Let’s just be clear about one thing: dried legumes are not canned legumes that someone has dried out.
Farmers let legumes dry before they harvest them, so they don’t rot when they’re stored. Canned legumes on the other hand, are actually cooked legumes and that’s why they’re ready to eat.
Why the fuck would I want to cook them if I can buy them cooked?
- They are much cheaper. When you buy dry legumes even though the price per kilogram may be higher, since they double or triple in size, you end up saving a lot.
- They’re more sustainable. You can buy them in bulk and avoid generating more waste or at least you’ll use less packaging for the same amount of beans. Which, if you care about the planet you eat from, it’s pretty important.
- Oh the flavour! They taste better, but adding herbs, spices and other things while you cook them will blow away all the canned legumes ever.
- You get more of what you buy. When you cook them you can keep the water you’ve used to add flavour or use in other dishes.
- You can buy better quality. Since you’re saving a lot by buying dried legumes, why not investing that in better quality or organic legumes?
So what’s the magic process that legumes undergo to get from dried to edible?
- Soaking: the legumes absorb water and start to soften, this reduces the cooking time and facilitates an even cooking
- Cooking: the legumes get soft and ready to eat
Here’s a more detailed step-by-step explanation:
- Soak them in abundant salt water as long as they need*. They’ll triple in size, so abundant means abundant!
- Discard that water and fill a big pot with abundant fresh water
- Add the legumes, bring to a boil and simmer them until you like their texture*
*DON’T PANIC! I’ve added a recommended soaking and cooking time for most legumes down below.
Types of legumes and recommended times
Don’t overthink it.
Legumes are very forgiving, and since you’re probably not the chef of a great restaurant, don’t obsess with the soaking and boiling times.
I’ve soaked legumes for more than 24h and they end up being delicious as well. I’ve cooked the same legume for 40 minutes and for 70 minutes and yeah, they were different, but both were perfectly edible. You’ll only notice if you fall short on the times, because if you soak chickpeas for one hour and cook them for 35 minutes you’ll have a delicious bowl of small pebbles to enjoy.
|Soaking time:||4 – 8h (overnight)|
|Cooking time:||1 hour|
There are many types of beans but the cooking time is more or less the same for all, nevertheless, as a rule of thumb, you can vary the soaking time depending on their size:
- Small beans (adzuki, black-eyed pea, cannellini, small white, etc): go for a minimum of 4 hours of soaking time but they don’t need as much as the bigger ones
- Bigger beans (kidney, red, pinto, lima, etc): soak them for 8 hours or overnight
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans
|Soaking time:||8 – 12h (overnight)|
|Cooking time:||1 hour|
Chickpeas are a bit delicate during cooking, so make sure that the water never stops boiling once it starts. So, if you’re cooking them and haven’t added abundant water 😒, boil some water on a different pot and then add it to the main one.
|Cooking time:||15 – 40 minutes|
Cooking times vary significantly in the case of lentils so it’s important to adapt to the specific variety:
- Brown and green lentils: 35 – 40 minutes
- Puy lentils: 20 – 25 minutes
- Red and yellow lentils: 15 – 20 minutes
As you can see, they don’t need soaking, nevertheless, rinse them before cooking to remove any debris or dirt.
Note that red and yellow lentils will loose their shape -which makes them ideal for stews and soups- while the other types of lentils will hold their shape as long as you don’t break them -which is great for salads, bowls, rices, etc.
|Cooking time:||1 hour|
Split peas are similar to lentils but they need more time to cook because of their hardness.
|Soaking time:||12 h (overnight +)|
|Cooking time:||3 hours|
Soybeans are tough! And they need more soaking and cooking time than any other legume. Usually soaking them overnight is not enough, so make sure to get close or over 12 h of soaking.
And boiling… yeah, you gotta be patient! Just bring to a boil, put a lid on, and let it simmer while you go do something else for 3 hours. And remember that cooking a large batch and freezing the extra beans is always a good idea.
They’re a legume too! (at least technically). Nevertheless we don’t treat them like a legume in the kitchen but as a nut.
In case you’re actually wondering what to do with peanuts you can eat them raw or toast them in the oven. And yes, this part is mostly useless but hey, it took you like 20 seconds to read and now you have a new topic to start a conversation in an awkward situation.
|Soaking time||Cooking time|
|Beans||4 – 8 h (overnight)||1 hour|
|Chickpeas||8 – 12 h (overnight)||1 hour|
|Lentils||No soaking||15 – 40 minutes|
|Split peas||No soaking||1 hour|
|Soybeans||12 h (overnight +)||3 hours|
Tips, tricks & FAQ
- Can I freeze them?
Yes and it's a good idea. Since they take long to cook, you can cook them in big batches and freeze any leftovers so you'll have them ready for the next time.
- When is the best time to add salt?
During the soaking process. Adding salt to the soaking water will make the skin more tender and keep the interior creamy.
- Should I do the boiling in the soaking water or use fresh?
It's up to you:
– Discarding it will mean less farting but less flavour.*
– Reusing it will mean full flavour but more farting.
*In the end it's almost unnoticeable the amount of flavour that you loose, so I always discard it and use fresh water to cook them.
- How can I make my legumes taste better?
Be creative! You can add almost anything to the water when you're boiling them: herbs, spices, vegetables, leaves, etc. They'll add a lot of flavour and taste amazingly well.
- Can I reuse the water after boiling the legumes?
Absolutely. Keep it in the fridge and use it to make sauces, cook vegetables, make soup, prepare rice, etc.
This “water” is sometimes refered to as aquafava and it has very similar properties to egg whites, so it's a great replacement for vegans and for people who want to avoid eating eggs.
- What are the most important things when cooking dried legumes?
– Use abundant water during soaking and cooking
– Oversoaking is better than undersoaking
– Taste them while they're cooking to see if you like the texture or not
- Can I skip the soaking? What if I don't have time or I'm in a hurry?
Three options here:
1. Use a legume that doesn't require soaking
2. Go and get precooked legumes
3. Use this quick soaking method to reduce soaking time to 1 hour:
– Add the legumes to a pot and bring it to a boil
– Remove the pot from the heat and cover it with a lid
– Let it cool down for 1 hour, rinse the legumes and proceed to cooking