Bean cooking guide

Behind every delicious pot of beans is a quality bag of dried beans and a few simple tips.

Bean cooking guide

Behind every delicious pot of beans is a quality bag of dried beans and a few basic tips.

Choosing your beans and how much to cook

1. Choose your beans and how much to cook

For the most flavorful beans, start with beans that were harvested within 1 year, or 2 at most. We recommend cooking the full 1-lb bag, since leftovers can be repurposed in so many ways. Take note!  Beans roughly triple in size once fully cooked.

Picking a cooking method for your beans
Picking a cooking method for your beans
Picking a cooking method for your beans

2. Pick a cooking method

There are 2 basic ways to cook beans. We’re big fans of pressure cooking, which cuts down cooking time by more than 2.5 times– especially on busy weeknights.

The Primary Beans Way

The endless debate that we can finally put an end to. Some bean cooks swear by pre-soaking– but through various tests we’ve found that it’s an unnecessary step that makes bean cooking more time intensive without any extra reward. There’s just one exception: soaking can help old beans (over 2 years) cook more quickly and evenly.

Flavoring your beans

3. Flavor your beans

Adding flavor through combinations of vegetables, herbs, spices, and fat gives you a pot of brothy beans that can stand on its own. Use what you have on hand and take inspiration from the cuisine you’d like to evoke!

Keep vegetable chunks large, garlic cloves whole, and herbs tied together so that you can easily remove them once the beans are done cooking. If you want to add meat, render the fat beforehand and either add the meat to the pot reserve it for serving.

FatAlliumsVeggiesSpicesFresh herbsOther
Olive oilGarlicPeppersBlack pepperCilantroParmesan rind
GheeOnionChilesBay leavesSageKombu
Pancetta/bacon fatLeekCeleryChile flakesRosemarySundried tomato
LardCarrotCuminThyme
CorianderOregano

Primary Beans’ go-to (but optional!) flavorings for brothy beans:

  • Glug of olive oil
  • Several crushed garlic cloves
  • Bay leaf
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • Whole dried chile
  • Small piece of Parm rind

Primary Beans’ go-to (but optional!) flavorings for brothy beans:

Glug of olive oil • several crushed garlic cloves • bay leaf • fresh thyme sprigs • whole dried chile • small piece of Parm rind

Adding water to beans
Adding water to your beans

4. Add water (and be picky about how much)

Thick, full-bodied bean broth is magical. Aim for water to cover beans by ~1-½ inches. In a 6-quart pot, that’s ~5 cups of water for 1 lb of beans. For stovetop cooking, add more water as necessary to keep beans submerged. Feeling extra indulgent?  Sub out water for stock or broth (make sure to adjust salt accordingly).

Adding salt to beans early and liberally

5. Add salt early and liberally

1-1⁄2 tsp of coarse salt per pound is the perfect amount to bring out the beans' full flavor without being too salty. Add salt to the cooking water at the onset, despite what you may have heard otherwise.   

Cooking beans until tender
Cooking beans until tender

6. Cook until tender

Cook beans until tender, not mushy. Always taste several beans to check for doneness. They should be tender without hard spots, and the skins should wrinkle when you blow on them. Specific instructions by cooking method:

Pressure cooker

The Primary Beans Way. Cook on high pressure according to the chart below. Allow to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then finish with a quick release. If you have the time, finish by simmering uncovered to concentrate the broth.

Time (min)Time (min)
Alubia30Cranberry42
Ayocote Blanco40Flor de Junio35
Ayocote Morado 48Mayocoba37
Bayo38Negro28
Cannellini50Ojo de Cabra35
Chickpea38Sangre de Toro32

*Cook times are for unsoaked beans. Last updated 02/2022.

Stovetop

For when you want a more low and slow approach to food and life. Slowly simmer covered or partially covered until tender, usually 1-1⁄2 to 3 hours. Start checking the beans after 1 hour and then every 30 minutes until they are tender. Stir occasionally and add water as needed to keep the beans submerged.

Enjoying beans or saving for later

7. Enjoy or save for later

Voila!  Fish out any aromatics you added, and get ready to plate the beans as they are, use them in a recipe, or go off-script and create something new. The options are endless.

Store beans in their own broth. Cooked beans will keep in a covered container for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Make it fancy!  Optional garnishes balance flavors and textures and create a feast for the eyes.

  • Olive oil, flaky salt, fresh herbs, Greek yogurt,
  • lemon zest and juice, chile flakes, hot sauce,
  • grated Parm, Feta, pesto...and more

Make it fancy!  Optional garnishes balance flavors and textures and create a feast for the eyes.

Olive oil • flaky salt • fresh herbs • Greek yogurt • lemon zest and juice • chile flakes • hot sauce • grated Parm • Feta • pesto ...and more