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How to Prep and Cook Dry Beans

MIxed dry beansDried beans are cooked and served in many ways–in salads, soups, casseroles, stews, and chilis. Dried beans can be served alone or as a side dish with meat or pasta or rice. Dried beans are commonly boiled and then sometimes baked or refried.

Dried beans are beans whose seeds are dried and shelled after reaching maturity. Before shelling they are often left to mature and then dry on the vine. After shelling, dried beans are usually dried again.

The seeds of dried beans are sometimes called soup beans because these beans are often soaked in water before cooking.

Many bean varieties that are used fresh-shelled are also used dried.

Dried beans are usually harvested in late summer or early autumn.

How to Choose Dry Beans

  • Select dried beans that have been recently harvested and dried.
  • Choose dried beans that have a deep color and are glossy.
  • Avoid dried beans that are faded or dry or shriveled looking or that have begun to wrinkle.
  • Avoid cracked and broken beans.
Beans in glass jar
Store dry beans in a glass jar or covered container until time to use.

How to Store Dry Beans

  • Keep dried beans in a glass jar, covered container, or sealed plastic bag in a dry place.
  • Dried beans can be stored for long periods, more than a year or two.
  • Beans harvested and dried more recently will cook more quickly, be richer in nutrients, and be most flavorful. Try to use the dried beans you have before stocking up with more.
  • Cooked dried beans will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 months. Store beans in their cooking liquid.

How to Prep Dry Beans for Cooking

  1. Remove mature unshelled beans from pods; pods are commonly allowed to dry on the vine. Rinse shelled beans.
  2. Place dried beans in a pot of water and swish them around.
  3. Remove discolored, shriveled, or broken beans as well as pebbles or other debris.
  4. Soak the beans for an hour to overnight depending on the bean variety.
  5. Drain and then place beans in a colander and rinse again.
  6. The beans are now ready for cooking.

Amount. One cup of dried beans will yield about two cups of cooked beans. Allow ½ to 1 cup of cooked beans per person. Allow 1½ to 2 cups of dried beans for four people.

Best Known Dry Beans

Navy beans
Navy beans

Navy beans: also called haricot, pearl haricot bean, Boston bean, white pea bean, and pea bean; mild, creamy texture; absorbs flavors of other ingredients; savory baked bean often cooked in tomato sauce. Prep tip: use three cups of water for each cup of uncooked beans; season beans with bay leaves, herb sprigs, or garlic cloves in the cooking water. Small beans cook in 30 to 40 minutes; large beans cook in 45 to 60 minutes.

Pinto beans
Pinto beans

Pinto beans: maroon-speckled exterior. Prep tip: soak for several hours or overnight before cooking or bring them to the boil in a pan then turn the heat off and soak them for an hour with the lid on before cooking. Cooks in about one hour.

Black beans
Black beans

Black beans: also called Turtle bean; mild, slightly sweet and creamy bean; use in soups, chilis, enchiladas, rice, and salads. Prep tip: soak before cooking to cooking. Cook for up to two hours.

Great Northern beans
Great Northern beans

Great Northern beans: a light bean with nutty flavor; use in soups and purées; smaller than a navy bean. Prep tip: rinse, put in a saucepan, cover with an inch of water, season with salt and bring to a boil; once the water boils, put the lid on the pan and let them soak for an hour off the heat. Cooks in about one hour.

Fava beans
Fava beans

Fava (Broad bean): buttery, sweet and nutty flavor; commonly used fresh; dried beans are often mashed or pureed. Prep tip: cooks faster if split before cooking; splitting also eliminates the need for skinning. Cook skinned beans in 30 minutes, unskinned in one hour.

Kidney beans
Kidney beans

Kidney bean: dark red or white, kidney shape; white kidney bean is called cannellini bean; protein-rich; use in pasta, minestrone soup, and chili con carne. Prep tip: soak overnight then boil to render toxins on outer skin harmless. Cooks in about an hour or slightly longer.

Chickpea, also called garbanzo bean

Chickpea: also called garbanzo bean or Egyptian pea; buttery, starchy in texture and nutty flavor; two types: the larger Kabuli, which is common throughout the Mediterranean, and the desi, which is common in India; use in salads, pasta, and curries. Cooks in about two hours.

Dry Beans Cooking Suggestions

  • Cover dried beans with water before cooking, just enough water to cover the beans. Add additional water during cooking as needed.
  • Dried beans also can be cooked in meat or vegetable stock.
  • Recently harvested beans will cook more quickly than beans that have been stored for a long time.
  • Add salt after beans have been cooked, not before otherwise they will become tough.

Dry Beans Nutrition

  • Beans are rich in vitamins A, B, and C, and also calcium, phosphorus, iron, fiber, and protein.
Beans in the garden

Other Types of Beans

  • Edible pod beans can be eaten fresh seed, pod and all. These beans are often called green or snap beans.
  • Fresh-shelled beans are harvested and shelled when their seeds are full-sized but have not yet dried. These beans are sometimes called shellies or shuckies.

About Dry Beans

  • Beans are legumes whose seeds or pods can be eaten at various stages of maturity and belong to many different plant species. They have been used as food for thousands of years.
  • Beans originated in Southern Mexico and Guatemala and Peru. The cultivation of beans dates to at least 8,000 B.C. There are more than 100 varieties of beans.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Beans

How to Harvest and Store Beans

How to Quick Cook and Serve Snap Beans



Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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Beans dried soaking in water1

Dried Beans: Cooking