The Basics of Cooking Beans

I’m pushing beans again because I’m trying really hard to get you to eat them several times a week.  Although I’m not denying that canned beans are fast, easy, and nutrient-dense, cooking dried beans is definitely worth the little bit of extra effort. The texture and flavor are so different from canned beans, plus you get the delicious bean broth for soups and stews. Cooking a pot of beans on the weekend while I’m doing other things around the house is so easy. Just add some vegetables and herbs to a large pot, add water and the beans and in an hour or two, you’ve got deliciously creamy, flavorful beans that can be eaten as is or used in lots of different dishes.

When purchasing dried beans, you can certainly buy them at any supermarket but for fresher beans and a greater variety of beans, I suggest buying them online from this company that specializes in Heirloom beans, Rancho Gordo. If beans are sitting on the grocery shelf or in your pantry too long, they can get very hard, making it almost impossible to soften them no matter how long you cook them. Give this easy method of cooking dried beans a try and then use some of them to make the delicious toast with sauteed greens and eggs highlighted at the end of this post.

Here’s a link to a virtual cooking class I presented on cooking with beans. Ignore the first few seconds, it’s me setting up the camera. Athens Nutrition Cooking with Beans

Cooking with Beans


1 pound dried beans, rinsed. Cover beans with water (at least 2 inches above the beans). Soak for 4-6 hours for Rancho Gordo beans (if using store-bought dried beans, soak overnight). If you don’t presoak, just extend the cooking time.

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large carrots, cut into 2″ chunks

1 large onion, quartered

2 stalks celery, cut into 2″ chunks

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 of a lemon

1 bay leaf

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme

1 teaspoon Kosher salt


In a large Dutch oven, add olive oil and saute carrots, onion, celery, garlic, and 1/2 lemon for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to brown. Add bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and soaked and drained beans. Stir and saute for a minute. Cover with water, making sure beans are covered by at least one inch of water. Bring to a hard boil. Cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Keep the lid of the pot slightly ajar (I use a wooden spoon). Slow and low cooking is best. When beans begin to soften, add the salt. Beans will take anywhere from 1-3 hours to cook depending on the type of bean and if and how long they were soaked. After an hour of cooking, check them occasionally to see if they are done.

Note: Do not add acids (tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice) until the beans are fully cooked or beans will become tough.

Menu Ideas For Eating Your Beans

  1. Beans and Greens on Toast (pictured). Slice a thick piece of crusty whole-grain bread. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a small non-stick pan. Over medium heat, add the bread slice to the pan and toast on both sides. Remove bread from the pan and place the bread on a plate. In the same pan, quickly saute a few handfuls of spinach, chopped kale, or Swiss chard. Remove from pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray. Scramble or fry an egg. To assemble, top the toast with 1/2 cup cooked beans, top the beans with the greens, and then the egg. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and hot sauce if desired.
  2. Lemon Shrimp and Garlic. Saute 1 pound of shrimp with 2 minced cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil until shrimp is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Add juice from ½ a lemon, pinch of salt and pepper, ¼ cup chopped basil or parsley.  Spoon cooked beans into a bowl and top with shrimp. Serves 4.
  3. Spinach, Tomato, and Basil. In a bowl, stir 4 cups of spinach, 1 pint of chopped cherry tomatoes, ¼ cup chopped basil, salt, and pepper. Add ½ of the bean mixture to the spinach. Toss gently. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and shredded parmesan cheese.
  4. Bean and Tomato Soup. Add 1 cup of beans to 1 container (20 ounces) of tomato soup (try reduced-sodium Imagine or Pacific brands).

Some of these recipe ideas are inspired by Alison Roman’s, A Newsletter, Brothy Beans.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tammie Calabrese says:

    Grateful for the Matusky Nutrition Team. Could not wait for the weekend to make these beans. Learning to eat and cook in increasingly healthy ways. Ms. Hock’s support for step by step, mindful eating, tools to evaluate improvement worked for me. The Big Bang approach and give up everything is not necessary. Healthy eating does not need to be an added chore. Small tweaks are doing something and effective while dealing with the pandemic. Stay well!


    1. Judy Matusky says:

      Hi Tammie,
      Thank you for your comment. I hope you are enjoying your beans in lots of delicious ways! I congratulate you on your success in achieving small goals! These will all lead to long-lasting change! Also, we are hosting a free Zoom cooking class on cooking with beans on Wed. 3/24 at 12 pm. I can send you the link if you’re interested. Best to you! Judy


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