But… Where do you get your protein?
On a vegan diet I actually feel like I get too MUCH protein sometimes. It’s amazing how many vegetables, grains, and legumes contain protein! One of my primary sources of protein is beans. Black beans and chickpeas are my usual go-tos, as well as lentils. A 1/2 cup of black beans contains 7 grams of protein, a 1/2 cup of chickpeas has 7 grams of protein, and a 1/2 cup of lentils packs 9 grams of protein.
In 2014 when I was looking for a job and on a pretty tight self-imposed budget, I discovered the bulk section of the grocery store. Talk about being able to eat CHEAPLY! Seriously! Quick math:
1 POUND of dry black beans = $1.99 in the bulk section and will easily make 7 cups of cooked beans.
1 15 oz can of beans = $0.75 – $1.99 depending on if you buy organic/not or what grocery store you shop at. But one can of beans only holds about 1 1/2 cups.
To get 7 cups of beans from cans, you would have to buy 4-5 cans. Depending on where you shop, you would end up spending more money than if you decided to cook dried beans.
Ever since I started cooking dried beans, I have rarely used canned. In addition to the being cost-effective, cooking dried beans allows you to control the sodium content as well as the texture. Canned beans contain unnecessary sodium and I find them mushy. When I open the can and drain out the liquid, it just looks so goopy. Then when I wash off the beans in a colander, suds build up on them. What the heck is that? When I cook dried beans, I just feel like I am eating healthier than when I use beans from a can. I don’t have to worry about any added nutrients or chemicals from the can itself. The drawback is having to prepare them instead of just reaching for a can opener, but I think the cost, taste, and health benefits are worth it!
Alright, it’s bean fun talking about the whys, let’s actually talk about how to cook dried beans!
Step 1: Soak the beans. This step is controversial- some say yes you should soak them and others say it’s not necessary. I always soak the beans because I find them to be easier to digest that way (read: I’m less gassy) and it cuts down on the cooking time. There are two ways to soak the beans: quick soak or overnight.
Quick Soak: Pour beans in a large pot and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring water to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, move the pot off the burner and let sit for 2 hours.
Overnight Soak: Pour beans in a Tupperware and cover with 2 inches of water. Let them sit at least 8 hours (overnight).
My preferred method is the overnight soak- I just make sure sometime on Saturday when I am home to dump a bunch of beans in a Tupperware and cover them with water. That way sometime on Sunday I can boil them and prep some meals for the upcoming week. You can leave them on your counter top at room temperature, or if your kitchen tends to be warm, soak them in the refrigerator.
Legumes that need to be soaked prior to cooking:
- Most type of bean (Adzuki, Black Bean, Canneli, Kidney, etc.)
- Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans)
Legumes that don’t need to be soaked prior to cooking:
- Lentils (red, green (aka French), brown, etc.)
- Peas (Black-eyed peas, Split peas)
- Mung Beans
Step 2: RINSE and drain your soaked beans. They were probably dirty, so pour out all that water (there may be some bubbles or scum left on the Tupperware) and rinse and drain the beans thoroughly. Usually 2-3 times until the water runs clear. The beans will have doubled in size from absorbing all the water.
On the right are the black beans after soaking overnight. See how much bigger the soaked beans are? This is why one pound of dried beans yields so many cups of cooked beans. Those initial 2 cups turned into 4 1/2 cups of soaked beans.
Step 3: Cook the beans. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil (or at least enough water to cover the beans with 2
inches of water) and dump in the rinsed and drained beans. I’m pretty graceful in the kitchen. If you want to get fancy, as well make the beans easier on your stomach, add in a stick of kombu, some cumin, and a bay leaf. These will enhance the flavor as well as further reduce the gas-producing quality of beans. I definitely notice a difference when I use kombu versus when I don’t, sorry everyone in the room. You can find kombu in the international aisle, usually near the Asian cooking supplies.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes. The longer you had soaked your beans the shorter amount of time it will take. For example, beans soaked overnight will be ready in 25 minutes, whereas beans from the quick soak method take closer to 35 minutes. Another important tip is the longer you cook dried beans the softer they become, so if you like firmer beans you can stop them earlier than if you want a softer texture. The first few times you do this, I would recommend tasting a few beans at the 20 minute mark and then every 5 minutes there after until you get comfortable with cooking dried beans.
Step 4: Store your beans. Once the beans have reached your desired texture, drain them. Heads up: That initially cracked and shriveled stick of kombu will have expanded to a slimy grimy flat strip. Make sure you remove all of its sliminess before storing your beans. It looks gross, but trust me, the beans will be more digestible.
Let your beans cool and place them in an air tight container. You can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week or you can freeze them once they are completely cooled for up to 4 months – 6 months depending on how well you store them. Pro tip: Make sure they beans are completely cooled before putting them in the freezer. Any water will cause gross freezer burn on the beans. Another pro tip: If the beans in your ‘fridge start to smell or if they get a sticky coating on them, they are no longer edible.
Using cooked dried beans in recipes: A rule of thumb is that 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans is equal to one 15 oz. can of beans. Beans you have cooked from scratch are not as watery as the beans you get from a can so you may have to add more liquid when using them in recipes.
Here are some previous recipes that have used beans or lentils:
Give cooking dried beans a chance and see if you taste and feel a difference. Your stomach and wallet will thank you 🙂