Should You Soak Dried Beans?

Weíve all been taught to soak dried beans before cooking them. After all, the digestibility of them improves, or at least thatís what weíve been taught. More recently, people have jumped on the donít-soak-your-beans bandwagon. To soak or not to soak? Thatís the fundamental question of cooking legumes. Whatís a cook to do? I thought Iíd add my two cents to the pulse predicament.

ďWhy not just buy canned beans and avoid the whole dilemma altogether?Ē you may be wondering. After all, theyíre convenient and you can just toss them in your meal. Considering that dried beans are roughly one-third the cost of canned beans and are not exposed to can liners that usually contain bisphenol-A, dried beans are certainly more cost-effective and a healthier option. So, while Iím all for adding a BPA-free can of chickpeas to your meal in a pinch to boost its fiber and protein, cooking them yourself can save you money and offer health benefits.

Traditionally, most cooks have been taught the 4-step cooking method which involves:

1) picking out any rocks, twigs or other unwanted material
2) rinsing the beans
3) soaking the beans
4) cooking the beans

But, letís face it: most of us donít have the time for the 4-step cooking method for dried beans.

By some estimates, soaking legumes prior to cooking them reduces the cooking time by about 45 minutes off a typical 2-hour cook time for beans like chickpeas, black beans or kidney beans. In other words, the soaked beans may only require 1 hour and 15 minutes of cook time. Obviously, the reduced energy consumption may not keep a lot of money in your pocket even if you cook and eat beans daily, but it may still save you a bit.

Many people compare the resulting texture and structure of soaked and unsoaked beans that have been cooked for two hours and claim that the unsoaked beans retain their shape better. Well, of course they do. If soaking beans reduces their cook time and you cook them the same amount as unsoaked beans, the soaked beans will lose their shape because they donít require that much cook time and are actually overcooked.

It is my personal observation as a bean cooker and eater for decades that soaked beans tend to cook more evenly. This means you can avoid the occasional chewy, undercooked beans that often result when beans are cooked without advance soaking.

Having said that, I regularly cook beans without soaking them. Itís rare that Iíve thought about the often-dreaded ďwhatís for dinner?Ē question more than an hour or so prior to dinner time, so I really donít have time to start soaking beans and then cooking them unless Iíd like a late-night dinner. So, when Iím in a pinch I skip the soaking and start cooking legumes right away.

Iíve also heard some people say that the taste is better in beans that have not been soaked, which I disagree with. As a long-time professional recipe developer, Iíd like to say that my palette is fairly good, but the taste difference between soaked and unsoaked beans is negligible.

However, on days when Iím organized and planning the next dayís meals, I soak beans. And, hereís why: Legumes like any type of seed contain enzyme inhibitors. Thatís Natureís way of preventing seeds from sprouting until they are in appropriate growing conditions. Soaking beans breaks down these enzyme inhibitors, making the legumes easier to digest, contrary to what some cooks and bloggers may be saying. Yes, you will lose some of the water-soluble nutrients like B-complex vitamins in the soak water, but you were going to lose some of these nutrients in the cook water as well.

While these same cooks and bloggers may claim that soaking beans offers no digestive advantage, the reality is quite the opposite. The outer coating of legumes contains compounds known as oligosaccharides, which are basically starches that need to be broken down into sugars before the body can use the natural sugars as energy. Without soaking beans, these oligosaccharides may not be fully broken down by the time they reach your intestines. When bacteria in your intestines digest them, they release gases that can cause bloating and flatulence. In other words, soaking beans ahead of cooking them can help reduce the amount of bloating and flatulence they may cause when you eat them. Soaking beans ahead of time improves their digestibility.

But, hereís what I have told my nutritional clients for years: ďuse the beans that you will actually eat.Ē In other words, if youíll eat more beans by cooking them without soaking them first, then do that. If you need to occasionally dump a can of beans into your favorite soup, stew or curry, then do that. Eating more beans offers plentiful health benefits because they regulate the release of sugars into the bloodstream, which results in better weight management, balanced moods and consistent energy. So, soak beans when you can. If you donít have time then cook beans whenever you can. And, if you are in a pinch open a BPA-free can of beans to add to your meal.

Related Stories:

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter Worldís Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, president of ScentsationalWellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds:† The 4-Week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier Brain.

71 comments

Marie W
Marie W13 days ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Jack Y
Jack Y3 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jack Y
Jack Y3 months ago

thanks

SEND
John J
John J3 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
John J
John J3 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Brad H
Brad H6 months ago

thanks

SEND
Elaine W
Elaine W6 months ago

Freedom of choice. ;)

SEND
Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

SEND
Mia G
Past Member 6 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Debra Tate
Debra Tate6 months ago

Thank you.

SEND