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

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.

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.

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.