Legumes are an essential part of a vegan’s diet. Since vegans do not eat any animal proteins, they must find their protein from plant sources and beans are one of the best and most affordable sources of plant protein. If beans aren’t making up a large portion of your diet as a vegan, they should be.
Lots of my friends often complain that they don’t make dried beans as much as they should because they just don’t come out right. Cooking dried beans is fairly simple, but it does take a little bit of practice. I’ve been preparing dried beans several times per week for about the last 10 years or so, so I thought I’d share some of my tips for making them.
First and foremost, you have to soak your beans. There are two basic soaks: a long soak and a quick soak – there’s also a pressure soak method but it requires a pressure cooker and I find it unnecessary unless you’re in a huge hurry. A long soak is when you soak the beans in a large bowl of water over night, or for about eight to 12 hours. A quick soak is much different. To do a quick soak, boil your beans on high for about 10 minutes and then let them sit for about an hour. I often forget to soak my beans ahead of time, so I normally do a quick soak and it works just fine – you just have to cook the beans a little longer.
Preparing dried beans takes patience. If you try to rush it, your beans will not turn out well. Different beans require different lengths of time to get soft. For example, I’ve noticed black-eyed peas cook in about half the time as black beans. I always add salt to the water before I start to boil the beans. I do this for two reasons: to add some flavor to the beans, and to elevate the boiling temperature.
Once my water comes to a boil, I add my beans and cover the pot. I reduce the temperature of my burner to about 300º F and that’s where I leave it. I then set a timer for 30 to 60 minutes depending on the type of bean I’m boiling. After the timer goes off, I check my beans and taste a few to see if they’re soft enough. If they’re not soft enough, I just put the lid back on and let them continue to boil until they are to my liking.
Once my beans are as soft as I want them, I add more spices and let them boil with the lid off until most of the water evaporates. I make sure to stir them occasionally so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Stirring them also helps release steam, speeding up the evaporation. Let most of the water cook away will thicken the liquid and intensify the flavor. The reason I wait until this point to add my seasonings is because if you add all your seasonings when you first start boiling the beans, most of them will end up stuck around the brim of your pot and not on the beans where you want them.
How to Fix Overcooked Beans
Undercooked beans are a simple fix: just cook them longer. Overcooked beans are a bit trickier, though. You might find yourself running into this problem every so often, so it’s good to know how to fix it. When I accidently overcook beans, I turn them into refried beans. Overcooked beans are really mushy, so they are easy to mash and then fry. All you have to do is mash them in the pot with a potato masher, add some oil or margarine, and stir them around until most of the water has cooked away.
How to Fix Overly Salty Beans
Another problem you might run into from time to time is beans that are too salty. It’s easy to develop a loose wrist with saltshaker and go a bit overboard. Unfortunately, once your beans are too salty, there’s not a whole lot you can do. The best solution I’ve found to this problem is rinsing the beans under running water for a couple minutes. It’s not a perfect fix, but it helps.