Eating healthy is expensive.
Cooking food from scratch is so time-consuming.
I don’t know how to cook my own beans; it’s really hard!
I don’t like beans. Beans are really boring.
I’ve heard all the excuses before. And believe me, I used to be there. Eating beans? That sounded like a punishment. But, once you learn how to cook beans and realize that it’s really easy to make them taste absolutely delicious, I promise you’ll start making them from scratch.
First, let’s start with why I love beans. Beans are a fabulous source of vegetarian protein and fiber. And as a bonus, beans are incredibly affordable. If you buy beans in the bulk section, organic beans usually cost $1.29 – $1.99 per pound, depending on the type of bean. A pound of beans could easily feed a family for several meals so making beans a staple in your household will lower grocery bills compared to using other sources of protein.
Many people complain about having digestive problems or gas after eating beans and so I wanted to share some of the best ways I have found to make beans more digestible:
- Chew beans thoroughly. Slowing down and chewing properly is always important (no matter what you are eating), but this is especially helpful if beans tend to give you extra trouble.
- Take digestive enzymes with your meal. Beano, anyone?
- Add fennel or a little apple cider vinegar to the beans during the last twenty minutes of cooking to aid in digestion.
- Experiment with different combinations of food. (Legumes tend to combine best with green or non-starchy vegetables.)
- Experiment with different beans. Smaller beans tend to be easier to digest (e.g. adzuki, lentils, mung beans, and peas). Pinto, kidney, navy, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, and black beans tend to be a little harder to digest. And soybeans tend to give folks the most digestive problems.
- Add kombu during cooking to aid in digestion.
- Sprout your beans before cooking.
Start by purchasing dry beans (canned beans will not work for sprouting). I usually purchase beans in bulk from my local health food store and most stores should carry dry beans in bags or in bulk. When purchasing legumes in the bulk section, make sure the bins are covered and that the store has good product turnover (this ensures maximum freshness). You’ll also want to look through the beans and make sure there is no moisture damage and that they are whole (although it is okay if a few are cracked). This method will work on any bean of your choice.
Soak your beans for at least 8 hours or overnight. Add the beans to a large glass container (like a pyrex dish or large glass bowl) and cover with water that is several inches higher than the beans. You’ll want to make sure that the container is large enough that the beans will have room to expand as they soak up the water. After soaking, drain the beans and rinse them thoroughly until the water runs clear.
Add the beans to a colander and then let them sit and sprout, making sure to rinse them every 8 – 12 hours. I recommend keeping a plate underneath the colander to catch any water and covering the colander with a towel to keep any dust out while the legumes are sprouting. The length of time for sprouting will depend on the temperate in your home. In Seattle winters, it usually takes a full 24 hours for me to see even a tiny sprout, but in summer, it can be as quick at 12 hours. As soon as you start to see a small sprout or “tail,” your beans are ready for cooking.
I tend to use a lot of beans in my kitchen and would find myself having to make batches of beans each week, which took extra time. Awhile back I invested in a good set of jars and then began sprouting and cooking giant batches of beans and freezing the extras (just be sure to leave room in the jar to allow for expansion). This ensured that I always had “ready to use” beans handy and saved a lot of money because they are much cheaper than canned. If you prefer to use canned beans, I recommend the Eden Organic brand because they are cooked in kombu (and also come in BPA-free cans!)
You can sprout lentils in a similar method (see my full sprouted lentil tutorial here), but for smaller beans (like mung beans) it might be easier to use the jar method (see my full mung bean sprout tutorial here).
And I just want to say a final word here about food safety. I’ve never had any issues with mold or discoloration of my beans during sprouting, but if you ever feel that something is questionable or smells or looks off, please trust your gut and don’t eat it.
So now that you know how to sprout your own beans, what are you going to be making?
- 1 pound beans (about 2.5 cups uncooked, yields 6 cups cooked)
- 1 strip kombu
- Spices of your choice
- Soak the beans for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain the soaking water.
- Add the beans to a colander and then let them sit and sprout, making sure to rinse them every 8 - 12 hours. Once the beans are sprouted, they are ready for cooking.
- Add the kombu and beans to a large stock pot. Cover with double the amount of water. (This doesn't have to be an exact science because any extra water will be drained at the end.)
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a very slow simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour, or until beans are cooked.
- The beans are done when they are chewable, but not mushy. If there is any extra water, drain from the pot and remove your kombu. Season with spices of your choice.
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