HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Navy Bean Soup Failure. What happened?

Yesterday I wanted to make navy bean soup in the crock pot. Picked and rinsed the beans. Soaked in boiling water for about 1/2 hour. Drained and put in the crock pot with an onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks and 2 bay leaves. Hot water to cover. Turned the crock pot to low and returned 7 hours later. Beans still crunchy. OK, so then I poured them into a dutch oven and cranked up the heat on the stove top. Dinner time came and went. I finally turned off the stove at 9:30 last night and the beans were still very firm.

Beans were new - just bought them at Sunflower Market on Monday and I didn't use any salt. What do you think happened?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Perhaps the beans you bought were old. Does your Sunflower Market turn over their dried legume inventory fairly quickly?

    4 Replies
    1. re: 4Snisl

      I find that it is best to soak navy beans overnight before using them. I do not own a crock pot so I can't opine about that.

      1. re: emilief

        I have used the hot water method on other beans but never on navy beans. Next time I'll try the overnight soak. I would think that any bean would soften after 10 hours of cooking.

      2. re: 4Snisl

        I think they do. The parking lot is always packed. I really like them as much if not more than Whole Foods. Their veggies are so fresh and the prices are great. I've bought lentils out of the bins before with no problems. This is the first time for navy beans.

        1. re: Pampatz

          Some beans never come around. Try another source. No vendor can test all the beans that come in. A complaint would probably help.

      3. Hi Pampatz,

        I've found that with the boiling water method for soaking navy beans, the best results are achieved with a minimum of 1-2 hours soaking time.

        Hope this helps,

        1. Have you ever used a little kombu too help with the cooking time of beans? check out this website, it really works! even with grains like spelt!


          2 Replies
          1. re: tooth

            I've never heard of kombu but I'm willing to try most anything, at least once. Do you think I could find it at Whole Foods, or would I need to mail order. I know I'll never find anything that exotic in our supermarkets in Mexico.
            Thanks all for your help and suggestions.

            1. re: Pampatz

              Kombu isn't that exotic by asian standards but I can't speak for the markets in Mexico. Whole foods should definitely have it, albeit if a bit pricey, but if for some reason it doesn't it is available online. A fairly small portion ( slightly larger than a postage stamp) is all that's needed and it does not adversely affect the flavor of the beans. Good luck and I hope you find this as helpful and I did when I found out about it.

          2. Judging from your profile, you live at high altitude. If this is the case, cooking beans in a crock pot will take approximately three presidential administrations. A pressure cooker is your best bet.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alanbarnes

              You are right - we are at altitude. Denver is 5280' and Patzcuaro is at 7725'. I'm in Denver and the pressure cooker is in Patz. Nothing is ever where I need it and I refuse to have 2 of everything.

            2. I've had that happen too, though not with navies. Alanbarnes has the right idea; the pc is your friend when it comes to beans. You are supposed to be able to cook beans in the pc without soaking, but I like to soak for awhile anyway--maybe a couple of hours. I agree with the poster who suggested changing brands of beans for awhile. And there is this; I have noticed that filling the cooking vessel too full keeps at least some of the beans from softening. I now only cook 1 c. of beans at a time, instead of 2 c. Of the beans I have cooked through the years, I've had the worst luck with Goya brand.

              1. There is a lot of mythology about beans. Just put them in water and boil them - this is the "quick cook" way on the package even add salt - no biggie. 60-90 mins they will be cooked. No soaking etc.

                Just try it

                2 Replies
                1. re: marcharry

                  I agree about the mythology, particularly about salt. I have experimented and found, to my overwhelming satisfaction, that salt does nothing to keep beans from softening. But it does make them taste better.

                  However, I'd be cautious about saying that just putting dried beans in water and boiling them for 60-90 minutes does the trick. On at least four or five occasions with kidney beans and chick peas, I've found that statement to be demonstrably false. It might work with smaller beans, but I wouldn't count on it with the more difficult ones.

                  1. re: Kagey

                    Some legumes do take longer than others. I never presoak and always add salt when cooking legumes. The one thing you do want to avoid is acid. Anything that can drop the pH of the water can be a problem in cooking legumes. Conversely adding baking soda will help soften legumes but should be use with caution since it can change the texture of the legume and make it too soft or mushy if too much is used. One of the easiest methods is to cook in the oven. No stirring will be needed and in 2-3 hours you will have perfectly cooked beans. You will have to check them to see when they are at the texture you desire.

                    But sometimes you get old beans and they just do not cook correctly.

                2. oh ya - you will have to skim the froth when it starts to boil.

                  1. I've been making various types of bean soups for years with much success. If I have time, I'll rinse & soak overnight. If not, I just start simmering them in water & low-sodium or homemade chicken stock. However, I recently purchased a few bags of TJs 17-bean soup mix and intended to make a huge batch to share with friends. I rinsed the beans well & soaked them overnight, Starting simmering the soup whenever we were home for about 5 days. The beans never completely softened up. I ended up throwing a huge stock pot of the soup away!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: wineaux

                      Oh, I'm so glad that wasn't just me- I even ended up accidentally soaking them for a day and a half and then cooking them for four or five hours...they're edible (especially the chickpeas and lentils) but the butter beans and limas are still noticeably crunchy.

                    2. This just happened to me with kidney beans yesterday, infuriatingly. I put them in water, brought to a boil, turned off the heat, and left covered for about 5 hours. Then changed the water and boiled them for about 30 minutes, and thinking they were just about done, used them in Madhur Jaffrey's Punjabi Red Kidney Bean Stew, where they cooked for another 4 hours. The 4 hours was because they just wouldn't soften. So frustrating when it's 8:00pm and you just know dinner's never going to be ready!

                      I think jayt90 may be right: some beans just never soften. But an overnight soak, even with a teaspoon of baking soda thrown in, gives them the best chance. I'm also interested in trying tooth's suggestion about kombu. I have some and will check it out!

                      1. IMO your beans were old.

                          1. In my crockpot, dried legumes need to be cooked on high. The book doesn't tell you that, but that's how it works.

                            1. I prefer to cook beans in the oven. You can crank the heat up a lot higher(I usually cook them at 350F) than you can on the stove top without having to worry about burning them. I'm at about 4500 ft. elevation and that method works very well.

                              1. Sigh, I wish I had seen this before starting my lengthy cassoulet here in Denver (high altitude). Did the boiling water/let stand trick (5 hours of soaking), followed by vigorous boiling with other items for going on 3.5 hours...those Goya (whole foods) navy beans are still too firm to be edible. Wondering if any of my neighbors have a pressure cooker...Better luck to others out there!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: pal_o_mal

                                  I'm the OP and I was in Denver when my navy beans wouldn't soften. We are in Mexico now and 2500 feet higher, but my beans are coming out perfect. Go figure.

                                2. you've got a lot of good possibilities already mentioned here. i'm a dedicated non-soaker (especially for soups).
                                  1) altitude would make a difference (particularly in a slow cooker on low)
                                  2) buying beans from someplace that did a high turnover IN BEANS might make a difference
                                  3) (and the one not mentioned) water changes ... when i lived in new mexico, periodically we would get very hard water and beans would simply refuse to soften ... even split peas. i never did find a way to avoid this, but cooking them in stock or bottled water would be two possibilities.

                                  1. I just trashed a pot of beans for baked beans by over cooking (we're in the Midwest), so I feel your pain. Did the fast soak, changed water and simmered - actually I kind of forgot about them. Total mush. I think beans are maybe not as carefree as I might think they are; they do need a keen eye. I've also ended up with crunchy beans as well. Probably many variables--age, type of water, etc. Makes me now appreciate a really good soup or home made baked beans. BTW, I now make bean soup with smoked turkey legs--great flavor without the fat of smoked ham hocks.

                                    1. I recently read CI's tip on cooking dried beans, and my two batches of beans since then have been my best ever, and cooked in half the time. Their suggestion is to brine the beans with a lot of salt, then cook them without salt. So my first batch of black beans I soaked with 1 tbsp salt and cold water overnight, and the next day the rinsed beans cooked in *25 minutes* over medium heat. They were perfectly soft, yet the shape and skins held up! For my next batch, I soaked a pound and a half of pinto beans for two and a half hours in a cold brine, then cooked them for 35 minutes over medium heat (I meant to soak longer but I got hungry!), and the results were just as fantastic. The beans were the best I've cooked, and the tip cut down the energy costs significantly. I don't know that this would help at all at high altitude, but considering that I cooked them over only medium heat (a low simmer) in such a short time, it might help folks without pressure cookers.

                                      1. I have always found that I need to first cook beans in just the liquid until they are completely softened, and then I will add other things to the beans. I used to also have problems with crunchy beans after hours of cooking time. My mom said, always soften the beans first, then add the onions, bacon, ec ec.....and I've had no problems since.....and my Mom told me that about 20 years ago....

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: mads

                                          Beans do not need soaking. I did a test cooking both soaked and unsoaked beans - 20 minute difference between same levels of done-ness.

                                          The only thing I can think of is that PamPatz said she "covered the beans with water". I always use MUCH more water than "just covered". If you don't have enough liquid for them to soak up, of course they won't get tender.