Some Darn Good Beans

I had a thought yesterday afternoon as I swung open my kitchen cabinets, scavenging something simple to prepare for dinner. I ended up eating a peanut butter sandwich, but that’s besides the point.

The real point is, why don’t I make beans anymore?

I used to make beans all the time. When I was going through culinary school with days stretching out from six am to midnight, I cooked a ton of beans because they were simple and easy to make ahead of time for on the go dinners. All I had to do was let them soak the night before and cook ’em while I was getting ready for work in the morning. I always stored them in small individual sized tupperware containers and they became a quick mainstay in my diet, especially when topped with marinara sauce, fruity olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese, or even just tossed on top of a salad.

There’s a huge difference in canned beans and fresh beans. I never really bought into all that foodie hooplah, but it’s true. I swear. Cooking your beans from their dry state really makes them taste better and also makes them easier to digest.

A year ago I bought these Christmas Limas from the San Francisco ferry building farmer’s market when I was at the Foodbuzz conference. I had good intentions but for some reason, just found them again yesterday…don’t ask.

Anyways, I was really excited to find these because they’re really pretty and remind me of Fall. Click here to read more about this particular kind of bean, which is actually an heirloom bean meaning that it’s been around since the mid eighteen hundreds!

But how do you cook the beans?

The answer to that, my friends, is simple.

Start the night before you want to eat the beans. Dump the beans into a very large pot or dutch oven and cover with cold water. You want about double the amount of water to the beans because they’ll expand as they soak.

In the morning, drain out the water and cover with fresh cold water. Again, there’s no specific measurement to this….I usually just fill the pot all the way to the top.

Cover the pot, leaving a tiny crack open, and crank the heat to high. Let the beans come to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer. You should probably watch your beans so this doesn’t happen.


Simmer the beans for about an hour and a half, until they are really nice and tender. The time you cook your beans depends somewhat on the type of beans you are cooking, so check them after an hour and then continue to check them every fifteen minutes or so.

When the beans are done, drain them and let them cool before either using them right away or storing in the fridge. Cooked beans will last in the fridge for up to a week.

One of my favorite simple preparations is simply just drizzling some olive oil on top of the beans, followed by freshly grated Parmesan and sea salt. With a side of some bread or roasted veggies, this makes the perfect early Fall meal.

What’s your favorite way to eat beans? Here’s another one of mine.

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  • Tabitha (From Single to Married)
    September 13, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I have to say that I very rarely ever cook beans, but that’s probably because I don’t have any great recipes. Is that bad to admit? 🙂

  • Amanda
    September 13, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I’m still trying to come around to beans. Mashed pinto beans are ok but I can’t seem to get over my consistency issues with other types…

  • Ellie
    September 13, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Beans are great! I’m in grad school and find I eat them a lot cause they are easy healthy and taste good. I love the color and shape of the Christmas Lima! I might have to try and find some

  • Jenny
    September 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

    yummy! good idea, i love beans…hearty and nutritious!

  • Tasha - the clean eating mama
    September 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

    beans are amazing

  • Camille
    September 13, 2010 at 8:56 am

    So delicious and simple!
    I have never made my own beans before but now I definitely will!

  • Lu
    September 13, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Beans are amazing things to have around. Being from Costa Rica I eat them a lot. One thing that I’ve found that makes beans delicious a couple of days into your week in the fridge is to brown some onion in olive oil (almost to the point of being too cooked), adding the beans in and then mashing them some with a fork or a potato masher. Then spread them on toast or crackers and sprinkle with cilantro and queso fresco. It makes for a wonderful breakfast.

  • Erin
    September 13, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I’m working my way through cans of beans in my pantry so I can start buying them in bulk instead. It’s definitely a cheaper option–I mean, beans are cheap already but every little bit helps!

  • Allie (Live Laugh Eat)
    September 13, 2010 at 8:59 am

    We’ve been making beans in this house recently–cheap, simple, tasty. Underrated for sure.

  • Jessica @ How Sweet
    September 13, 2010 at 8:59 am

    I freaking LOVE beans. I have to go with baked – with bacon. BUT – I do have a mashed bean quesadilla in my lunch today.

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    September 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

    that’s it, i’m buying beans tonight! i could definitely use some quick healthier options for lunches and fast dinner!

  • Marg
    September 13, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I love Red Beans and Rice! It’s my fave meal and so easy just to put in the crock-pot all day. I do have it posted on my blog if you want the recipe from a semi-Cajun.

  • Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf
    September 13, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I’m currently on a bean kick and can’t get enough black beans! I like them smoky flavored and mixed with rice. 🙂

  • Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary
    September 13, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I love beans all ways. I really like tossing some on a green salad for protein or putting them in my vita with a few other things for a hummus of sorts… and I also like adding them to soups and stews. I pretty much like them any way you can think of. I haven’t actually tried the spag sauce and cheese thing though. Must try this.. note to self!

    I think they would be divine in some sort of a casserole too (in place of meat).

  • Tracey
    September 13, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I think my favorite way to eat beans is pretty typical. I like them in soups, especially in the fall. Very comforting and filling!

  • Kirsten @ Cooking in Japan
    September 13, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I wish dried beans were cheap here in Japan. Even azuki beans are on the expensive side.

    Favorite bean dishes: chili, hummus and baked beans.

  • Alexa @ The Girl In Chucks
    September 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I have never made beans before, but have instead always just popped open a can. I always thought it must be too much work. After reading your post, I realize that I am in fact, just lazy. That isn’t much work at all. I always knew I took laziness to new heights, but this is ridiculous!

    I am promising myself that I will make beans the right way soon.

    On a side note, I <3 the Ferry Plaza farmer's market.

  • Jillian @ Reshape Your Life
    September 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I just bought some dry Lima beans the other day, I’ve never cooked my own beans before. I’m excited to try them now!!

  • kristen
    September 13, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Jenna, thanks for this! I’ve been trying to incorporate more beans into our meals. I’m going to try yours asap.

    Please don’t take this as any sort of criticism, because I love you and your blog! I just thought I’d mention that I miss the old format of your blog. Since I’m only able to read my fave blogs every few days, going back and reading through you previous posts has become more difficult with this newer format. It makes me sad because I don’t have the time to click on each individual post. Just thought I’d throw that out there, in case you might be looking for feedback. 🙂 Have a good day!

  • Amber K
    September 13, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I love baked beans, but can never find a vegetarian recipe that doesn’t overly rely on tomato in some way.

  • Krystina
    September 13, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I love the idea of beans drizzled in oil and sea salt.

  • Hilary
    September 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

    My favorite way of eating beans (specifically black beans) lately has been in the form of a black bean burger. I mash them up with some flour, taco seasoning, and a tiny bit of salsa and then cook it on the griddle yummm.

  • Dynamics
    September 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I love red beans. As a matter of fact, I just learned how to make them in a Pressure Cooker. It only takes 30 minutes to cook a batch of beans in the Pressure Cooker. I usually wash my beans first before soaking. Looking for any loose stones or bad beans. I have some of my recently cooked beans in the freezer to see how well they hold up. Have you ever frozen any cooked beans?

  • Alynn
    September 13, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Huge bean fan, Also love the Parmesan and sea salt addition. Looks so good!

  • Rebecca
    September 13, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I love beans! I’m an almost-vegetarian so these are a go-to for me as a way to get extra protein. I always buy canned beans, not sure why I’m afraid of dried beans but I will have to try it out.
    Some favorite ways to eat beans:
    – Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) tossed in olive oil, minced garlic and fresh herbs roasted in the oven. Yum, I can eat these like popcorn!
    – Black beans simmered on the stovetop with garlic, cumin, chili powder and red pepper. Sometimes I’ll add salsa and cheese to the finished product and eat it like a dip.
    – Chickpeas sauteed in olive oil, garlic, red pepper and black pepper over pasta with parmesan.

  • Lisa
    September 13, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I always forget how much I love beans. My favorite is homemade bean soup. YUM!

  • MoniMeals
    September 13, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Great meal, so gourmet! Yum….

  • eatmovelove
    September 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Oh – you had me at “covered in marinara sauce and parmesan cheese” – what CAN’T be eaten covered with that?

    Nothing. Nothing my Friends.

    I should just change my Blog name to “Smother it in Spaghetti Sauce and I’ll Eat It”…hmmm, a dare perhaps? 😉

  • Jessica@tastyandtrim
    September 13, 2010 at 9:55 am

    I love to eat beans mixed up with hot dog wheels. Sometimes I have the taste buds of a 5 year old 🙂

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers
    September 13, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I can’t think of a way I DON’T like to eat beans…but I’d probably go with in soup, enchiladas, or as “meat”loaf. 😉

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    September 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I’ll be honest, I generally make beans like this:

    1. Open can.
    2. Heat.
    3. Eat.

    I really do need to get some dry beans and give it a go. You make it seem easy.

  • Tina
    September 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I don’t think I have ever made beans from scratch. I’m so bad about things like that because I always forget to soak them and then its too late and then I forget again. Le sigh. I will manage it one of these days though.

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga)
    September 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I love the bean tutorial!! I am the only vegan who seems incapable of cooking her own beans. haha! But I really need just do it. I have that exact Le Creueset, but in blue. You make me realize I don’t need a pressure or a slow cooker, and that I can just rock the Le Creueset.

    And, I loved that caption, “Amateur” as it was boiling over a bit…that’s totally something I would do and then get wonderful smelling bean water all over my stove that I would have to clean up later. Ahh, yes, that would be me 🙂

    Way to rock the beans!


  • Allison K
    September 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I really need to get my act together and do this.

  • Nancy @ The Wife of a Dairyman
    September 13, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I have yet to try cooking my own beans but really have been wanting to. Very easy and there’s so many varities to choose from! Thanks for the tips:) Looking forward to trying it out!

  • aubrey
    September 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

    beans beans beans…. i have grown to love chickpeas. I think everyone has. I love them in salad.
    Although there is something about beans and rice that just go so well together.
    I love black beans and rice, but I really love brown rice with maple baked beans. I even love Bush’s maple baked beans. I know it’s probably not the healthiest, but i used to love it.

    Oh and by the way. I’m in culinary school right now, and I can confidentally say that it has taught me to make the perfectly cooked beans from scratch.

  • Lauren at KeepItSweet
    September 13, 2010 at 10:31 am

    i have never seen those beans before!

  • R @ Learning As I Chop
    September 13, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Hmm, these might also be a good option for a meal on the go

  • erin
    September 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I don’t like beans…but these don’t look like any bean I have had before…I am thoroughly confused….

  • Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)
    September 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

    OOhh, I love fresh beans! I don’t think I’ve had Christmas beans before, but I’ve heard that their great (pretty fancy too 🙂 ). Thanks for the steps! I tend to resort to canned beans, with the exception of lentils, so this is good to have on hand.

    On a random note, I absolutely adore your original color Le Creuset dutch oven. So jealous!

  • Janna
    September 13, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for this! You make beans look gourmet 🙂

    I’ve always wanted to make beans from scratch and this definitely gives me the confidence!

  • Eggs and Beans — Eat, Live, Run
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  • Foy Update - Garden. Cook. Write. Repeat.
    September 13, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I love beans and I agree they are better from dry than a can. In addition to being healthier and tastier they are also cheaper!

    We have been loving garbonzo beans lately. This is a knock out recipe:

  • Ingrid
    September 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    i have always been afraid of dry beans, but after reading your posts and your other readers’ comments, i am excited… healthy and a nice alternative to chicken or tofu for a main dish… we are trying to eat more whole foods in my house and this will help for sure! maybe i can even get my picky 2 year old to try your baked beans 🙂

  • Tonyne @ Unlikely Success Story
    September 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve always been intimated by dry beans, but that doesn’t look hard at all. I think next time I’ll try dry instead of canned! 🙂

  • Lisa
    September 13, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    If you have a crock pot try Deb’s (smitten kitchen) method of cooking them; makes and easy thing even easier! Yum! Glad you’re home safe and sound.

  • Cat
    September 13, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration today! I’ve been meaning to do this and after reading your post today, I just couldn’t not do it! So I soaked some chickpeas for several hours and then started cooking them about 2 hours ago and they are so bloody good! Drizzled them in olive oil and sea salt and by golly, I think I’m in heaven!

  • hippierunner
    September 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Coincidence- A few days ago I wrote a post about beans, a food I NEVER see mentioned in the blogosphere and then I see you write about them today!

  • Caitlin (EatFeats)
    September 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Burritos. Nachos. Tacos. Mexican Food.

  • Jil @ Peace, Love & Munchies
    September 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I just love your baked bean recipe – it’s pretty much a staple in my kitchen now!

  • emily hall
    September 13, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    i love to cook my beans in my crock pot. I love chickpeas with sloppy joe sauce!

  • Natalia @asideofsimple
    September 14, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I wish I liked beans.. they’re such a good staple, especially if you’re allergic to gluten. I can’t get my taste buds to like the texture though…

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  • Doc
    September 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Oh wow, beans are a mainstay in my diet, much for the same reasons you cited. I like black beans, long simmered with garlic, oregano, pepper, and orange. Salted and topped with an egg. Yummmmmm.

  • Sana
    September 15, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I do love beans, but sometimes they just don’t settle well with me. I always forget this when I go out to eat Mexican food.

  • Sonny
    October 25, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Here in Texas, we are bean eaters! My dad will make a huge 20 quart pot of frijoles for an afternoon snack.. he does them with bacon and jalapenos and we eat them with cheese.. so delicious! One of my favorites. We should all go back to beans!