How to Soak Beans Before Cooking (and why you would want to)
What is all that scum anyway? Anti-nutrients, that’s what! And those anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, lectins, and enzyme inhibitors are going to be in your gut causing you gas, heartburn, reflux and whatever other digestive ills beset you when you eat something that isn’t particularly digestible unless you soak your beans before cooking them. Traditional cultures took great care to prepare their legumes with a long soak before cooking to enhance digestibility and nutrient absorption.
I love Mexican food but really try to avoid Mexican restaurants for this reason .. they don’t soak their beans before cooking them! After a meal at a Mexican restaurant, I will typically feel very bloated where eating the same meal prepared at home where I soaked the beans properly before cooking results in no digestive upset whatsoever.
Take the Soaked Beans Challenge!
If you think unsoaked beans don’t cause you any trouble .. take this challenge. Soak beans next time before cooking and notice the difference in your stomach after eating. You may think that the unsoaked beans don’t cause you any trouble, but you just may find that soaked beans are infinitely more filling and that you eat less and enjoy the meal more as a result!
Traditional peoples were very wise in the preparation of their foods. They not only selected nutritious foods but they prepared them for maximum digestibility and nutrition. What good is eating nutritious legumes if the body is so whacked by the anti-nutrients that it can’t very easily extract and digest the nutrition?
So, the next time you make your beans, make sure you soak them first! I soak large pots of various types of beans every month or so and then cook them – freezing for easy, quick meals when beans are required like homemade chili.
How To Soak Beans Properly
If you’ve never soaked beans before, it’s so easy. It’s a very similar process to soaking nuts and seeds.
Kidney shaped beans
For kidney shaped beans and dried/split peas, put a pinch of baking soda and enough water to cover in a large pot and soak uncovered for 12-24 hours. Drain, rinse and cook as usual.
Examples of kidney shaped beans include:
- Red kidney beans
- White kidney beans (cannellini beans)
- Pinto beans
- Anasazi beans
- Black eyed beans (black eyed peas)
- Great Northern beans
- Lima beans
Non-kidney shaped beans (and other legumes)
For more oval shaped beans and other legumes, soak for 12-24 hours in filtered water to cover plus 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of dried beans/legumes used. A homemade apple cider vinegar recipe or store bought are both fine (make sure the ACV is packed in glass). Liquid whey from yogurt, kefir or clabbered milk may also be used. Drain, rinse, and cook as usual.
Examples of non-kidney shaped beans include:
- Black beans (turtle beans)
- Navy beans
- Fava beans
- Adzuki beans
For maximum digestibility, it is best to rinse and refresh the filtered water and baking soda or the acidic medium once or twice during the soaking period. If you forget, no worries.
I try to always soak beans for the full 24 hours instead of just overnight. Sometimes if I get busy, I might even soak them 36 hours, but this is risky as they can get moldy sometimes if you go over 24 hours. Best to stay between 12-24 hours particularly during summer months.
After soaking, be sure to thoroughly drain and rinse the beans until all the scum is washed away. Fill the pot with fresh filtered water, bring to a boil, and skim away any additional foam that may come to the top at the start of the boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, add 4 crushed garlic cloves, and cook until the beans are soft (about 4 hours).
Drain beans and add to your favorite dish or let cool and freeze in large freezer bags for quick meals at a later date!
Bye bye Bean-o! You won’t be needing it or any other over the counter gas meds again after learning to soak beans before cooking!
Using the Soaking or Cooking Water
Some alternative cooking circles advocate using the soaking or bean cooking water. Unfortunately, neither of these practices is traditional. Using the cooked bean water or aquafaba is actually a dangerous practice. See the linked article for reasons to avoid this modern food especially during pregnancy!
Video on Soaking Beans and Other Legumes
This article plus video on soaking lentils provides additional information specifically for this legume. Because they are soaked exactly the same as all non-kidney shaped beans, it is helpful for visual learners.
Lentils were the favorite of nutritional pioneer Dr. Weston A. Price due to their very high potassium content.
Recipes Using Soaked Beans and Legumes
Here are some recipes to try using soaked beans and other legumes to entice you!
- Pan fried halibut with vanilla spiced butter and blistered beans
- 15 minute buffalo chili
- Curried lentil soup
- Chickpea burgers
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.