A Guide To Soaking Beans + Legumes
It can be frustrating to plan ahead and remember to soak your beans or legumes. It’s can feel tedious, takes up counter space, and is hit-or-miss. Sometimes it seems as if this process yields more misses than hits. Before you decided to never soak a bean or legume again, hear us out, it’s worth the effort, and we think it is good way to practice patience.
Soaking these foods unlocks their ultimate health potential and makes them easier to digest while also increasing their nutritional value. Here are some reasons why you should make sure to soak legumes and beans, plus the best techniques on how to do it. All this knowledge will make your life easier and your meals healthier!
Benefits of Beans + Legumes
Legumes and beans are packed with fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. They’re rich in minerals, including iron, potassium, and calcium. Because they are a great source of minerals and vitamins, many people are drawn to beans and legumes for their health benefits and they are inexpensive, budget-friendly food.
Legumes and beans are one of the most important food groups for good health and even disease prevention. They have a low glycemic index meaning they do not spike blood sugar levels. They actually help regulate blood sugar which is useful for diabetics.
The high fiber content in beans and legumes actually lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Many beans and legumes are high in folate, a vitamin that helps to prevent any buildup of the amino acid homocysteine - high levels mean a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Legumes and beans have antioxidants and may help prevent cancer.
However, if legumes and beans are not prepared properly all these nutrients and benefits aren't always made available for the body to absorb and it makes digesting legumes and beans difficult and sometimes even uncomfortable.
Why You Should Soak Beans and Legumes Before Cooking
From a cooking perspective soaking beans or legumes helps them cook faster and prevents them from bursting and splitting open while cooking, which results in a better tasting bean (or legume), but there are health benefits to soaking your beans and legumes too.
The reason you should soak legumes and beans before cooking is because it helps break down the beans/legume, making them more digestible. When beans and legumes are properly soaked it helps break down complex sugars (oligosaccharides), making legumes/beans easier to digest, and phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of minerals.
This carbohydrate, oligosaccharides, can cause gas and bloat. The soaking actually reduces these gas producing and indigestible carbohydrates. When the beans/legumes are soaked the carbohydrates leach out into the water. So make sure to always drain and rinse the soaking water and start with fresh water when you go to cook. This will help reduce gas-producing compounds and make beans and legumes easy to digest.
Without proper soaking, phytic acid doesn't break down to phytate and this can block the absorption of nutrients in beans or legumes. When you soak beans and legumes, you break down the phytic acid, making them easier to digest and more nutritious. Plus, some of the water-soluble vitamins, like B vitamins and vitamin C, are lost in the phytic acid and are only released when the beans are soaked.
Tips For Effectively Soaking Beans And Legumes
- Make sure your beans/legumes are fresh. Always check the date on your beans and legumes, they can last up to two years but are best used within a year from when they were harvested. Make sure to store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, and preferably in an airtight container.
- Let the beans or legumes soak long enough. Make sure to leave the beans in water long enough for the soaking process to work. Most beans need to be soaked for at least six hours or ideally overnight. Others, like black beans, need up to 12 hours of soaking.
- Add some salt to your soak. Adding salt to your soaking legumes or beans (like making a brine) actually helps break down the beans which will allow them to cook faster.
- Refresh the soaking water. Changing out the soaking water will actually help make the beans more digestable and reduce gas-causing carbohydrates. So it is useful to change the water several times while soaking. This will help clear out any gas-producing carbohydrates that have leached out into the water.
How To Soak Beans + Legumes // 2 Methods
Note: make sure to always rinse and sort through your beans or legumes prior to soaking.
- Traditional Soaking. Traditionally beans are soaked by covering them with about 2-4 inches of water and about 1 tablespoon salt per pound of dried beans; let them soak for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours/overnight. Drain the soaking water and rinse before cooking them.
- Quick Hot Soak. Quick-soaking is a great option if you still have some time, but forget to soak your beans overnight. This can be done by putting the beans in a pot covered with about 2 inches of water and adding salt to help speed up the process. On the stove, bring the pot of beans to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes for larger beans and 2-3 minutes for smaller legumes, like lentils. Then turn off the heat, and cover with a lid allowing them to soak for an hour. Drain the soaking water and rinse the legumes/beans and cook them as usual.
- No Soak. If you are really short on time you can skip soaking the beans but they will take much longer to cook. Make sure there is always enough water in the pot to cover the beans. Remember, this method can make begins less nutritious and cause some gas and bloating.
Note: Make sure to use fresh water when you go to cook your beans. Read our full guide on how to cook legumes and beans here.
Soaking Beans + Legumes, Final Words
Soaking legumes and beans isn’t glamorous, but it’s definitely worth the effort. When you soak your beans, you break down a substance called phytic acid that makes them less nutritious and reduce gas-producing carbohydrates, which makes digestion easier. When you soak your beans, you also reduce cooking time, which is especially useful for those living a busy lifestyle. Soaking legumes and beans is a simple step that you can use to make your meals healthier and more digestible.