How to Turn Beans from a Chore to a Treat

Kale and White Bean Soup

Beans are one of the superfoods that are a bit daunting to get into the diet if cooking is not one's thing.  Very well experienced cooks know a few tricks that can turn cooking and eating beans from chore to treat, and the experience is likely to drive one to search for a broader variety of ways to introduce beans into their diet. 

Pinto beans are common for chili, as are black beans.  White beans  are common for ham and bean soup.  Many people use canned beans when making these dishes.  That is a mistake.

The key to improving the texture and reducing the cooking time of dried beans is to soak them overnight in brine.  Many dried bean varieties benefit from this technique, but white beans in particular take on a creamy satiny texture when they are brined before being cooked.  The salt water makes the skins of the beans tender, and allows the cooking water to penetrate the beans easier.  The trick is to dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt into a gallon of cold water.  This is plenty of water to soak 2 pounds of beans, which is about a large crock-pot's worth of beans. 

The beans get soaked in the salt water 8 hours or overnight, and then are drained and rinsed, and cooked according to the recipe, but usually about an hour and a half on a conventional stove.  A normal recipe for beans can be followed at this point.  This technique changes the game for chili, for bean soups, for cassoulet, even for bean salads and for hummus. 

For a quick cooking option, lentils are a great choice, but don't expect the creamy results that are possible from white beans.  Red lentils give a smoother and silkier texture than green lentils.  


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