This recipe is less of a recipe and more of a dry bean cooking guide. There are so many ways to cook dried beans to perfection, and tons of additions that will make them exactly how you want them! I made Beans and Greens with Lemon and Feta, but feel free to adapt this to your taste and get creative with it.
I love dried beans, and when asked why I would cook dry beans over canned, I had to pause. Maybe it’s because I love cooking so much that I want my dish to simmer for a long time. But time also means flavor. Plus who wants to sit around and eat syrupy canned beans when you can have brothy beans made however you want? If you want to make a pot of beans for Sunday dinner (which is my favorite bean occasion) try this version and feel free to add ingredients or change the spices however you see fit. But first things first, I’ll teach you the basics.
How to cook dried beans
Dried beans are remarkably simple to cook. It starts with soaking them in water, using the soaking liquid to cook them, bringing them to a hard boil for 10 minutes, then lowering the heat to a simmer until they’re creamy.
To soak or not to soak?
If I have time, I soak my beans for 6-8 hours in about 6 cups of water. If I don’t, it’s an easy fix. Just put the beans in a large pot, cover them with two inches of water and a tablespoon of salt, and bring to a hard boil for two minutes. Remove the pot from heat, cover with the lid, and let them sit for an hour. This is a simple solution, and now your beans are ready to use in any recipe that calls for soaked beans.
If you forgo soaking, that’s fine too! Your beans will simply take longer to cook. Instead of an hour, maybe plan for two!
The cooking process
I like to follow the rancho gordo method for the most part, which says the secret to the perfect beans is a ten minute hard boil before the simmer. I add my beans to a pot with carrot, onion, bay leaves, garlic, and 2 tsp salt and boil for ten minutes at a rolling boil. I like to keep the heat at medium and simmer for an hour to finish the cooking process. If you leave the lid on your beans, they’ll be brothier, as less of the cooking liquid will evaporate. If you keep the lid off, they’ll be more stewy!
Creative bean additions
After your beans are tender, you can add all kinds of things. In my recipe I added swiss chard, lemon, red pepper flakes, and crushed cumin seeds. You could use any type of green! Or you could opt for adding a little sauteed onion, garlic, and pepper for flavor, just make sure you’re not adding raw aromatics to your pot. You could also add any spices you’d like. I always add a heavy dose of good quality olive oil for flavor at the end.
To try my recipe for cooking beans and greens, see the full recipe below.
- ½ lb cranberry beans (or pinto beans)
- 2 carrots, peeled
- half of an onion, peel on (ends trimmed)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tsp morton's kosher salt or 1 tbsp diamond kosher salt
- 1 bunch chopped swiss chard, stems removed
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- juice of half a lemon
- ½ tbsp crushed cumin seeds (or 1 tsp ground cumin)
- ¼ cup olive oil plus some for drizzling
- 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- Cover the beans in a large bowl with 5 inches of water (about 6 cups) and soak overnight for 8 hours or during the day while you're at work. If you don't have time to soak them, you can place the beans in a large pot, cover them with two inches of water, add 1 tbsp kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 2 minutes then remove the pot from heat, and let them sit covered with the lid for one hour.
- Once your beans are soaked, add the beans and their soaking liquid to a large pot. Add the carrots, onion, bay, garlic clove (peel and all), and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil for ten minutes then turn the heat to medium until beans are simmering. Simmer uncovered for an hour or until the beans are tender and creamy inside. Check on them periodically, adding a cup or two of water if they begin to dry out. Beans should always be submerged in at least two cups of water throughout.
- Once the beans are tender and there are about two cups of liquid remaining, taste for salt. Once salted to your taste, remove the carrots, onion, bay leaf, and garlic with a slotted spoon and discard. Then add the swiss chard, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, cumin seeds, and olive oil, simmering over medium until the chard is wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Serve into bowls and top with feta cheese. You may also serve with bread for dipping.
This looks amazing and completely up my alley. But I guess I’m just a little confused by the recipe. Why would you leave the onion peels and garlic peels on? Do you remove the bay leaf after? And can’t I just use canned beans? Thank you! Would really want to make this.
Good catch, Lena! I need to update my recipe. You remove the garlic, onion, carrots, and bay leaf from the pot before you add the other ingredients. The reason you leave the peels on is to save a little time but also to impart flavor!
Canned beans would not have quite the same flavor and would take much less time than dried. You’re welcome to stew canned beans that have been drained and rinsed with a little vegetable broth instead of the bean broth for 15 minutes or so. Then add the lemon and other ingredients. But I think the bean broth kind of makes it special! Hope you enjoy it!