How to Soak and Cook Beans

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Knowing how to soak and cook beans, often bought in bulk, is a staple for any traditional foods kitchen.
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Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost bring back the simple foods that nourished us for years, before modern food processing turned health upside down, in “Back to Butter.”
2 to 3 cups (344 to 515 g) SERVINGS


  • 1 cup (250 g) dried black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, blackeyed peas, chickpeas, or white beans
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) activator, such as plain kombucha, whey, or lemon juice (kombucha and whey recipes below)
  • 7 cups (1.65 L) water
  • 1 piece (3 inches, or 7.5 cm) of kombu
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt


  • Put the beans in a glass container with a lid and cover with warm water by 2 inches (5 cm). Stir in the activator, cover, and leave in a warm place 12 to 36 hours. Longer soaking removes additional phytic acid; if soaking longer than 12 hours, however, change the water and activator every 12 hours. After soaking, drain the beans and rinse well in a colander.
  • In a large-size heavy-bottomed pot, add the beans, the 7 cups fresh water, and the kombu. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, skimming off any foam that may have formed on the surface of the water with a large-size flat spoon. Cover the pot and simmer for 1-1/2 to 4 hours; cooking time will depend on the type of bean, size, and age (older beans take longer to cook). When using beans for a salad, stop cooking once tender but before they lose their shape and become mushy.
  • Add sea salt toward the very end of the cooking process. When cooking is complete, remove the kombu (if small pieces of the kombu remain, don’t worry about them). Store the beans in the refrigerator, in their cooking liquid, to use throughout the week. Drain and rinse as needed. Recipe Notes • Even for a single batch, kidney beans and chickpeas benefit from doubling the amount of activator used for soaking because they have a tougher exterior. • Kombu is a type of dried seaweed that imparts additional minerals and flavor into the cooking liquid, along with beneficial enzymes, which help break down the sugars in the bean.

    More from Back to Butter:

    Continuous Brew Kombucha RecipeHow to Make Cream Cheese and WheyHomemade Hummus RecipeRaw Chopped Salad RecipePicnic Potato Salad RecipeFermented Sweet Pickle Relish RecipeSimply Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe
    This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Back to Butter: A Traditional Foods Cookbook—Nourishing Recipes Inspired by Our Ancestors by Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost and published by Fair Winds Press, 2014. Purchase this book from our store: Back to Butter.

A traditional foods diet is usually where those who have tried others with little success or health improvement land in the end. Back to Butter (Fair Winds Press, 2014) offers traditional food dieters a much needed resource without sacrificing their favorite foods. Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost teach how to stock a traditional foods pantry, provide step-by-step kitchen techniques and showcase over 75 mouthwatering recipes. The following excerpt from “Part 1: The Traditional Foods Pantry” will teach you how to soak and cook beans.

Purchase this book from the GRIT store: Back to Butter.

As we’ve said, beans contain properties that actually prevent our bodies from absorbing the minerals in our foods. The good news is that proper preparation, including a long soak and a slow cooking process, neutralizes those destructive properties, restoring beans to their healthy status. If needed, this recipe is easily doubled.

How to Soak and Cook Beans