Reduce waste – Cook beans

It is easy and economical to cook your own beans. You can then refrigerate or freeze them to use later.

Reduce waste – Cook beans

Reduce waste by cooking dried beans and storing them to use later. Canned beans cause a lot of waste, and many cans have toxic internal linings, such as BPA. Canned beans are also high in salt and preservatives.

All types of beans are packed with nutrients and can provide a large chunk of your daily vitamins, minerals and protein, so are a healthy choice for your diet. It is easy and economical to cook your own beans. You can then refrigerate or freeze them to use later.

There are many types of beans to choose from


Kidney Beans are a type of “common bean” that share an ancestor with black beans, pintos, and navy beans. European explorers first discovered this ancestor bean in Peru and helped spread common beans around the world. Today, kidney beans remain an important part of the cuisine in South and Central America and the Caribbean.

White Beans are one of the many varieties of common beans domesticated in North and South America. Several types exist, the most common one being cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans. These beans are tender and have an earthy, nutty flavour. They are great in soups and stews.

Borlotti beans, also commonly referred to as the cranberry bean, is a dappled white and red bean related to the kidney and pinto beans. This is a common bean in Italy where it is used for soups and with pasta. Use in any recipe that calls for kidney or pinto beans.  These beans have a thin skin and produce a rich bean broth when cooked.

Black Beans are classified as legumes. They are also known as turtle beans due to their hard, shell like appearance. Like other legumes such as peanuts, lentils or peas, they are high in protein and fibre and contain key vitamins and minerals which are beneficial for health. They have a mildly sweet flavour.

Adzuki Beans are a type of red bean (sometimes even referred to generically as red beans). They taste slightly sweet, but like most beans, are nutty and mild. Some people use them in baking, but they also go well with veggies like mushrooms and sweet potatoes that have both savory and sweet qualities.

Pinto Beans are a light brown bean, often used to make refried beans or in chili. They are creamy and taste earthy and nutty. They’re a very versatile bean.

It’s great to have a variety of beans on hand. You will probably have some favourite ones which you use most. Other beans to try include: chickpeas, great northern beans, navy beans and soy beans.

Make sure you store the beans in airtight containers.

Cooking your own beans helps reduce waste

To reduce plastic waste I like to buy dried beans at wholefood groceries, or bulk food stores. I take my own glass jars to refill when I run out and because the beans are stored in glass, I can easily see the different types of beans on the shelf at a glance. This saves on plastic packaging which you would have if you buy your beans at the supermarket. You are also reducing the number of cans you will need to throw out.

Having plenty of cooked beans on hand is economical and healthy for adding to recipes

Normally I like to cook about 3 cups of dried beans at a time and when cooked it makes approximately 6 cups of cooked beans when the beans swell. I usually refrigerate a couple of cups and then freeze the rest in 2 cup batches which is a good amount to defrost and use in recipes when needed.

Generally, I drain the liquid into a different container and refrigerate or freeze the beans without the liquid. You can store the beans in the liquid but I think the beans stay a bit firmer without.

The cooked bean liquid can be used as a base for tasty soups as well, so nothing goes to waste.

People often pre-soak their beans but you don’t have to do this for pressure cooking of beans. There are opinions that pre-soaking beans reduces the amount of flatulence they may cause, but not everyone thinks this is the case. It is a matter of experimenting for yourself and see what works best for you.

If you do pre-soak dry beans, do not use the soaking water as it will have toxins from the beans, but it is great for watering plants, so you don’t have to waste it.

Beans can be toxic

All dry beans have some toxins, particularly kidney beans. The nutritional value of beans is well known, but you may not know that eating raw or under cooked beans is dangerous. It’s estimated that up to 20% of annual food poisoning cases are attributed to consumption of under cooked beans. Beans contain a compound called lectin.

Lectins are present in a wide variety of commonly-consumed plant foods. Some are not harmful, but the lectins found in under cooked and raw beans are toxic. Kidney beans are particularly toxic as they have much higher levels of lectin and under cooked red kidney beans are even more toxic than raw kidney beans.

This toxin is killed if red kidney beans are cooked at a high enough temperature and for the right length of time. It is also important that red kidney beans are prepared correctly before use which means soaking them for at least 8 hours before hand if boiling in a pot. (It is safe to cook beans in a pressure cooker without pre-soaking as long as they are thoroughly cooked. I have never had any issues with doing this).

Don’t cook beans in a slow cooker as the temperature doesn’t get high enough to destroy the toxins.

Symptoms of red kidney bean poisoning

This type of food poisoning occurs as a result of consuming raw or under cooked kidney beans. So in order to prevent this from happening, never eat raw or partially cooked beans and there should be no issues.

These symptoms of kidney bean toxicity appear around 2 to 3 hours after the kidney beans have been eaten. However, it only takes a few beans to cause the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pains

These symptoms appear soon after consumption but, they also disappear quickly as well.

Cooking Beans in a Pressure Cooker

Using a pressure cooker is a fast and easy way to have a regular supply of beans on hand. I use a stove top cooker but you can also use electric multi-cookers which have a pressure cooker function. For electric cookers, follow instructions on how to use and cooking times.

Cook in batches and either refrigerate or freeze. Beans will store well in the fridge for about a week, or for several months in the freezer.

There is no need to pre-soak the beans when using a pressure cooker. This includes kidney beans as long as they are well cooked.


Measure out the dried beans. I use cup measures and cook 2-3 cups at a time. Rinse the beans under running water and check for any split or broken beans and discard

Place beans into the pressure cooker and add in 2 cups of water for every cup of beans. There is a minimum and maximum level of water for pressure cookers. The water level should be a few centimetres above the beans. Ensure the water level is not below or above the minimum or maximum levels.

Adding a tablespoon of olive oil to the water helps reduce foaming as the beans cook. (The foam can sometimes clog up the pressure valve and interfere with cooking.) Put the lid on and ensure it is locked.

Heat the cooker on a medium heat until the indicator button is raised to the line – see picture. This means the cooker has reached the correct pressure for cooking. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for 20 mins. (Check a few minutes after you reduce the heat that you can still see the line on the pressure indicator button to ensure the pressure is being maintained. If not, raise the heat a little until the line becomes visible again. Cook for up to 35 mins if you are going to use in salads and not cook further.

Turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest and cool gradually which will release the pressure. If in a hurry, place the closed pot under the cold water tap for a minute or so which also reduces the pressure and then allows you to open the lid without a burst of steam which may burn you. The beans will have swollen so will have doubled in volume. Check to make sure the beans are cooked. If still hard in the middle replace the lid and bring back up to temperature cooking for another 10 minutes.

Different types of beans will have different cooking times, so just experiment and adjust your cooking times to suit.

Once cooked, drain the water and cool. You can store the cooked beans in containers in the fridge and freezer for use in recipes later. Use bean water as a stock base in soups.

If you do prefer to pre-soak your beans to then cook in a pressure cooker, the cooking time will be much reduced.

For other types of beans, use the cooking time for similar beans.

Cooking Method when using a cooking pot

I think this is very time consuming as opposed to using a pressure cooker, as you have to pre-soak the beans and then cook for much longer. If you dont have access to a pressure cooker, this is how to cook your beans.

  • Soak the beans for up to 8 hours. This can be done overnight if you prefer.
  • Drain and rinse these beans. Throw this water away
  • Put these beans in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil
  • Boil them for at least 10 minutes to destroy the toxins
  • Simmer them for 45 minutes to an hour to ensure they are cooked
  • If they are still hard in the middle, continue to simmer until soft

Check out this recipe for bean soup

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