This month on TNB, we’re going Back to Basics! All month long, I’m sharing recipes and techniques for how to make pantry staples healthier and from scratch. First up, how to cook dried beans. Plus, a flavor-packed recipe for using up freshly-cooked beans.
As someone who eats primarily plants, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils) are one of my main sources of protein. They’re super versatile, cheap, and delicious, and I can happily eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Although I’m totally cool with canned beans, I do prefer to cook them from dried when I have the time. Canned beans tend to be higher in sodium and just not as tasty. I also don’t love that they just hang out in a can for god-knows-how-long. And I’m not thrilled about the amount of waste aluminum cans add to the world, even if they are recycled.
To Soak or Not to Soak
Dried beans should be soaked for at least eight hours, or overnight, before cooking. Soaking beans helps break down the oligosaccharides – complex sugars in beans that can cause, umm… you know, gas – making them easier to digest.
Soaking also reduces beans’ phytic acid content – a so-called “antinutrient” found in many beans and grains that can prevent our bodies from absorbing certain minerals from those very beans and grains.
Lastly, soaking beans also speeds up their cooking time, helps them keep their shape and cook more evenly, and helps prevent their skins from splitting.
Beans’ cooking time can vary based on their age. The older the beans, the longer they’ll take. There’s no way to really know exactly how long until you are actually cooking and tasting them as you go. I recommend starting to taste after about 30 minutes of simmering. Sometimes they take just 40 minutes, other times twice as long.
Be sure to simmer beans very gently – if they are boiling too rapidly, their skins will split.
Beans can go from creamy to overcooked pretty quickly, so pay closer attention toward the end. The good news is that overcooked beans are perfect for making pureed, refried, and brothy beans.
The broth that’s created while cooking beans is really good stuff – especially if you add aromatics like onion, garlic, herbs, and/or spices to the water. It gives these beans a saucy, creamy, refried-ish texture (hence the term “brothy beans”) and well-rounded flavor. You can also use it as a base for a bean soup instead of vegetable broth.
How to Serve These Brothy Beans
The concept for these brothy pinto beans is super simple. Cook up a pot of beans, drain them, and reserve some of the broth. Then saute an onion with aromatics, add the beans and their broth, and mash them into a saucy texture. Finish with a generous heap of fresh herbs.
These brothy beans are rich, saucy, and garlicky, hitting you with herby freshness and citrusy tang with each bite. I like to serve them with garlic-rubbed sourdough toast, roasted potatoes, and/or a crunchy cabbage-fennel salad. You can also pile them on nachos, into tacos and burritos, or slather them on tostadas.Print
These brothy beans are rich, saucy, and garlicky, hitting you with herby freshness with each bite.
- 1 pound pinto beans, soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight
- 4 medium garlic cloves, 1 halved and 3 minced
- 1 dried bay leaf
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 scallions, sliced (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Place in a large pot and add enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches, along with the halved garlic clove, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- Cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a bare simmer and cook the beans with the lid ajar until soft and creamy, about 45 minutes to an hour. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add a teaspoon more salt to the beans.
- Reserve about 4 cups of the bean cooking water and drain the beans; set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large high-sided pan over medium heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Then add the minced garlic, paprika, cumin, and pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add half of the beans to the skillet, along with 1 cup of the reserved bean broth. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they’re broken up. Then add the remaining beans and 2 cups of the bean broth, the lemon juice, and black pepper. Stir to combine, cover tightly with a lid, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the beans are starting to dry out, add more of the broth.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the cilantro and scallions. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Serving Size: 1/8 of the recipe
- Calories: 250
- Carbohydrates: 36.8 g
- Fiber: 9.1 g
- Protein: 12.3 g
Keywords: beans, refried beans, cilantro, scallions