Please stop buying beans in a can!! Honestly, they’re filled with sugar and lots of other stuff that you don’t need. Beans are super cheap and super easy to make – plus you can flavour them however you like, and if you love to cook with beans you can prepare a large batch on the weekend and use them up during the week! They also freeze really well – all you have to do is put them in a container once they’re cool and dry and they’ll last you for a long time!
Since I moved to the UK I started to see beans (particularly baked beans) literally everywhere. On “jacket potatoes” (or roasted potatoes for the rest of us), on toast, in the middle of your brunch dish, on the side of a roast… They’re just such a staple here. And I personally find them – how to put this – not very appetizing. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating beans and I’m always trying to think of new ways to incorporate them to my diet, but just the look and the smell of whatever is in those cans just doesn’t do it for me.
So, if beans are a part of your regular diet and you think that maybe you could use a bit less sugar and other crap in your life, give these a try and see how it goes! I would also like to welcome some feedback if you’re a bean lover that just doesn’t like making them from scratch – why is that? What is it about the canned ones that you prefer? Let’s talk about it!!
Before you start:
- Soak your beans overnight – read below
- 1 cup of dried beans of your choice – pinto beans, butter beans, chickpeas, black beans, black eyed peas, cannellini beans, kidney beans… you name it!
- Lots of water (no specific amounts)
- Salt to taste (about a tbsp)
- Stock cube or similar (I like to use beef)
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Flavorings / aromatics of your choice – onion, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme…
- Firstly, you need to soak your beans for a good amount of time. Usually takes a minimum of 6-8h but I recommend doing it overnight. This is so that your beans cook faster but also more evenly. Just get a bowl, add your beans and cover with lots of water (the beans will grow in size so make sure there is enough water to keep them soaked throughout).
NOTE: the only beans that don’t need soaking are lentils and split peas (they’re not really beans anyways but you know what I mean). Any other kind of bean you want to soak for a while.
- The next day drain your beans and give them a good rinse – I found this helps a bit with the “flatulence” issue.
- Put your soaked and rinsed beans in a large pot and cover with water. There’s no specific amount, just think that they need to soak up all that water and that they’re going to be cooking for a looong time so make sure there’s enough water so you won’t run out.
- Add in your flavourings if you choose to do so – it’s a good time to add your onion, garlic, bay leaf etc. and I definitely recommend using a stock cube but you don’t have to! I also like to add a drizzle of olive oil – mainly for the flavor – but you also don’t have to.
- Bring up to a simmer / gentle boil – don’t get this to a rolling boil as it will break the beans’ skin and they will probably turn to mush. In the first few minutes of boiling, your water will develop a layer of “foam” on the top. I’ve never really understood what this is but what I was always told as a kid is that it’s just some air trapped under the beans’ skin and that while it’s not harmful, it may contribute to the bloating and discomfort that usually goes with beans – so I’ve always been told to skim this off. You don’t have to but it’s something I’m used to doing.
- Cover your pot with a lid and keep cooking them on low heat – low and slow is definitely the way to go!
- Salt your water about halfway through (at about the 1-1.5h mark), when the beans are mostly cooked but still have a bite to them. This is something that I’ve heard lots about but I find that if you add the salt too soon, it takes longer for the interior of the bean to become tender. If you add it too late then the beans won’t be fully seasoned.
- Continue to cook your beans until they’re tender throughout but not mushy. How long this takes really depends on how much you soaked your beans, how large they are, how strong your boil is (simmer vs boil) and probably a bunch more things. As a general rule most dried beans take about 1.5-2h to fully cook through.
- Once they’re fully cooked, turn the heat off and let them sit in the warm water, covered, for about 15-20min. This is not absolutely necessary but I have also found that doing this makes a huge difference when it comes to getting all that seasoning soaked into the beans.
- Drain your beans and discard your flavourings. Let them cool down and that’s it! All ready to eat – add to salads, stews, curries… whatever you like!
NOTE: 1 cup of dried chickpeas gave me a total of 4 cups when cooked. Obviously this will vary depending on the beans you’re using but just for reference.
And that’s all! Isn’t that super simple?? And also super customizable – you can flavour your water however you like, or leave it plain! You can also mix a bunch of different beans and cook them all at once – just keep in mind their cooking times. And if you’re interested in finding different ways to use beans I’ll be sharing some recipes in upcoming posts and also other ways of preparing them so that they become even more versatile!
I hope that you give this recipe a try, it really is so much better for you than whatever comes in the can. And yes, it’s not quite as convenient as just opening a can but honestly the amount of effort required is so little! It’s totally worth it. Plus it’s a lot cheaper too – imagine how much more you can get for a fraction of the price!
Thanks for reading me today and I hope you enjoyed this little tip! Hope to see you again soon 🙂