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The Best Way to Cook Beans - Low and Slow

If you couldn't tell by previous blog posts, I love my beans. They are so affordable, nutritious, and delicious. I've experimented with different ways to cook beans including a pressure cooker, but nothing beats low and slow. They come out more tender yet more in tact. The pressure cooker seems to blow out the skins and create uneven texture whereas low and slow allows the beans to cook evenly. 

My other secret is to add salt upfront while also adding baking soda to the water. The salty water allows the beans to absorb that flavor yet it can make them tougher. That's where the baking soda comes in. Somehow it tenderizes the beans and provides a softer texture. I forget where I learned that trick but it is now a go-to cooking method for me. 

Below is a simple recipe to cook black beans, pinto beans, or any other similar dried beans. The 6 cups of water measurement assumes your pot is covered while cooking, trapping most of the steam. If you cook them uncovered or your lid doesn't trap steam well, then add 2-4 additional cups of water.

Ingredients for 1 lb dried beans
  • 1 lb dried beans
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
Ingredients for 1/2 lb dried beans
  • 1/2 lb dried beans
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • Measure and rinse the beans then add to a cooking pot. I still use the Instant Pot but on the Slow Cook High setting and the lid knob turned to vent.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the salt and baking soda is dissolved. Try to keep the bay leaves whole to make it easier to fish out after the beans are done cooking.
  • Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 2.5 hours. Depending on how rapid they boil, the may be done in as fast as 2 hours or as long as 3 hours. Taste starting at 2 hours until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Once done, remove the bay leaves if used. Drain the beans or keep them in the cooking liquid. They store better in the fridge in the liquid.