October 7, 2009

What's your favorite recipe for...

... dried beans?

I got such great ideas when I asked about zucchini a few months back that I've decided to ask again.

We use quite a bit of canned beans in our house since we eat meatless several times a week, and I think it's about time to switch to dried beans. It will be a whole lot healthier and cheaper than canned.

I know I could just go online or peruse a cookbook, but I have such smart and resourceful readers that I think I'll do better just asking like this.

So first I want to start cooking batches of pinto beans, and when I've got that mastered, I'll try black beans. They'll both be great with a variety of vegetables, quesadillas, tacos, or burritos.

I don't have a pressure cooker, but I do have a crockpot. Ideally, I would rinse this bag of beans and throw them in the crockpot with an onion and a couple of garlic cloves (and cover with water of course) and that would be that. And that just might work. But I'd like to hear from people who've actually done it before I give it a try.

What's your favorite way to make dried beans? It can be stovetop or crockpot, and please include whether or not to soak the beans first, and how long to cook them.

I can't wait to hear your suggestions! Please share in the Comments section.


tammy said...

On each once a week trip to the market, I buy a bag of beans. They're usually a buck or a buck fifty. When the weather gets cool, it's time to simmer a pot of beans, which provides a cozy heat in the house and the comfort of the scent of something cooking! After the beans are finished I scoop some out for dinner and store more in small containers in the freezer. Dried beans are much more economical than canned beans
Here's a Southern Girl's beanology:
LOOK YOUR BEANS- go through the bag and check for dirt and stones. Remember beans are a natural food and must be LOOKED.
RINSE YOUR BEANS BUT DO NOT SOAK-my mama didn't soak hers, my grandma didn't soak hers, so I don't soak mine
IN A BIG POT, heat two tablespoons of bacon drippings or olive oil. You city folk will probably use olive oil *winkwink*
WHEN THE OIL IS HOT pour in beans with enough water to cover plus another pint or so. Cover and bring to boil then cut back heat and simmer. How long beans simmer depends on the type of bean. Pintos take longer than blackeye peas. Consult the package for specific cook time.
KEEP A SIMMERING POT OF WATER on the stove as well. When your beans need moisture, add simmering water to big pot. Adding cold water to the bean pot makes beans tough.
SERVE BEANS WITH a dollop of salsa, green tomato relish, chowchow, cheese, sour cream, or mayo.

Rossie said...

I am a vegetarian and use dried beans all the time. Here are a few things I've learned:

-- SORT YOUR BEANS. EVERYTIME. (parroting Tammy here) There are always a few tiny rocks... which could lead to BIG dental problems.

-- SOAK. I do soak mine. Most of them turn out better for it, and I get to reduce the gassy side effects. My favorite soak isn't overnight; it's to heat the beans/water to boiling, turn off burner, put a lid on the pot and let it sit for 2-4 hours. Then cook as usual.

-- DIFFERENT BEANS NEED DIFFERENT COOK TIMES. Learn your beans. Some take much less time to cook than others and it's really good to know the difference. Pintos are on the lower end of time requirements.

-- COLOR MATTERS. Each color tastes different. My favorites are black, red, and northern, though a recent lima experiment made me wonder why they haven't been on rotation (childhood perhaps?)

-- DELICIOUS. In eating, I use mine as beans (on salads, with rice, etc), refry them (toss in a bay lead and some oil and cook them long time), make a soupy beany mess of deliciousness with tomato sauce, make chilis and soups, dips (hummus, white bean, blk bean), pizza topping (white bean is best), and combine with veggies. I recently even made black bean brownies (much more yummy than it sounds).

Cate said...

I love beans, but I'm intimidated by dried ones--we always use canned. We don't have a crockpot, so I tend to wonder if using dried beans would still be cheaper after paying to heat the stovetop. Also, now that I have an infant to look after, I really appreciate those small conveniences like canned goods! But I'm eager to see what your readers suggest.

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amoeba said...

Hi, I too use dried beans, but I do have a pressure cooker which cuts down on the energy needed to cook them from several hours to around 20 minutes... BIG saving. My mum has had one for the best part of 30 years and it's fabtastic for reducing energy use in cooking.

I usually eschew the overnight cold water soaking in favour of an hour in hot water as I don't think far enough ahead! Then throw them in the pressure cooker with plenty of water (but no more than a third of the pot's capacity) and add bay leaves and thyme... NO salt! Put on the lid and weight, and bring up to pressure for around 15 minutes, which takes about 5 minutes (giving the 20 min total).

If you have access to Freecycle near you I am sure there is someone who has a pressure cooker kicking around unused and in need of a good home such as yours!

Meredith said...

To your recipe I would add jalapeno or other pepper, fresh, dried, canned (mmm chipotles), or ground. If heat isn't your thing smoked paprika is awesome. I really like the smokiness of bacon, but don't often have it on hand, so the paprika helps. Also, carrots add some flavor. Or if I'm going for a different flavor I might add a bay leaf. And/or tomatoes and bell peppers. Or all of the above. Beans are pretty forgiving. I taste the batch 2/3 through cooking and add whatever I think might be missing.

Frugalchick said...

I cook my black beans in the crockpot and it works perfectly. At first, I was putting them on low, but I found when I put them on high and let them sit for only about 4 hours, they turn out softer and a bit mushier, perfect for refried beans.

Betsy Talbot said...

I agree with Rossie's soak method, but I would add that I change out the water after boiling. Mine sits for one hour after I've turned off the boil, and then I drain the beans into a colander, then add fresh water to the pot, put the beans back in, and then add onions, garlic, and a piece of bacon to cook (for pinto beans). A friend of mine also adds brown sugar and those taste good, too.

One of the perks of living at sea level is that your beans cook faster. I discovered this quite by accident after moving from New Mexico, and ever since I cook mine by the stovetop method instead of crockpot.

Angela said...

Wow, I'm overwhelmed at all the great advice and can't wait to make some beans this weekend!

Thank you all so much!

Leigh @ compactbydesign said...


I think your readers have it pretty well covered but I will add the recipe that I found very easy when I first started cooking with beans (a whopping 9 months ago!!)


This recipe worked well as did her follow up for refried beans. I even ventured the cornbread from scratch and it was pretty tasty too! I'll be trying some of your reader recommendations too though!

Karen said...

what is chowchow?

Anonymous said...

my fave is brazilian black beans from the joy of cooking. if you use a crockpot it's good to soak the beans overnight and cook in water, then transfer to a pot where you've sauteed the onions and pepper, then season and boil it down to the consistency you like.

Donna Freedman said...

Do you belong to a warehouse club or know anyone who does? You can get a 10- or 20-pound bag pretty cheaply. (Or even a 50-pound bag.) The other suggestion is to check ethnic markets, which often sell big bags of beans at very good prices.
I'm pretty dull: I just cook them in the slow cooker, without soaking, and turn them into chili later.
Sometimes I cook them with a ham hock, some smoked neck bones or a little diced ham. (Next time you cook a ham, cut some of it up and freeze it for later.)
Or if you go to a company potluck and someone has brought in a ham, ask if you can have the bone and the scraps from the plate. I did this once at a holiday potluck and the person said, "Oh, do you have a dog?" I said, "No, I have a pound of pinto beans and an onion."

Angela said...

Leigh- Thanks. I'll check that out. I'm excited to try all the different recipes.

Karen- I'm not really familiar with chow chow, but it's a kind of relish that uses tomatoes and I think cabbage.

Anonymous- I'm trying your suggestion right now!

Donna- Thanks! If my black beans and pinto beans turn out well, I will definitely start buying them in bulk. Although I think I'll spare my husband the 50-pound bag. I love your response at the potluck- you should do standup. You need a clever name- the frugal feminist?

Thanks again for all your comments!

bugbear said...

The crock pot works perfectly to cook dried unsoaked beans. Put them in before you go to bed and they will be perfectly done when you wake up. I cover the beans to 2x their own depth in water.

AS to my favorite dried bean recipe, it's probably chickpea "dhal", using similar spices to lentil dhal but since I prefer chickpeas to lentils...

pop 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds in hot oil over high heat (cover until the popping sound stops) then turn the heat down slightly and add and
brown 4 to 6 cloves of chopped garlic in the oil. (browning (don't burn it, but get it fairly medium brown colored) garlic is a standard Indian cooking technique, particularly for bean dishes such as dhals).

in a separate pan, brown 1 tablespoon of cumin, or, if you have them ajwan seeds. grind the roasted seeds in a mortar and pestle.

chop up about one inch of ginger.

add 6 to 8 curry leaves.

Take all these spices and put them in the crockpot along with 1 pound of dried chickpeas. Cover with water till the water is 2x the depth of the beans.

Put the crockpot on whatever temperature you want ( I usually use high, but it depends on your crockpot) and go to bed.

The dhal will be ready in the morning. Salt to taste and add about 1/2 to 1 lime's worth of juice to it.

Very delicious and complex-flavored. Add some oil to it to richen in up too.

The traditional oil would be clarified butter (ghee) and you would do all the spice cooking steps in the clarified butter, which has a very high smoke point. However, I have become a vegan so I use olive oil or whatever other kind of oil I have that has a fairly high smoke point.

Smoosh it up with a hand blender or a spoon and serve it over rice or just eat it by itself.

bugbear said...

As long as you do the long overnight soak, cooking dried beans on the stovetop doesn't take that much energy. Just keep them at a low simmer, around 180F, for a couple hours and they will be done perfectly well.

bugbear said...

Note: for classicists

dhal dishes are traditionally prepared in this sequence: the beans are cooked first, then the spices are added to clarified butter (or oil) and browned a bit. This mixture is called "achar" or something like that, and is added to the cooked plain beans at the end of the recipe.

I however add the spices whenever is convenient for me when making this in a crockpot, and that often is at the beginning as opposed to the end of the cooking.

Angela said...

Thanks bugbear! We love Indian food, and I would love to try to make dhal. It sounds delicious, and not that difficult.