Technique: Cooked Beans

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Yield: 2 1/2 – 3 cups of beans

Beans are a wonderfully healthy protein source when properly prepared. When ill prepared, they wreak havoc on our digestion. We’ve all heard our fair share of bean jokes, I’m sure. But, there’s a more important reason than simply reducing a gassy stomach for properly preparing beans. Beans contain phytic acid, which is indigestible for human beings who only have one stomach to breakdown food. Phytic acid prevents the absorption of phosphorus, which is bound within the phytic acid, but it also binds with other minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable, too! Since it would be hard to grown another stomach, we will have to settle with a long soaking process, which neutralizes that pesky phytic acid. For more information, I’d like to direct you to the source of my information and a huge inspiration in my kitchen, The Weston A. Price Foundation.

1 cup dried black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas or white beans
warm filtered water to cover beans
2 tbsp whey or lemon juice
7 cups filtered water
1 3″ piece of kombu *
2 tsp sea salt


Put beans in a large pot and cover with warm water by 2″. Stir in whey or lemon juice, cover and leave in a warm place 12 – 36 hours. Longer soaking removes additional phytic acid from the bean. If soaking longer than 12 hours, change water and whey/lemon juice every 12 hours.

After soaking, drain beans and rinse well. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add beans, 7 cups water and kombu. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. If any foam has formed on the surface of the water, skim and discard with a large flat spoon. Then cover the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 – 4 hours, depending upon the type of bean and final preparation. Smaller beans will generally cook more quickly. When using beans for a salad, stop cooking beans before they lose their shape and become mushy. Before the last 30 minutes of cook time, add 2 tsp sea salt.

When cooking is complete, remove kombu. If small pieces of the kombu remain, no problem. Store beans in the refrigerator in the cooking liquid to use throughout the week. Drain and rinse, as needed.

* Kombu is a seaweed that imparts a boat-load of minerals and flavor into the cooking liquid, along with beneficial enzymes which help break down the sugars of the bean.


  • Stacie

    I have always soaked my beans. The last batch I purchased was through a company that specializes in heirloom varieties and I was told not to soak them more than 3-6 hours because they are less than a year old vs. the dried beans purchased in the store can be 2+ yrs old and that I could actually “oversoak” them. At the time, I didn’t think to ask what happens if they are oversoaked but wondered if you have heard of this. On a similar note, if I buy them fresh, would they still need to be soaked or is there not an issue with the phytic acid in fresh beans?

    June 14, 2011
    • Molly Chester

      HI Stacie, I have heard differing opinions about soaking fresh beans. I posted about it on my facebook to hear what others think. I’m leaning towards yes, that it is best to soak, but we’ll see what everyone says. I’ve done both in my kitchen. As for over-soaking, I’ve never heard of that, and I would probably still soak them at least overnight in whey. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends soaking many things for several days in her Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, so I’d definitely still soak at least overnight. Unless you are using them for a bean salad or something, then you might choose function over health b/c the long soak may make them softer. Hope that helps!

      June 14, 2011
  • Roula

    Does fresh beans that are not yet dried contain also phytic acid.

    August 24, 2011
    • Molly Chester

      I have heard mixed reviews about fresh beans. I tend to soak them anyway. Same with Limas. However sometimes I just got home from the market, and I want those fresh beans for dinner, in that case – I just cook them up and enjoy the freshness!

      September 14, 2011
  • Cheryl

    Help! I soaked my great northerns for 36 hours, changed water every 12 and used lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for my acid. The beans have cooked for 8 hours over the last 2 days and they are still tough!! I added no salt or other seasoning, just some onion and dried thyme to the cooking liquid. What did I do wrong? These are organic beans I purchased from Sprouts.
    Thanks in advance.

    June 4, 2014
    • Molly Chester

      I have had this happen to me before, too, and I am not sure why. I will look into it and let you know, if I can figure it out!

      June 9, 2014
    • Anonymous

      Don’t add lemon juice or vinegars until after the beans have been cooked. Adding those items before cooking greatly extends the cooking time. Source: cooking professionally for 25 years.

      November 28, 2014
  • Celine

    Hi Cheryl,

    I do not recommend soaking beans with vinegar or lemon juice. I always soak beans without these 2 ingredients above. I tried cooking the beans, and add a dash of vinegar after 1 hour of simmering. After cooking for another hour, I find the beans are not soft compared to cooking without vinegar.

    From my observation, I feel vinegar prevents the beans from softening. Try soaking without the vinegar and see if the beans softens during cooking. Do add some salt during cooking.

    September 30, 2014

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