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Where did I go wrong with my black beans???

I'm near here and I'm hoping someone can tell help me. A couple of days ago I decided to make a black bean soup but I only had a bag of dried black beans in the pantry. No problem. I soaked them overnight per the instructions and from there it went a bit wrong.

I wasn't sure how long to cook them for since the recipe I was working from called for canned black beans, and the bag wasn't much help- it said to cook until tender. Thanks. So, I brought them to a boil and them simmered them for about 30mins. After that I figured I would follow the recipe- I sauteed the onion, garlic, chili, etc, added the black beans (drained of original cooking water), pumpkin puree and 3 cups veggie broth. I brought this to a boil and then simmered for 2 1/2 hours covered, even adding a bit more liquid at one point, but the beans were still not tender! We ended up ordering take out last night and I put the soup in the fridge to finish cooking it today.

It's been simmering for 3-4 hours today (I had to add more veggie broth) and finally the beans are getting tender. Where did I go so wrong? Does it really take this long for black beans to cook? Was the problem the thicker broth (from the pumpkin puree) they were cooking in? The soup is very tasty, and I'm sure I have the longer cook time to thank for that, but 6+ hours to get tender beans is crazy, right?


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  1. Not necessarily, especially if the beans were geriatric. I usually cook black beans in the slow cooker. First I bring them to a boil, then pour the beans and water into the slow cooker, cover, add things like onions, garlic, & jalapenos (depending on what the beans are going to become next). And it takes 6 hours for them to get really tender.

    1. Your initial cooking time was way too short - should have been at least an hour, maybe 90 minutes. Once you added the other ingredients, their salt impeded further tenderizing of the beans.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        My preference is to cook all beans in plain unsalted water. When they are done, throw away the remaining water and add the stock, salt etc. Then again it depends on how 'beany' you want your meal. If I prep them the day before, then I will (after pre-soaking) cook, drain, seal and not add the stock / sauce until the following day. It stops that overpowering flavour.

        Fastest way is a pressure cooker. Easy to get the timing wrong with this method.

      2. I had a similar problem once w/ bagged dried beans, and mine NEVER actually cooked through. I tried again the next day w/ new beans, but silly me, they were bought from the same store so probably the same old batch, so it still didn't work. Beans can get so old that they just never cook properly. I think it's rare though, I've only had it happen that once and I cook a ton of beans.

        For next time, greygarious is right, the initial cook time was really short- which basically resulted in you over-cooking the yummy extras. Other than that, sounds like a good recipe, but if you're not willing to brave dried beans again, I've had really good results w/ just the canned beans. Just rinse 'em a bit first.

        1. In my experience, dried black beans take a very long time to cook and the cooking time definitely varies, presumably accoding to the age of the beans, which we can't usually know. After an overnight soak, I start my black bean soup w/all the ingredients except the salt and those used for finishing. I use the recipe in the Silver Palate, which says to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The first time I made this recipe, 20+ years ago, I scratched through that instruction and wrote in the margin "at least twice that long," but the cooking time is always different; it has never taken me less than four hours, even leaving out the salt until the soup's done.

          1. Thanks for all the tips. I didn't know that salt would slow the process. In the future I will definitely cook the beans until fully tender and then start the soup. I guess I was thinking I wanted the beans and other ingredients to mesh while cooking...The beans also could have been old. I think I've had them for almost a year and who knows how old they were before I bought them.

            1. I was thinking the old "don't salt the beans" Kitchen Myth was debunked years ago...Where did i read that??? ----- Anyway the cooking time was way, way to short...Two hours minimum, with three probably being closer...Or your beans were "old" in which case they would have never softened up...


              2 Replies
              1. re: Uncle Bob

                Cooks Illustrated determined that it is beneficial to the flavor of the final dish to do the initial cold water soak in salted water, but then to dump that water and use unsalted for cooking. IME, there's good reason not to cook them with salt or acidic ingredients. The exception is very tiny beans (rice beans, tepary beans), lentils, and split peas, where the smaller size makes this less problematic.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I do it for a different reason. You need less salt for the same amount of saltiness.

                  Incidentally, the beans cook better and are less noisome if they are partially fermented first. Unfortunately, this takes more than 24 hours planning.

              2. If you have a pressure cooker and pre-soak, black beans only take 3-6 minutes at high pressure then natural pressure release.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lgss

                  And if you don't pre-soak it takes

                  30 min in a pressure cooker to do black beans

                  2-3 hours on the stove top simmering in a pot

                  And I add salt at the beginning.

                  I like to add olive oil, onion, green pepper and garlic at the beginning for flavor and because this gets cooked down I make a sofrito of the same ingredients to add near the end.

                  On rare occasion I've had some beans that didn't cook through and chalked it up to old beans.