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Dried beans add hearty nutrition to your meals
Preparing dried beans takes a little planning, but can provide many nutrients. - photo by Tom Reed

Beans and their uses

Many supermarkets stock various kinds of beans, both dried and canned. Here are some common types of beans and their typical uses.

Black beans: Soups, stews, rice and beans, Mexican dishes and Central and South American cuisine
Black-eyed peas: Salads, casseroles, fritters, bean cakes, curry dishes and Southern dishes with ham and rice
Chickpeas (garbanzos): Casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup, Spanish stews and Indian dishes, such as dal
Lima beans (butter beans): Succotash, casseroles, soups and salads
Red kidney beans: Stews, mixed bean salad, chili and Cajun bean dishes

Quick bean measurements

  • 1 cup of dried beans or peas = about 2 to 3 cups cooked
  • 2 cups cooked beans = 1 16-ounce can of beans, drained
  • 1 pound of dried beans = about 2 cups dry beans
  • 1 pound of dried beans = about 5 or 6 cups cooked beans

Cooking tips

  • Add salt or acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they slow the cooking process.
  • Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.
  • To freeze cooked beans for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well and freeze.


Some are black, some are white with pink flecks and some are tan with a little black eye looking at you.

And not only do these dried beans look great in glass jars in your cupboard, but they also keep for a long time and are a great source of nutrients. For a hearty winter dish, you can’t go wrong with a pot of freshly softened soup beans.

Thelma Shook, whose family owns Shook’s Fresh Produce in Cleveland and sells both fresh and dried beans at local farmers markets, said the family usually prepares "soup beans" — typically, black-eyed peas boiled with a ham hock.

There is a little bit of planning involved first, though. You must make sure you soak the beans overnight.

"Usually the method we use, soak them overnight. A lot of people put a pinch of (baking) soda in them to try and help get rid of the gas they cause," said Shook, whose family grew multiple varieties of beans this past summer and sold them at the Hall County Farmers Market.

She added it’s important to drain off the water you use for soaking the beans before starting the cooking process. And, she usually soaks the beans in a stainless steel pot.

"I usually just put the water back in (after they have soaked overnight) and make sure they’re covered real good," she said of her typical recipe for soup beans. "And I put a ham hock in and salt to taste."

For New Year’s, she and her family ate the traditional black-eyed peas. But, she said, she found a twist to her mother’s traditional recipe.

"My mom always made the black-eyed peas for New Year’s, and I thought, ‘I wonder if there’s any other recipes out there?’" she said. "And (recipes on the Internet) recommended putting an onion in there, and it was really good."

Beans such as black beans or black-eyed peas are a class of vegetables called legumes, and are high in nutrition but low in fat, according to They also contain no cholesterol and are high in folate, potassium, iron, magnesium and fiber. A good source of protein, legumes can be a substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.

When you buy a bag of dried beans, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recommends that you first pick through them to take out any beans that are discolored or shriveled. Rinse them well, drain them and then soak them.

There are two main ways to soak dried beans. To soak them overnight, like Shook does, put them in a pan that has 6 cups of water for every pound of dried beans. Beans soaked this way typically hold their shape better and end up cooking quicker, according to UGA Extension. For a "quick soak," bring 1 pound of beans and 6 cups of water to a boil, boil for two minutes and remove the pan from the heat. Then let the pan sit for one hour and drain the beans.

If you’re in a hurry and still want some soup, don’t worry — not all beans need to be soaked. Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas can be made without soaking. In addition, some legumes are "quick-cooking" — meaning they have already been presoaked and redried and don’t need extra soaking. Finally, canned legumes make quick additions to dishes that don’t require long simmering. Just be sure to rinse prepared and canned legumes to remove sodium added during processing.

If you can’t find a particular type of bean, you can easily substitute one type for another. For example, pinto and black beans are good substitutes for red kidney beans. And cannellini, lima beans and navy beans are interchangeable.

You can store unused dried beans in a covered, airtight container in a cool, dry place. They will keep up to two years, according to the Extension office. Shook said she also puts her beans directly in the freezer.

Most varieties of beans take one and a half to two hours to cook.

If you’re ambitious, you can seek out beans still in the pod and shell them yourself; Shook said it becomes a family activity.

"It’s therapeutic; I don’t mind doing the beans like that because you have time to sit," she said. "My little granddaughter, she’s 5, she loves shelling beans. It can be a family thing where everybody sits around and shells beans or peas."

At home, John King said he prepares his soup beans like Shook does — with a bit of salt and ham hock. But his grandmother, who owns the Country House Restaurant in Clermont, has her own special ingredients.

"She puts salt and bacon grease in them," he said. "She cooks them and she makes a big pot of them ... we have a steam line, and we put them over here on the steam line."

Because they steam for a while after they are initially cooked, he said, they end up soft and moist.

"Bacon grease — it gives it flavor," he said.