How to Cook Dry Beans (and the Best Vegan Recipes to Make)

Learn how to cook dry beans on stovetop, in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, or in a slow cooker, plus the best vegan recipes to make.
How to Cook Dry Beans (and the Best Vegan Recipes to Make)
Everything you need to know about cooking dry beans from scratch. | African Bites

Beans should be a staple in any cook’s pantry. While canned is convenient, buying dry beans is far more economical—and many argue that cooked-from-scratch pulses have an unrivaled flavor. With dozens of varieties to choose from, beans are also versatile. Here’s how to cook dry beans.

Before You Start

Dry beans take some prep work. Many chefs swear by soaking beans, which reduces the cooking time. This should be done with most beans, including black, kidney, pinto, lima, and chickpeas—and that’s just scratching the surface. There are well over 400 types of edible beans around the world.

Beans should be soaked overnight. Add your beans to a pot and cover with at least two inches of cold water. If you’re crunched for time, you can follow the quick-soak method, which involves adding beans and water to a pot, bringing it to a boil, turning off the heat, and letting it sit for an hour. If you don’t have time to let your beans soak, no worries—the cooking time will be longer. Or, you can choose options that cook faster, such as adzuki beans or lentils.

Before soaking, sort check the beans for stray rocks, twigs, or leaves and rinse thoroughly, until the water runs clear.

Also be mindful of what type of recipe you want to make. Split peas and lentils fall apart when cooked, so they shine in soups and dhals. Black beans—depending on how long you cook them for—can also take on a creamy consistency. Chickpeas, black-eyed peas, cannellini, kidney,  great northern, brown and black lentils, and others retain shape in and are good for soups, salads, bowls, pasta, and more.

The Best Way to Cook Beans on Stovetop

Before cooking, consider what you want to cook your beans in. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to plain ol’ water and salt. Or, you could add a few bay leaves and sliced onion to add some savory flavor.

If you want to add a little more oomph to your beans, you can simmer them in vegetable broth or add spices such as cumin, allspice, peppercorns, and coriander seeds.

To cook beans on the stovetop, add beans to a large pot, add any aromatics or spices you’re using, and cover with at least two inches of water or vegetable broth. Bring to a low simmer, stirring every now and again. It may take as little as 15 minutes and many as two to four hours for some varieties of beans to cook.

Your beans are done when tender, but not mushy. The cooking liquid can be frozen and saved for making vegan stock.

how to cook beans

You can cook beans in an Instant Pot, too.

Making Beans in a Pressure Cooker

A pressure cooker like the cult hit Instant Pot saves you a lot of time. To make beans in an Instant Pot, add your soaked (or unsoaked!) beans to the pot, add your aromatics and spices, and cover with two inches of water. Most beans will cook in about 35 minutes under high pressure.

how to cook beans

Let beans simmer all day in a slow cooker.

Making Beans in a Slow Cooker

Beans can be cooked in a  slow cooker, too. To make beans in a slow cooker, cover with at least two inches of water or broth, add aromatics and spices, and let it cook at a low setting until done. Test your beans at the three-hour mark and periodically after that. The morning is a great time to set this up, so your beans can simmer all day long.

how to cook beans

Beans should be stored in an airtight container.

Storing Beans

Dry beans are good for about two years—old beans will still cook, but it will likely take significantly more time. Store dry beans in your pantry in the bag or in an airtight container or mason jar.

Cooked beans will last for three to five days when kept in an airtight container in your refrigerator. You can also freeze cooked beans for up to eight months in an airtight, freezer-safe container.

The Best Vegan Recipes to Make With Beans

What can you make with cooked beans? The options are (arguably) nearly limitless. Here are some easy vegan bean recipes to get you started.

how to cook beans

This one-pot dish is ready in 30 minutes. | Vegan Richa

1. Vegan Spiced Chickpeas and Potatoes

Kadai chole is a North Indian dish consisting of chickpeas and potatoes cooked in a flavor-packed gravy spiced with ginger, cumin, chilis, coriander, cinnamon, and garam masala. Pair this one-pot meal with rice and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

Get the recipe here.

how to cook beans

Perfect for baked beans on toast. | Eating Well

2. Vegan Baked Beans

These vegan baked beans are everything you want them to be—thick, smoky and sweet. Pair these flavorful beans with plant-based burgers, baked potato, toast, or with rice for a budget-friendly meal.

Get the recipe here.

how to cook beans

Enchiladas are a great freezer meal. | This Savory Vegan

3. Vegan Black Bean Enchiladas

These vegan enchiladas will become a staple meal in your household. Packed with black beans and potatoes, it gets its flavor from smoky cumin, red enchilada sauce, and a creamy, dairy-free avocado-cilantro crema.

Get the recipe here.

how to cook beans

This chili is anything but basic. | Cookie and Kate

4. Vegan Chili

Chili is a hero meal—everyone should have at least one go-to recipe ready to go. This vegan chili is made with black beans and pinto beans, plus plenty of spices: cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, and a generous helping of cilantro.

Get the recipe here.


how to cook beans

Serve these black-eyed beans with plantains and rice. | African Bites

5. African Stewed Black-Eyed Peas

Known as red red in Ghana, this stewed black-eyed peas dish features savory, smoky flavor thanks to smoked paprika—add a dash of liquid smoke to give it an additional boost. Serve with fried or baked plantains and plenty of rice.

Get the recipe here.

how to cook beans

This split pea soup pairs well with bread or rice. | Healthier Steps

6. Vegan Split Pea Soup

This split pea soup is anything but boring. It’s packed with flavor, thanks to parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, bay leaf, and plenty of garlic and onion. It takes only an hour to cook (no soaking required!) and it stores well in the freezer. You can also swap green split peas for yellow or use a combination of the two.

Get the recipe here.

how to cook beans

This savory recipe relies on pantry staples. | Wanderlust Kitchen

7. Vegan Tuscan White Bean Skillet

Ready on your table in just 30 minutes, this delicious Tuscan white bean skillet makes the best of pantry staples. Beans, tomatoes (canned and sun-dried), artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and onions simmer together in a savory sauce. This recipe freezes well, too, so you can have meals prepped for days.

Get the recipe here.


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