A BIG Pot of Beans

cooked beans

A BIG Pot of Beans

It’s not often that I bother to cook up a big pot of beans. But every time I do, I’m glad I went to the extra effort. Home cooked beans always have a much nicer flavour and texture than canned beans.

The soaking does require a little pre-planning but I highly recommend taking the time because it reduces the presence of chemicals called ‘phytates’ which can cause problems with our digestion. It’s also supposed to reduce any bean-related digestive issues or ‘gassiness’.

While cooking beans on the stove like this is quicker, I’ve recently started using my slow cooker to cook beans and chickpeas and beans. It takes much longer but I love the set and forget aspect of it.

takes: 6 hours soaking + 2-6 hours cooking
makes: heaps

500g (1lb) dried beans or chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 bay leaves, optional

1. Cover beans or chickpeas with plenty of cold water and bicarb soda and soak for at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours.

2. Drain beans and place in a large pot or your slow cooker. Cover generously with clean cold water and add the bay leaf, if using.

3. ON the stove top: Simmer, uncovered until beans / chickpeas are tender – anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

4. OR in the slow cooker: cook on low for about 6 hours or until beans / chickpeas are tender.

5. Drain and either use or store in the fridge / freezer.

Variations for Fun

short on time? – skip the soaking and allow a little longer to cook. Be prepared for extra ‘gassiness’.

no bicarb soda – the bicarb helps soften the skins of the chickpeas / beans and so speeds up the cooking time. If you don’t have any just skip it and be prepared for the cooking time to be a little longer.

other herbs – skip the bay leaf or replace with other flavourings such as thyme, rosemary, sage or black peppercorns.

chickpeas – use dried chickpeas instead of the beans.

flavourings – add a chopped onion, carrot and/or stick of celery.

Usage Suggestions

canned bean replacement – use anywhere that calls for canned beans. As a rule of thumb, 1 drained can = 250g (9oz) cooked beans.

braised beansrecipe over here – NEW!

soups – brilliant in soups like this roast eggplant and white bean soup.

pasta alternative – serve with your favourite pasta sauce or in your favourite pasta bake like this white bean & onion bake.

salads – toss into your favourite salad for an extra protein hit.

Prepare Ahead?

A must! I like to make up a big batch to have on hand for quick meals during the week.

Storage Best Practices

Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or so. Can be frozen for up to 12 months.
Can be stored either in the cooking liquid or drained. I tend to drain before storing.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

beans – pantry.

Problem Solving Guide

too bland? – add in a little more salt.

beans still tough – some beans just don’t want to soften. Blame the beans! Adding a little bicarb soda to the cooking water can help.

beans mushy – means they’ve been overcooked. Not much you can do now except serve them as a puree. Next time watch more closely.

Back to: The Weekend Cook Overview.


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  • I too love home cooked beans. I was told years ago not to use soda because it destroyed some nutrients. Is that not true?

    • Hi George

      Yes there are some vitamins which are destroyed by alkaline environments (like soda). I can’t remember which ones.

      For me, having more palatable beans is worth it compared to losing a few vitamins.

      The protein, fiber and carbohydrate are all still fine 🙂

  • Hi Jules
    Love your site and recipes. I am a veggie and use chickpeas a lot so some really great tips here – thank you.
    I personally hate using bi-carb in cooking as I can discern the flavour however little I use, so I have to cook the chickpeas a lot longer. What I have also found is that their taste is improved exponentially when all the chickpeas skins are removed – a bit of a ass-ache task by hand, however, the flavour is so improved I make myself do it anyway. The flavour has a much lighter, clean quality particularly when deep frying felafel.

    • Wow Jane – I agree with the flavour it is better when you don’t use bicarb – but I have had batches of beans and chickpeas that wouldn’t soften at all until I used some. So sometimes it’s a necessary evil.

      I haven’t ever had the patience to remove the skins – good to know it’s worth it 🙂


  • I make a big pot of mixed beans at least once a week since we eat beans with virtually every meal (“slow carb”). I’m loving eating this way and I’m losing weight while actually eating more food than I was before. One thing I’ve done that helps me in the kitchen is to soak a double pot size and freeze 1/2 of the drained, soaked beans. That way when I realize we are low on beans I can just thaw the ones from the freezer and cook them – don’t have to wait for the soaking time.

    • Great idea Miriam!
      I usually just freeze cooked beans but this is a great alternative. Especially if you have the freezer space

  • Somehow, I can’t seem to make the the timing of soaking time + long cooking work for me (maybe it’s just me). So, I’ll suggest an alternative that I discovered recently and that really solved my ‘bean problem’. I simply put the beans in the slow cooker with plenty of water and turn it on on low. It takes several hours to cook (that’s ok, I just go to work in the meantime), but no need to soak! And, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to increase the gassiness factor of the beans. Of course, the catch is that you need to own a slow cooker, but it’s such a great piece of kitchen equipment that it’s really worth it (at least in my opinion).

    • Thanks for sharing Marina!
      And great to know that the long cooking time seems to be OK from a gassiness perspective. If you do ever think about it, you could always soak and still use the slow cooker for cooking to be doubly sure.

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