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Feb 9, 2009 12:15 PM

ISO ideas for getting flavor into cooked beans

I commonly make bean salad, chili, and soups with beans. Lately I've been playing around with cooking soaked dried kidney beans. It's easy to make refried beans or to put them into a flavorful sauce, but ideally I'd like them to be tasty enough to be an appealing side dish on their own. Since salt and acid toughen them, cooking them in broth or tomato is out. I've added onion and garlic to the cooking water and that DOES flavor them a little but they're still rather blah. Is there anything else that can go into the soaking and/or cooking water to give them flavor throughout? (Not a fan of hot peppers, cumin, turmeric or anything remotely anise-like, which rules out fennel, cilantro, and even parsley.)

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  1. fully cook the beans.

    then: scoop out the beans and saute with red onion and CUlantro (wait, you don't like that flavor -- so just try with bell pepper) and a little bit of garlic. Tasty and easy.

    1. Salt doesn't toughen them. Lots of empirical info out there. Salt!!!

      5 Replies
      1. re: Aromatherapy

        salt won't toughen, but the acidic tomato at the start of cooking will prevent proper softening.....

        1. re: alkapal

          Is this why karmalaw want you to scoop them out; the skins get tough? Lotta damn work, seems like to me...

          1. re: Scargod

            i think karmalaw simply meant to remove the cooked beans from the cooking liquid. ;-).
            otherwise, that would be a tad labor intensive...
            but i do know one thing for sure, williams-sonoma would carry a bean-scooper tool in its catalogue, made of 18/10 stainless steel from germany, for only $29.95!

            (i amuse myself!) LOL!

            1. re: alkapal

              exactly - scoop them from the liquid so you aren't trying to saute a pan of water. you want a little liquid -- just not a lot.

              And don't cook the beans with the salt -- you add the salt while sauteing.

              I don't salt beans unless I am slow cooking them to serve as-is (i.e. butterbeans or black eyed peas or black beans, etc)-- then I do it with smoked meat. On some beans I add a splash of apple cider vinegar while cooking -- helps bring up the flavor and, if I remember correctly, helps keep them soft.

              At any rate -- I don't have a tough bean problem.

          2. re: alkapal

            I never add acid to the cooking liquid when making beans. No vinegar or tomatoes, these come at the end. I do add salt. But when making black beans I add a large diced onion, green pepper and garlic, salt and olive oil to the liquid at the start of cooking and have never had a problem with the beans cooking. Now that I think about it an onion will cause quick oxidation and patina formation on my carbon steel knives. On a quick check of pH and food items I found onions and peppers to have a pH of 5.3-5.9. Tomatoes are about 1 point lower.

        2. I soak with onion, strange, but good. I also cook in broth, with onions, garlic, some herbs, to your taste, red or sweet peppers, also paprika, cumin. I can add some red pepper pesto, not using what you don't like. Tomatoes is great and, spinach or chard is also good for flavor. A potato, bean and spinach dish is very good. Add some grilled chicken or ham and it is a meal. Beans are great added to fresh salads. Let them marinade in a vinaigrette after cooking and wonderful. Pureed along with some vegetables for a great pasta sauce. Some good vegetables and beans simmering alog time 3-4 hours with garlic onions and some herbs, puree and then add to sauteed spinach, onions, pasta, roasted grape tomatoes and crimini mushrooms and you have a wonderful dinner. They are just as good alone.

          Cook the beans with some onion and garlic and after add sauteed spinach and fresh tomatoes and olives. Great side dish.

          I also like them cold with olives, cauliflower blanched, peas, artichoke hearts and feta cheese.

          Many varieties. See my profile and check my email or just post back and I will be glad to share.

          1. What I'll do is salt the water halfway through the process. Doesn't toughen them up, and the half-way through is a just in case the old wives tale is true.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jaykayen

              Thanks, jaykayen - I'll try that next time, as well as kchurchill's suggestion of onion in the soaking water (maybe garlic powder too). I've got plenty of multi-ingredient recipes with beans - this time I'd just like to produce some that are permeated with flavor during the initial cooking, so they are tasty enough to eat that way.

            2. I cook the beans completely in salted water (ain't never had none of 'em get tough) then drain and store in a bowl into which I pour the flavoring ingredients. I often chop the flavoring ingredients VERY fine (almost a puree) and stir these into the beans, then cover and store in refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Flavors infuse into the beans nicely.