Our Healthy Cook’s tips for cooking dried beans from scratch

The instructions in this post were developed by Kate Sherwood, The Healthy Cook. Have a comment, question, or idea? Email Kate at healthycook@cspinet.org.

Many of our healthy recipes call for unsalted canned beans. But you can also start with your own beans cooked from scratch. Just keep in mind that a 15-ounce can of beans contains about 1½–1¾ cups of cooked beans.

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Cooking dry beans and lentils

Note: 1 pound of dry beans (about 2½ cups) makes 6–8 cups of cooked beans. 

  • Spread the beans out on a rimmed baking pan. Remove and discard any small pebbles or bits of debris.
  • Rinse and drain the beans.
  • Soaking: You can cook beans without soaking, but soaking them overnight in cold water cuts the cooking time. (Discard the soaking water and use fresh water when you cook them.) 
  • In a large pot, add the beans and any aromatics you like—a bay leaf or two, a few thyme sprigs, a couple cloves of garlic—and enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. 
  • Over high heat, bring the pot to a full boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
  • Lower to a gentle simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 45–75 minutes (about 15–25 minutes for lentils). 
  • Remove the herbs and garlic. Store the beans in their cooking liquid for up to a week in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.

Tips for using lentils

Cook by color, from least to most firm:

  • Use red lentils in a curry.
  • Brown lentils are best for soup or stew.
  • Black and French green lentils hold their shape, so they’re great for salads or replacing a starchy side dish.
Photo: Kate Sherwood/CSPI.

Looking for bean recipes?

Eat more beans. Giving advice is easy. Figuring out what to do is another thing, entirely. That’s where Beans & Lentils comes in. In the first of The Healthy Cook’s Kitchen series, chef Kate Sherwood shares nine of her favorite legume recipes—from Spicy Black Bean & Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes to Warm Black Lentils in Tomato-Garlic Sauce. The Italian Bean & Vegetable Soup alone is worth the price of admission. Click here to order a print or digital copy. (24 pages, 5½ x 8½″, $5)