of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, skim the foam off the top, and any beans that have risen, also.
  3. Salt the water and stir well. Cover, and reduce heat to medium-low(3).
  4. Boil until fully cooked. Drain and rinse.

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