Buying dried beans from the store generally requires you to soak them before they can be eaten and used in meals, but can they be over-soaked?
Yes, beans can be over-soaked. Most beans require a soaking time of anywhere from 4 to 10 hours depending on the bean that you are cooking with. Letting your beans absorb water longer than this can result in them becoming over soaked, mushy, and less flavorful.
After extensively researching food storage preparation, I have gathered enough information to determine the best ways to soak beans. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at how to soak beans properly and whether or not they can be over-soaked.
How Long Should You Soak Beans For?
The amount of time that you need to soak dry beans can vary, but you should ultimately aim for 8 to 10 hours.
Most people prefer to let their beans soak overnight, as this generally offers an ideal period for the beans to absorb water. That said, bean soaking times are not very strict, and you can safely leave your beans in for an extra couple of hours.
If you plan on soaking your beans for more than 8 to 10 hours, make sure to place them in the fridge and swap out the water every 4 to 5 hours.
Are Soaking Times the Same for All Beans?
Contrary to what many people think, the soaking times for beans can often vary depending on the bean that you are cooking with. In general, 8 to 10 hours is a good ballpark figure for most beans that you buy at the store.
However, some beans can actually benefit from a shorter or longer soak. These are some of the most common beans and their soak times:
- Black Beans - 4 hours
- Kidney Beans - 6 to 8 hours
- Pinto Beans - 6 to 8 hours
- Green Peas - 8 to 10 hours
- Split Peas - 8 to 12 hours
- Soy Beans - 8 to 12 hours
- Lima Beans - 10 to 12 hours
Can You Over Soak Beans?
Yes, beans can be oversoaked. When you soak beans for too long, they will continue to absorb water and begin to lose their ideal form, making them less pleasant to use in meals and potentially even dangerous to consume if soaked for way too long.
What Happens When You Over Soak Beans
Soaking beans for just the right amount of time makes them ideal for cooking, which is why most chiefs stick to very specific soak times. In addition, leaving beans soaking for too long may make them potentially harmful to your health.
One of the most important reasons to soak your beans properly is to help them retain all of their vital nutrients. Beans are packed with healthy nutrients and vitamins such as magnesium and phytic acid which become partially depleted after oversoaking.
Loss of Flavor
Aside from being healthy, beans are also delicious and can add so much flavor to a meal. Oversoaking beans for too long often makes them taste bland and dull, reducing the flavor that you get when cooking with them.
When I cook with beans I generally like them to have a balanced texture that is soft and firm at the same time. I find one of the worst things about over soaking beans is that they tend to become quite mushy and soft.
This may not be so important for certain meals such as refried beans, but if you want an ideal consistency in your food, soaking beans properly is the way to go.
Leaving your beans soaking in water for more than 24 hours increases the risk of bacteria spreading.
If you are doing a longer soak, you should be changing the water every 4 to 5 hours to avoid this. However, for most 8 to 10-hour soaks, bacteria should not be a concern.
How to Soak Beans
Soaking beans is pretty straightforward, but there are certainly some do’s and don’ts to be aware of. The process for soaking beans can vary depending on how long you want it to take.
The traditional approach is to do an overnight soak at room temperature, which will soften virtually any type of bean that you choose. However, this process can take quite a while and is not always ideal for people who want to cook that same day.
Alternatively, there is a quick solution that requires a little more work, but it softens up your beans in a fraction of the time. Consider one of the following methods to soak and soften your beans.
1. Overnight Method (4 to 12 Hours)
Soaking beans overnight is the approach that many professional kitchens and chefs still prefer. The main reason for this is that it gives you more control over how the beans will turn out, especially if you use the correct soak time for the specific bean you are cooking with.
That said, I highly encourage you to keep an eye on your beans so that they do not over soak, as this can result in them becoming mushy and less flavorful. Follow these steps to soak your beans with the overnight method.
- Add beans to a pot or bowl
- Fill the container with water (covering the beans by 2 inches)
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of salt per lb of beans
- Let the beans soak for 4 to 12 hours
- Drain the beans
- Rinse the beans with fresh water
While this is often referred to as the “overnight method”, feel free to soak your beans this way during any part of the day. Traditionally, beans were soaked for 8 to 10 hours as a standard, which is a convenient timetable for most sleep cycles.
However, given that not all beans need to be kept in for this long, you can easily start soaking many common beans in the morning and have them ready by the afternoon.
2. Quick Soak Method (1 to 2 Hours)
Not everyone has the patience or the time to wait 8 to 10 hours for an overnight soak. If you are in a rush and want your beans to be ready for an upcoming meal, you may want to consider the quick soak method.
This method significantly speeds up the soaking process and allows you to use your beans in as little as 1 to 2 hours. Follow these steps to soak your beans with the quick soak method:
- Add unsoaked beans to a pot
- Fill the pot with water (covering the beans by 2 inches)
- Place pot on a stove
- Add a pinch or two of salt
- Heat the pot to a boil
- Turn off the stove once the water starts to boil
- Let your beans soak in the water (1 to 2 hours)
- Drain the water
- Rinse soaked beans with fresh water
After soaking your beans in boiling water for 1 to 2 hours, they should be perfectly soft for cooking and eating. Make sure to turn the stove off as soon as the water begins to boil, as this may result in fully cooked beans.
How to Tell When Beans Are Done Soaking
If you have a meal planned that requires you to cook beans, it’s important to tell when they are done soaking.
Given that the soaking times can vary depending on the bean that you are using, you need to look for certain characteristics to determine when they are finished.
Split the Bean
The best way to tell when beans are perfectly cooked is when they are evenly split down the middle. Beans are known for their soft and firm consistency once they’ve been fully cooked, which should result in them splitting effortlessly.
If you notice that the bean is difficult to split and feels too firm, then they need to be soaked a bit longer. Alternatively, if the bean splits too easily and becomes much when you add pressure, then they have likely been over soaked.
As beans absorb water from their soak, they will begin to look fleshy and plump. Dried beans are smaller and can often double in size after a soak, giving them a nice plump appearance.
Peel the Skin
Another telltale sign of a properly soaked bean is when you can peel the skin off. If you attempt to peel the skin and are finding that it does not come off, you should let your beans soak longer.
Do Beans Need to be Soaked?
If you are like many of us, you may only be discovering how long beans take to soak after buying them from the store. This can interfere with your meal plans and force you to postpone cooking until the following day when the beans are done soaking.
However, you will be delighted to know that you do not actually need to soak your beans at all. Contrary to what many people think, soaking beans is not necessary and you can start cooking with them right away.
With that said, you still need to soften them up before they are ready to eat, as you don’t want to be preparing a meal with rock-hard dried beans. To cook with beans without soaking them first, you need to soften them up using heat.
How to Cook Dried Beans Without Soaking
Much like with the quick soak method mentioned above, you need to boil your beans and use heat to speed up the softening process. The main difference with this approach is that you do not turn off the heat once the water starts to boil and you begin cooking beans right away.
Depending on the meal that you are preparing, you may find it advantageous to cook the beans separately, as the softening process can easily take upwards of 45 minutes to an hour. Alternatively, if the meal you are making already takes a long time and requires water, you can incorporate your beans right away to save even more time.
Cooking time is quite important here, as this approach is not nearly as precise as soaking overnight, and your beans could become undercooked or mushy if you are not careful. I recommend letting your beans cook for 30 to 40 minutes, and then check up on them regularly to avoid mushiness.
Why Are My Beans Taking So Long to Soak?
Soaking dried beans can become a very tedious process, especially when they are taking longer to soften than anticipated. Perhaps you did not add enough water, or maybe you are simply using a dried bean with a longer soak time.
However, you may also be doing everything right and there are other factors affecting how long the beans take to soak.
If you are cooking with old dried beans that are past their prime, this can influence how long they take to soften. Ideal soaking times need to be applied to dried beans that are fresh, with older beans requiring more time to cook and soak.
Provided that your beans are not too old, an extra hour or two should normally suffice. That said, if the beans are very old, they may be a lost cause. Very old beans that are essentially dried up will no longer be good for cooking and may never become fully soft, resulting in a chewy and unpleasant texture in your meal.
Many people at home who have hard water may find their beans need to be soaked longer. The minerals and metals in hard water make it more difficult for the beans to optimally absorb water.
You can use fresh filtered water to soak your beans if you want to speed up the process, or you can simply leave them in a bit longer. In addition, baking soda can also help speed up the softening process if you have hard water at home.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker