Recently, I have been getting a lot of questions about beans. Are they worth making from scratch? Are the dried ones really that much better than the canned version? And my answer is always, yes and yes.
Beans from scratch really, truly taste better. They have a whole lot more flavor because you are able to add so much flavor in the early stages of the cooking process, which adds depth to the flavor profile. What does this mean? It means that the beans are so good you can eat them on their own (yes, I do that) or in salads without tons of dressing (like my lunch below), but it also means that the recipes you normally make with beans will suddenly taste so much better—more complex, interesting, and full.
(My lunch today: Black bean salad with lettuce, grape tomatoes, leftover roasted brussel sprouts, and feta)
They are also better for you because they have far less sodium. The canned versions are packed with salt. This is actually the only thing that gives the sad, canned versions any hope of flavor. But there is so much salt there, that it is a good idea to rinse the beans if you are going to go that route. The other reason is that most of the cans out there have BPA in their linings, which is good to avoid whenever possible.
So, yes, making beans from scratch is 100% worth it. So how do you do it? Well, there are a ton of different ways in a pot, in the oven, in the slow cooker, in the pressure cooker, the list can seem endless. But no matter how you do them, soaking before hand is an essential first step. Why? Because it helps to take out some of the enzymes that our bodies can have trouble digesting. And who wants to deal with digestive issues?? And it also speeds up the cooking time, also a perk.
So here is my recipe for black beans, adapted from Rick Bayless’ recipe in his amazing Mexican Kitchen. I would also highly, highly recommend checking out The Whimpy Vegetarian’s directions on cooking chickpeas. Her recipe rocked my world with its simplicity and AMAZING flavor. The whole family now thinks of chickpeas, on their own, as a wonderful snack. Really.
- 1 pound (about 2 ½ cups) dry beans
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large sprig epazote (optional, but highly recommended) or 1 bay leaf
- Salt to taste (start with about 1 ½ teaspoons)
- Step 1: Soaking (4-24 hours)
- If you have trouble digesting black beans, the first step is to soak them. There is a lot of differing opinion about how long beans should be soaked for, I usually do them for at least 4 hours, but I prefer to just do it overnight or first thing in the morning and then cook them in the evening while I am doing other things.
- To soak them, just place the beans in a bowl. As you place them in the bowl, keep an eye out for little pebbles and pull those out. Cover the beans with water, adding an extra inch or two to make sure there is plenty of water in there. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth and leave it sitting.
- When they are done soaking, drain and rinse them in a colander.
- Step 2: Cooking (about 3 hours of time, much of it unattended)
- Measure the oil into a heavy pot (dutch ovens are great) and set over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, stir often, and cook until deep golden, about 10 minutes. Pour in the beans and add 2 quarts of water. Remove any beans that float. Add the epazote or bay leaf and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. How long the cooking takes will depend on the freshness of the beans. To test readiness, break open a bean and make sure there is no chalkiness to it. Once the beans are done, season with salt and simmer another 10-15 minutes to allow the seasoning to absorb.
- Beans can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days or can be frozen. Defrost and then reheat slowly, stirring often to prevent sticking. You can also use them to make Sweet Potato-Black Bean Burgers.