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How to cook dried red kidney beans?

  • m


I have some dried red kidney beans sitting in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I lost the instructions of how to prepare them. I think you're supposed to soak and prepare them somehow. I'm thinking of cooking them in an Indian style with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and chillies. Any ideas of how long I'd need to soak and boil them before cooking it up??

Any other ideas of what to make with red kidney beans?

Also, do any of you notice a difference in using canned kidney beans versus the dried ones?



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  1. You can soak them overnight, drain and cook. Or, you can boil them for two minutes, then let them sit, covered, for one hour as a quick soak. Red beans and rice is a classic New Orleans dish often made with kidney beans.

    1. Canned beans tend to be mushier. They are useful when you are doing things where the texture is less noticeable.

      1. How old are the beans, how long have they been sitting on the shelf? If they have been there for over a year you may not be able to reconstitute them at all. But, if they are not too old either method suggested should work.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Candy

          That's very good advice, Candy. I learned that after wasting hours cooking some beans that were just too old. I wound up throwing the whole batch out. Beans are cheap enough so it's worth replacing them if there is any doubt about them.

        2. Here is my humble opinion : There is nothing wrong with beans in a can. Whenever I use red kidney beans in a can (for refried, etc.), I first rinse them under cold water, then I blanch them (1 min. in boiling water) and I drain them. They are just like the dry ones, without the work and ready to be transformed into whatever wonderful dish you want. (Please, don't shoot the cook!)

          1 Reply
          1. re: lamaranthe

            I realize your post is ancient, but I'll still reply ;) One of the reasons someone might want to use dried beans is cost (especially for vegetarians that use it as a main source of protein). If you eat 100 cans of beans a year at 1.29, you're looking at $129. If you buy beans in bulk at an Indian grocery store or something similar, you could probably get that amount for $10-$15. Plus I still think they taste better :-P

          2. If they have been sitting on your shelf for more than a year, I don't recommend using them. The longer they sit, the drier they get and the worse they cook up (if at all.)

            Both the overnight soak and then slow cook for a few hours, or the bring to a boil, let stand an hour and then cook for a few hours work. I also cook beans in a crockpot by pouring boiling water over the beans and then setting the pot on low. When I come home from work, they are done.

            I usually add some garlic and onion to a pot of beans. Do not add salt until the beans are done, or they toughen up. I prefer to have the beans cooked through before adding them to whatever dish you're cooking up.

            I find canned kidney beans to be a good substitute for home cooked. I use canned beans when I am in a hurry, but when I cook beans, I almost always cook a double recipe and freeze what I don't use. That means I always have some great tasting beans handy.

            Cooked beans keep no more than a week in the refrigerator. If you smell something a-stinkin up the house, check the refrigerator for that container of beans you forgot about!

            7 Replies
            1. re: desert rat

              When you cook them in the crockpot, do you soak them overnight first? And do you add the seasonings in the morning (except salt, of course)? What about sausage or other meat products??

              I've heard that a pressure cooker can cook beans in a 1/2 hour, but I don't have a pressure cooker, so I've never tried it. This can also be dangerous because of the foam created, but I think it's not a big risk.

              1. re: Jessi

                Beans in a crock pot - OK...I start them in the morning before I go to work (around 7 am.) I pick over the beans (always do this to get rid of debris, dirt and little stones), rinse them well in a colander or strainer under warm running water and put them in the crock pot (it's one of the big crock pots). I turn the heat to low. Meanwhile, I've put my full, large teapot on the stove to bring water to a boil. Once boiling, I pour it over the beans in the crockpot, and top it off with some hot water if the pot still needs water (usually not.) I make sure there is 3 to 4 times more water than beans. Anyway, since I'm going to work, I put garlic and onion in when I add the water. If I'm cooking pinto beans, I add a pod of dried red New Mexico chile (seeded). Then I put the lid on and go to work and my hands smell like garlic all day (that is if I don't wash with that metal doohickey thingy that takes the smell off your hands.)

                If I am cooking them in the crockpot when I am home, I do wait until they are about half done before adding the onion, garlic and whatever other herb or chiles I want to add. I also start them late morning (for dinner) and put the crockpot on high. Works like a charm.

                Remember new ("fresh") dried beans cook better and faster, and taste better than ones that have been sitting around for a while. I prefer to purchase mine from a store that sells them in bulk and has high turnover, such as Whole Foods. I used to grow my own dried beans...they were amazingly better than anything store bought. Who'd have thought there'd be a difference in something as mundane as dried beans?!

                1. re: desert rat

                  I've tried beans on low, and they didn't cook. They just got waterlogged and stayed hard. So, I always cook dried legumes on high (2-temp old crockpot). Since the beans are for refried beans or soup, it doesn't matter if they get overcooked while I'm gone for a few hours.

                  1. re: Sharuf

                    I have had the same experience, beans in my crockpot, a new Rival, stay just a little crunchy if cooked on low. Have adjusted to cooking beans on high, for at least part of the cooking period.

                    1. re: Coyote

                      I've not had that problem. I use a large Rival crockpot.

                      Do you start with boiling water? I think that's the trick. Plus...they're cooking for 10 -12 hours while I'm at work. Are yours cooking that long? I leave around 7 am and don't get back to the house til around 6 pm (what's wrong with that picture?)

                      If I cooked them on high, they'd be mush when I got home. Not usually using them for refries.

                      1. re: desert rat

                        Thanks! That's my schedule, too, so I'll try your way. I'm in New Orleans, so even the red beans in the grocery store have very high turnover :)

                        1. re: Jessi

                          It should work real well there. I live at 6800 ft, which means water boils at a temp much lower than 212F. So things like beans and pasta take longer to cook. You might want to experiment on a day you are home.

            2. OK, I know this is old, but I couldn't find a more recent thread in an easy manner so I'm going to 'bump' this one.

              I actually WANT the mushy style that you get with canned beans (call me weird), but the recipe I follow doesn't remotely do it for me. Here it is:

              -soak overnight
              -rinse and cover with fresh water
              -cook with lid ajar to prevent avoid boiling over
              -simmer 45-60 mins, until tender

              I don't salt (oddly, it didn't occur to me) so those of you who were going to ask if I salt the water before, which I understand makes the beans tougher, not to worry.

              I should note, I bring the water to a boil after the beans are in, then I turn down to a simmer.

              So yes, I want mushy beans. Should I boil longer (like blanching)? Cook longer? How long is longer?

              This amateur thanks you for your patience.

              1. Just a note to the crock pot aficionados that you want to ensure that your dried red kidney beans get very hot (essentially to a boiling temperature) at some point since they contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutnin that is broken down by heat and may actually have enhanced toxicity if it never exceeds 75-80 degrees C (167-175 Fahrenheit). If you eat even as few as 5 uncooked beans, you can expect extreme nausea and severe vomiting 1-3 hours after eating.

                See the article at http://www.foodreference.com/html/art... for more information. It seems these kinds of problems are much more common in the UK since most people buy canned beans that have been already cooked in the US, while most used dried there.

                18 Replies
                1. re: skyler

                  Kidney Beans should always be boiled for 10 minutes first, and then drained. The outer coating of Kidney Beans is WHY you get...ahem..flatulent. By draining off this original water, you also drain away that cause of digestive discomfort. Use fresh water to proceed with recipe.

                  1. re: MarthaO

                    Are you saying to drain water right after the 10 minute boil and then let soak in fresh water are just let soak in the same water. Also how long do you let soak after boiling and do you boil again after soaking or is that it... Tried the 2 minute boil and 1 hr soak but they were still too hard...Your 10 minute boil sounds better to me..Thx Martha....Don

                    1. re: donaldray45

                      donald: Since you raised this thread from the dead, you might be interested in what a bean farmer thinks about cooking beans:


                      Among the revelations:
                      (1) DON'T TOSS THE SOAK-WATER (but you don't even need to soak);
                      (2) Beans stay "fresh" for 2 years;
                      (3) The skins DON'T cause flatulence;
                      (4) Boil--hard--for only 5 minutes, and then gently simmer til done;
                      (5) Beans absorb salt slowly from the water, so don't overdo;
                      (6) If you add water, make it boiling not cold; and
                      (7) Add any acidic ingredients (e.g., tomatoes) only AFTER the beans are tender--otherwise they stay hard forever.

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Good stuff, thanks! I had bad luck with my beans until I stopped adding acid before cooking entirely. Embarrassing when I cook for a living... As for steaming, the nutrients from food get somewhat depleted when boiling and steaming is the way to go from a nutritional stand point. I like adding a bit of extra water to get that highly nutritional broth that I can use in other recipes. After seasoning, it's yummy enough to sip as is. I love beans. Thanks for doing the homework on the steaming method. It's brilliant. I'm going to try it.

                      1. re: MarthaO

                        I'm trying to make sure this is done correct now I realize this is an old blog post but it is the best I could find that is similar to what I am trying to find out. Here's the situation..

                        I am wanting to do a chili in the crockpot the best option I can find is using dried kidney beans instead of canned as the canned turn to mush. Now what I am seeing so far has me wondering how to achieve what I need to accomplish this matter.

                        I am reading above that it states to boil these beans for 10 minutes first and then drain them. That is not an issue and it can be done before placing them into the crock pot. What I am wondering; can I just boil the beans for the 10 minutes, drain them and then add them into the crockpot for the chili recipe?

                        I have intentions of setting the time frame for 10 hrs on low and I was also wondering if that would be long enough. Any thoughts would be quite helpful on this matter. Thanks in advance.

                        1. re: SueBear

                          I don't use a slow cooker so can't give good advice on its use but the boil for 10 min is a method to shorten cooking time as it tries to quickly hydrate the dried beans like an over night soak does.

                          With use of a slow cooker this step may not be needed.

                          I just did black beans today that cooked on the stove for 3 hours. Beans went from being rinsed to soft in that amount of time

                      2. re: skyler

                        I know its been awhile since this post. But, I just found it and I can't say how much its appreciated!!!!! I'd read awhile back about toxicity in red kidney beans if not cooked right. SO, I have practically cooked them to nothing. This answer has helped me tremendously. Since, I'd been reading so much negative about canned goods and the chemical that is in the lining. Therefore felt that I needed to cook all my beans from scratch. Thanks a lot.

                        1. re: mjmcolorado

                          I will only add that in my 50+ years, I've eaten my weight in red kidney's multiple times over. I grew up in an area where red beans and rice were on nearly everyone's table at least once a week, if not more often.

                          In those years, I've never known anyone to experience the dire side-effects described in the article referenced by the above link. This is probably because 1) you'd have to eat raw kidney's to get the toxic levels of lectin and 2) I would imagine hard, raw, dried beans are all but impossible to eat and 3) who wants to eat raw beans anyway.

                          Undercooked beans remain hard to the tooth - they will actually split in two, lengthwise. There is no mistaking it as they're just not something that is pleasant to eat. Cook the beans until they're soft, then stop, eat and enjoy. And for what it's worth, no one in my family, including me, does the overnight soak.

                          1. re: CocoaNut

                            Thanks cocoaNut. I was hoping I could get by without an overnight soak... Glad to hear it! :)

                            1. re: dost

                              I use to rarely soak beans but it does help gelatinous the starches. I do it now and then follow with a pressure cooker but I use to do stove top and no soak. It all works. Another way to do them is in the oven. No stirring when using the oven. Just check every now and then to see how tender they are.

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Does anyone know if red kidney beans (dry - pre-soaked) can be steam cooked?

                                1. re: NewBeanBoy

                                  Even presoaked the beans will still need a fair amount of water to gelatinize the starch in the beans. Not sure how long that would take if steamed. Why are you wanting to steam over simmer?

                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    I'm vegetarian and steam quite a lot of food including other types of beans/peas etc. My steamer has several compartments - I can therefore cook several items at once (to save time, energy/cost or the number of items to wash).

                                    I tend to use beans in a variety of dishes so I might store a cooked batch in the fridge and withdraw portions which are then seasoned and finished (cooked) as components for particular dishes.

                                    I have steamed kidney beans after boiling on high heat for 10 minutes. I am however coming to the conclusion that the boiling might be unnecessary as the steam (water) which condenses on the beans appear to dissolve the outer coating (the reservoir water at the bottom of the steamer takes on the same appearance as water used to boil beans).

                                    1. re: NewBeanBoy

                                      Interesting NBB. Tell me more. What are he benefits of steaming over simmering beans?

                                      1. re: NewBeanBoy

                                        I don't actually know for sure that there are any apart from those of convenience and cost which I already mentioned.

                                        I have a general feeling that when stuff is steamed (including beans) more nutrients is retained than when boiled but I don't have any real evidence. I can steam several items (say beans, potatoes, vegetables etc) in different compartments simultaneously without cross flavoring. It's also a good (and quick) way of pre-preparing the components of various meals simultaneously for refrigeration and later use.

                                        Obviously for some meals/recipes items have to be boiled together to work but I tend to steam far more than I boil.

                                        1. re: NewBeanBoy

                                          OK - no one answered so I've steamed the beans (after soaking overnight) - no 10 minute boil - I've eaten the beans - I was not ill ..and did not die.

                                          So I tried it again with the same results; it's possible I simply have a robust constitution - or that poisoning is perhaps cumulative!

                                          1. re: NewBeanBoy

                                            I did not read all the responses, so this may have been said, but the main reason I avoid canned beans is because of BPA leaching into the food from the can liner. BPA is toxic and has been banned in many countries, but the USA thinks it's just fine, so it is still used in many food containers despite its known toxicity. If you can find a brand that does not use BPA (Eden is one, I believe) then canned beans are fine, and can't be beat for ease and convenience. However, they are more expensive than dried. I prefer to make large batches of dried beans and freeze them in 2 cup pyrex containers (roughly equivalent to one can). With a pressure cooker, beans cook up in 15-30 minutes, depending on the type of bean. I have soaked and not soaked and it doesn't seem to make any difference.

                        2. If you still have the remains of the Easter ham, cook some chunks of it with a pound of red beans, a package of Aidell's Cajun Sausage, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and tomato paste---long and slow until the beans are soft. Eat with rice. Freezes well.