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Dried Beans Question


I would like to start using dried beans instead of canned. I have read many of the threads on cooking but still have one question. When the bean is not the main ingredient of a dish and I'm just substituting dried beans for a can of beans do you season the cooking water with anything? I made one recipe, just cooked the beans in water and the beans seemed bland. But if you do flavor the beans as they are cooking could that affect the overall taste of the dish you are making?


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  1. I've been making minestrone as a nutriceutical for over 5 years using dried beans that I soak overnight. The beans are then cooked in water for about 30 minutes without the addition of any kind of seasoning. The resulting bean liquor is then drained off and reserved.

    Aromatic vegetables (onion, celery, carrots) which have been chopped or diced are sauteed in oil before the beans, tomato puree and some of the liquor are added to a stockpot. The mixture is cooked a while longer until the beans are tender. That's how flavor is added to bland beans.

    1. No I don't season the beans when cooking. I remember reading somewhere salting the beans make them tougher.

      What do you mean they are bland? If using canned beans, do you actually just served as is, without dressing them? I'd normally wash the canned beans first before dressing, if that helps.

      This recipe is an example of a simple dressing


      It might look very complicated, but in its core, it's just sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

      Another dressing I use often is honey, soy and black pepper.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lilham

        I love the butterbean recipe. Do you have a specific sweet chili sauce that you like?

      2. I cook beans in the pressure cooker. Usually I do not soak them beforehand and I add salt and a couple of bay leaves before sealing up the cooker. They have a touch of flavor but nothing that will affect the taste of a dish that is made from them.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tcamp

          That's my method, too. Bay leaf and water.

          I'm a recent convert to the Ways Of The Pressure Cooker, and having had the scales removed from my eyes, I'm shocked that everyone doesn't own one. Beans that would take the better part of a day to prepare now take 30-40 minutes- and never mind what you can do with proteins.

        2. depends on the beans. with black or garbanzos, i just saute garlic and onion, and brown a few bay leaves and some dried thyme. then add the beans and plain water. after they are cooked, i salt the water and let that all sit so the beans absorb the salt.

          with lentils i use onions, carrots and tomatoes. again, salt and rest when they are finished.

          1. I cook presoaked beans with a few cloves of garlic and bay leaves. Other good choices are an onion studded with a few cloves. The aromatic vegetables and spices will provide only a hint of flavor in the final dish, nothing overwhelming.

            I add salt and pepper when the beans are almost cooked.

            1. If you want plain but not bland beans, put salt in the cooking water when you start cooking.

              4 Replies
              1. re: kengk

                It seems like I read over and over again here to NOT salt before cooking. That it will cause the beans to split. I do what hoytoy... does.

                1. re: c oliver

                  The ATK result is that the skins don't split if you soak with brine.

                  1. re: sr44

                    I wasn't talking about soaking in salt water but rather cooking in it. And I reread and saw that it's toughening of the skin rather than splitting.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      I saw that ATK thing and they said to soak the beans in salted water and then cook in fresh, unsalted water for a while and then add salt to the cooking liquid. So I soak in salted water, cook in fresh water and maybe halfway through cooking time I add salt to the water. I want the cooked beans to taste salted, but not salty, if that makes any sense.

              2. I think this depends on what the dish is that you're planning on putting them in. I often add spices to my beans as I cook them. I add cumin to chickpeas (I've heard that it also helps to reduce bloating after) and I cook lentils in chicken stock for more flavour if I'm going to use them in a salad. I too have heard that adding salt before beans fave fully cooked will keep them tough, but I add salt about half way through cooking and I have never had a problem. I'd say add whatever you like, especially if you think it will complement the other ingredients in your recipe. Use stock, spices, bay leaves, whatever.

                1 Reply
                1. re: marzipants

                  This is what I do, too. What I season the beans with depends on the dish to which I'm adding beans: cumin, coriander, garlic if it's an Indian dish; oregano for Mexican, etc. It's fun to experiment. I find that repeating the spices in the beans and then in the dish complements the recipes very well.

                2. The current ATK recommendation is to salt the soaking water (2 T. per quart of water), then drain and rinse before cooking. But in checking this, I came across an interesting blog from Michael Ruhlman which basically says, "Whatever!" http://ruhlman.com/2011/03/how-to-coo...

                  1. Thank you all for your responses. That's just the info I was looking for.

                    sr44, I enjoyed the Ruhlman link. It's nice to know that even the experts don't agree on how to cook beans!

                    biggreenmatt, I just read an article in Cook's Illustrated about why you should buy a pressure cooker. I think I'm convinced!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dmjordan

                      I really liked Ruhlman too. He seems to bring together a lot of diverse ideas. The Rancho Gordo video was pretty funny.

                      That being said, I violated my grandmother's Correct Baked Bean recipe by soaking the beans in a brine, and I thought it was a big improvement. I like to serve them with Anna Thomas's Curried Carrots, another dubious improvement (in her opinion).

                    2. DEFINITELY salt your cooking water if you want to avoid bland beans.

                      Salt does not inhibit softening. Acid does.

                      1. Wow! What a complicated question! First, I consider canned beans bland. Unless they are Ranch Style brand beans.

                        IMHO, any dish involving beans requires beans that are flavorful. As mentioned these should complement the dish being made. A first component is fat. These make beans rich and give depth. The fat can vary. For baked beans, bacon is good. For Mexican style, lard, pork jowl, back fat, etc., are good. For some white bean pasta recipes, Parmesan rind or olive oil is good. For vegetarian, vegetable oil works. I've used chicken fat.

                        A second component is aromatics. The basics are things like carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, etc. IMO, these are best done separately in a broth. These things tend to be over cooked at the end of a bean session, and distract from the texture and taste if not filtered from the beans. This is too difficult to do if cooked simultaneously with the beans, hence my opinion better done beforehand in a strained broth.

                        I'd do these things regardless of the application of the beans. Oh yeah, I salt beforehand and do not soak.

                        For a specific recipe, it is important to realize that beans provide a tasty broth. (This is missing in most canned beans.) you can separate the beans from the broth. I love cooking brown rice using bean broth in place of water. I've even made bread doing the same. Or you can use the broth to add depth to dishes using beans.

                        Beans are very complex. That should not be a deterrent, but an opportunity to explore. But, yes, how you cook beans can affect the final dish. That is a very good thing.

                        I've cooked beans in many ways. I have clay beanpots. Oven, stove, etc. My two favorite ways are pressure cooker and over coals from a fire. The pressure cooker keeps all the flavor inside instead of releasing it into the air, and over coals adds a smokiness I've never experienced elsewhere. But every recipe benefits from a good bean, and IMHO canned beans are not up to the task.