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what is the best way to cook red kidney beans

tetramin's picture



I need help when it comes to cooking dried beans. I've always just purchased canned beans at the supermarket to make chili.  Any tips on cooking dried red kidney beans would be great.

I picked up a bag of kidney beans at the supermarket today .. I emptied 1 lb into a large stock pot and covered them with 8cups of water as directed on the package. I was planning on letting them soak overnight but after about 1/2 hour of soaking I noticed that the  outer skins of the beans were beginning to wrinkle and some were even splitting in half.

I think I have dehydrated "OLD" beans. I read somewhere that dry kidney beans usually last about a year. Is that true?



ICDOCEAN1's picture

Dried beans (post #71066, reply #1 of 7)

Oh I had a time of it the other day with my Navy beans and pink beans, soaked over night and then cooked for 2 hours, DH complained that they were not done, but in reality, they were, he just likes mushy canned beans.

Gretchen sears by a pressure cooker, so I keep thinking about that, but recall horror stories so I haven't bought one yet.  It will be interesting to see who suggests what today.

I had that wrinkle problem with Lima beans a while back, but it happened after soaking and then cooking them, but in the end they were okay.  I'm thinking old beans maybe, who knows how long on the store shelves?

Pielove's picture

bean (post #71066, reply #2 of 7)

Hi tetramin,

Don't throw the beans away-- I have noticed that the skins wrinkle first, because they get hydrated first, but the inner bean eventually plumps up to fill out its wrinkly skin.  As for cooking, soak them overnight, then simmer them gently the next day.  You may salt the beans, but do not add any acidic ingredients until the beans are soft.  I have a hard time cooking beans in the pressure cooker-- since you can't sample them easily, it is hard to tell when they are done.  A gently simmering pot of water will do just fine, or (if you have the time) the slow-cooker.  

Good luck and do report back!


GretchenTHE FIRST's picture

An easier slightly quicker (post #71066, reply #3 of 7)

An easier slightly quicker way if you don't use a pressure cooker is to bring the water to a boil, add the beans and turn off the heat. Let sit an huor or so, and then do your cooking. The wrinkling is natural--it's what is needed.

Simmer. I usually just cover with water by a couple of fingers--if you're not doing it in the PC you can add more. I salt "some" not a lot. I also add tomatoes (in spite of it supposedly not being correct), celery, onions and whatever else is to go in with the beans, depnding on the end result--black pepper, some herbs. i would add all of that to red beans for sure.

As far as not being able to tell when beans are done in a PC, I cook them for 35 minutes and then check them. If not done enough, run up the pressure again for another 10 or so. You are done in under an hour.

Beans probably last longer than a year but they are not infinitely "fresh", and it also probably depends on the part of the country--if you are in Denver with its super dry climate, they may dry out too much quicker than where I live. HOwever, you can eventually cook them. The same is true for the pre-soak. It only speeds the process--if you go ahead and cook them, they will eventually get done.

tetramin's picture

red kidney beans (post #71066, reply #4 of 7)

Hi guys,


The beans worked out ok afterwards. I managed to salvage enough for my chili. Some of the beans were overcooked/mush.  The recipe on the package said to cook for approx. 50 min. or until tender. Guess I'm only familiar with the mushy beans in the can. better to take them out of the pot when they appear a little undercooked. They seem to firm up once they begin to cool.





Good to know the "wrinkling" is normal!   You were dead on.. those wrinkled beans smoothed out after soaking overnight. Amazing! I was pleasantly surprised when I lifted off the cover of the stock pot. I was prepared to toss them in the garbage. What a transformation.



GretchenTHE FIRST's picture

I am a bit puzzled by your (post #71066, reply #5 of 7)

I am a bit puzzled by your saying that 50 minutes is too long. I have never cooked dried beans to a good "done" in that time in an open pot. Maybe these were the small red beans and not kidney beans.   Your beans that were mushy would have cooked nicely as a thickener for your chili.  For bean soups and such, a good way to enrich them and thicken is to remove some of the beans and blend them and add back.

The other thing that leads to broken beans=mushy is to boil them hard. Should just simmer.

I for one do not find canned beans "mushy"--if anything they do require a bit more cooking unless being used "raw" in a salad and the "crunch" is good. In a chili or a soup, I like mine to be cooked more.

tetramin's picture

Hi Gretchen,   It said (post #71066, reply #6 of 7)

Hi Gretchen,


It said red kidney beans on the package.   I guess some people like their beans soft. I like them to hold their shape.. so I like them on the firm side. cooked but not soft and splitting in 2.  Nothing really wrong with canned beans except for the salt they contain. I'm trying to cut down on salt. 


The beans simmered for 50min. I rarely boil things.. I usually just bring things to a boil and then simmer... No big bubbles erupting on the surface.. the water barely shivering.


Yes, the beans mashed would thicken a soup the same way a potato would help to thicken a chicken soup.

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GretchenTHE FIRST's picture

I too like them to hold their (post #71066, reply #7 of 7)

I too like them to hold their shape, but be creamy inside and not crunchy outside. That is the way they come from the can so when they are added to a chili or other stew (with other beans), they benefit from further cooking--at least that is the way I look at it.  I believe you could use canned beans --drain them, simmer a bit, and discard that liquid, and you probably will reduce the sodium. Not that I don't prefer mine cooked from scratch.

I cooked some black beans this week--first for 35 minutes, and they were not edible. Another 25 and they were delicious. Then a portion into a pan with some diced sausage and rice to cook about 30 minutes to get the rice done.  They are still very discrete, tender and delicious.  And the rest are frozen for the next use. They are well seasoned with garlic, onion, celery, tomatoes, salt and pepper, cumin, red bell pepper. These did take longer than usual, but they were packaged (not from the bulk bin).

When I have done a cassoulet by Julia's recipe, I used great northerns and they cooked to mush (not in a PC).  DH still LOVED it and of course,, with a cassoulet, the flavors are wonderful. Since then I have used flageolets and their creaminess is just marvelous--and holding their shape, but definitely tender in the tooth.