Difference Between Dry and Liquid Measuring Cups
Cooking Two Roasts at Once

Soaking Beans

I have heard that there is a faster method to soak dried beans rather than leaving them overnight.  What is it?  Also, is it true that if you discard the soaking water you will reduce reduce flatulence?


The traditional method for soaking dried beans is to pick through them to remove any foreign matter and shriveled or damaged beans, and then place them in a large bowl covered with about three times as much water as there is beans, by volume.  Leave them soak for 8 to 12 hours.  At first water enters the beans through the hilum, which is the small dot on the  inside curve of the bean.  After about half an hour, the skin of the seed has become hydrated enough that water can pass more easily through it.

To speed this process up, sort the beans as usual and then place in a saucepan with three times as much water.  Cover, bring to a boil over medium heat, and then let them boil gently for about 2 minutes.  Remove the beans from the heat and let stand for an hour or two.

Note that not all dried beans need to be soaked.  Lentils and split peas in particular do not need to be soaked and will turn to mush during cooking if they are.  Other peas and beans with thick skins like limas, navy beans, kidneys, pintos, and the like, benefit from soaking.  They can be cooked from the dry state, but take longer to cook and the outer part may turn mushy before the bean or pea is cooked through.

If beans give you gas, you can reduce the effect somewhat by discarding the soaking water.  Flatulence is caused by large carbohydrate molecules that pass through the stomach and upper intestine undigested.  Once they enter the lower intestine, the natural bacteria found there break these long molecules up, creating carbon dioxide and hydrogen gases.  Those long molecules are about 1/3 complex sugar molecules called oligosaccharides and 2/3 other carbohydrates that hold the cell walls together.  The oligosaccharides are water soluble and most, but not all, of them will be discarded with the soaking water.  The others are not water soluble and remain in the beans after soaking.  Prolonged cooking, until the beans are completely softened, helps to break down most of the remaining molecules that cause flatulence.

Some references suggest that the more often you eat beans, the less you will suffer from flatulence.  Personally, I have found that Beano Food Enzyme is effective in reducing gas caused by eating beans.  (Always read and follow label directions and pay attention to health advisories from the manufacturer.)


In the quick soak method it leeches more of the nutrients out of the beans, but studies have shown ( Cooks Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen ) that quick soaking also removes more of the 'gas inducing' elements out of the beans than slow soaking.Also, black eyed peas (or beans if in West Africa) also do not need to be presoaked.

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