Cooking dry beans from scratch can be very frustrating. Beans take too long to cook, and sometimes after cooking for many hours, you might be disappointed to find out that they are not as soft as you’d want them.
How can you make baked beans softer?
Different people will give you different answers that range from soaking overnight to a quick soak in warm water an hour before cooking to adding baking soda and salt to your soaking water. Some will even tell you that all the mentioned hacks are unnecessary.
Various people have tried softening beans using these methods and have either ended up disappointed or have had breakthroughs in their cooking. Let’s explore these methods and find out how and why they work.
One would wonder, why bother with all that hustle? Why not buy canned beans rather than spend eternity trying to cook dried beans? Is there a difference between the two?
Compared to cooking dried beans, canned beans offer you the convenience you need, in that it takes less time and effort to prepare. You don’t have to prepare in advance by sorting, soaking, and cooking the beans before adding them to the recipe – all you have to do is reach for a can. However, canned beans are relatively more expensive than dried beans. Dried beans also triple in volume compared to canned beans, meaning they can serve more people at a time.
Dry beans are more nutritious and tastier compared to canned beans. They contain more fiber, protein, potassium, vitamins, iron, and magnesium. They also have less sodium compared to canned beans, giving you more control over your sodium intake.
What Methods Can You Use to Make Your Baked Beans Softer?
Soaking beans enables them to cook faster and more evenly. Soaking also helps to break down complex sugars present in beans, making them easier to digest.
1. Soaking Beans Overnight
To soak your beans overnight, you should:
- Measure and sort your beans to remove rocks, debris, and spoilt and discolored beans
- Rinse the beans
- Put the beans in a pot and add clean water in the ratio of three cups of water to one cup of beans.
- Cover the pot and let the beans soak overnight or for at least six hours
The disadvantage of soaking overnight is that you may wake up to find your beans wrinkled up or split in half, making them look less appealing. People also tend to forget to soak overnight.
2. Quick Soak
This method is founded on the belief that the warmer the water, the faster the beans absorb it. For a quick soak, you need to:
- Follow the first four basic steps
- Put the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil
- Reduce the heat and let the beans simmer for about 10 minutes
- Remove the pot from the stove, cover the pot and let the beans soak for about two hours.
A quick soak is a convenient way to get your beans ready in no time if you forgot to soak them overnight.
3. Soaking Beans in Salted Water
Salt can be used to dispute the hard-to-cook phenomenon, especially when it comes to soaking beans. To soak your beans in salted water:
- Follow the first four basic steps.
- Add a teaspoon of fine salt for every one and a half cup of water used.
- Soak the beans for two hours.
Soaking in water helps to soften the beans’ skin, allows the beans to expand easily during cooking, and enhances their flavor.
4. Adding Baking Soda to Your Soaking Water
Adding a little baking soda to your soaking water will react with your beans and help soften them. Baking soda also helps to de-gas beans. To use baking soda in your soaking process, you should:
- Follow the first four basic steps.
- Add a teaspoon of baking soda for every four cups of water used.
- Stir the dried beans and bring them to a boil.
- Turn off the heat and let the beans soak for about four hours.
Once you are done with soaking:
- Pour your beans into a colander and drain off the soaking liquid.
- Rinse the beans in cool running water.
- Rinse the pot and put the beans back into it.
- Add water to the pot and ensure that it covers the beans completely.
- Cover the pot with a lid and let the beams simmer until they are tender.
At this point, you can include your beans in all your other recipes.
That said, it’s better to cook large amounts of dried beans and store them in the refrigerator for later use. This way, you can save money, have control over your sodium intake, and still get the convenience you want.
- How Long Should Dry Beans Take To Cook? Different varieties of beans will take different amounts of time to cook. Their size and freshness majorly influence their cooking time.
- What Kind of Beans Take Shorter To Cook and Which Ones Take Longer? Soy, pinto, and chickpeas take more than two hours to cook, while lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, and kidneys take approximately an hour to cook.
- Why Are My Beans Still Hard Even After Soaking? Some beans refuse to soften. This may be attributed to their age and as a result of improper storage. High temperatures and humidity result in chemical changes that make it impossible for beans to soften.
- What Ingredients Hinder The Softening Of Beans? Calcium, sugar, and acidic ingredients such as vinegar, tomato sauce, and lemon juice prevent beans from softening.
- How Should I Store My Dried Beans? Dry beans should be stored in airtight containers, away from direct sunlight, and in a cool and dry environment. Beans shouldn’t be stored for more than a year.
- Are beans Toxic? No. Many legumes contain small amounts of toxins. For example, lima beans contain cyanide, while dried beans contain lectins. Cooking beans destroys these toxins, making beans safe for consumption.
- For How Long Can I Store Cooked Beans? If you have leftover beans, you can store them in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for five days, or you can store them in the freezer for a month.