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Simply Perfect Pot of Beans

Simply Perfect Pot of Beans 12.000

(Joe Yonan/The Washington Post)

Weeknight Vegetarian Apr 5, 2020

Here are three easy methods — stove top, oven and pressure cooker — that result in a flavorful pot of beans you can use in all sorts of recipes: soups, salads, tacos, dips and more. The timing will vary widely and depends on the variety of beans and their age. Note that these instructions do not call for soaking the beans, as it is not required, and the flavor is best if you don’t soak. However, if you want to soak because you’re not sure how old your beans are and want to cut down slightly on the cooking time and reduce flatulence, soak them overnight (or 4 to 12 hours) at room temperature in a salt brine to help soften the beans’ skins: Use 1 tablespoon kosher salt and enough water to cover by 3 inches, then drain. If you soak in a brine, reduce the salt in the cooking water to 1 teaspoon. Note that the optional kombu has been found to be as effective as soaking in terms of helping soften the beans’ skins and can also reduce flatulence.

Storage Notes: The beans can be refrigerated, in their cooking liquid, for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 12 servings; makes 6 cups beans plus liquid

  • 1 pound dried beans, picked over and rinsed
  • Water
  • 1/2 yellow or white onion, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • One (5-inch) strip kombu (dried seaweed, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or more to taste

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STOVE TOP: In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot set over medium-high heat, combine the beans with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, kombu and salt.

Bring the water to a boil. Boil the beans for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to low so the liquid is barely bubbling, cover, and simmer until the beans are very tender, 60 to 90 minutes or longer. (Periodically check and add more hot water if needed to keep the beans submerged.) Test at least five beans from different parts of the pot to make sure they are tender. Remove and discard the bay leaves, onion (if desired) and, if it hasn’t disintegrated, kombu. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

OVEN: Using the same timing as on the stove top, after boiling the beans for 10 minutes, cover, transfer them to a 300-degree oven and bake until the beans are very tender. (If you have a bean pot, which is taller and narrower than a Dutch oven, use it: The bean liquid will be particularly rich.)

INSTANT POT OR OTHER PRESSURE COOKER: Increase the water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Cook at high pressure for 25 minutes, then use the natural-pressure-release function. If the beans are undercooked, either bring the machine back to pressure and cook for an additional 5 minutes, then manually release the pressure to check again, or continue to cook the beans uncovered, on the saute function if using an Instant Pot. When the beans are tender, cook them uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes to reduce and concentrate the broth.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from “Cool Beans” by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press, 2020).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (made with pinto beans): 134

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 1g 2%

Saturated Fat: 0g 0%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 386mg 16%

Total Carbohydrates: 24g 8%

Dietary Fiber: 6g 24%

Sugar: 1g

Protein: 8g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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