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COOKING DRIED LEGUMES

Here you will find instructions for processing and preparing dried legumes/pulses with recommended cooking times.

As uncooked seeds of many leguminous crops contain anti-nutrients like lectins, enzyme inhibitors and other harmful substances, special care should be taken in the process of preparing and cooking them in order to render them safely edible.

Besides boiling using sufficient heat (over +80 °C), soaking is a necessary step in reducing the harmful substances in dried pulses, and must never be omitted (only lentils may sometimes be cooked without pre-soaking). The soaking and cooking water must not be used in cooking, as the anti-nutrients of the pulses are leached into the water.

Eating insufficiently processed pulses may induce gastrointestinal discomfort and even poisoning, with symptoms like stomach cramps, severe nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, allergic reactions or other, more severe symptoms. Most types of fresh pulses (eg green/string beans, broad/fava beans) must also be cooked properly before consuming, with the exception of sweet, immature green peas eaten raw right after picking.

The cooking time of various legumes/pulses may vary according to their size, age and moisture content  —  older and larger pulses take longer to cook. Also altitude, water hardness and the use of acidic or alkaline soaking/cooking liquids affect the cooking time.

Since soaking and cooking of pulses takes a long time, you can save some time by preparing a large batch of them and freezing part of it in suitable-sized portions for later use.

The amount of dried pulses will approximately double or triple in volume after soaking and cooking.

dried legumes/pulses (beans, peas, lentils, etc)
plenty of fresh water

Initial preparation:

  • Pick out any stones, sticks or other debris from the pulses. If some seeds have mould on them or have a mouldy smell, discard the whole batch.
  • Rinse and drain the pulses.
Soaking:
  • Measure the pulses, place in a large bowl and cover with fresh, cold water. Use a minimum of three parts of water to every one part of pulses (in volume).
  • Soak the pulses for a minimum of twelve hours. You can change the soaking water once, if you like.
  • Adding salt or baking soda to the soaking water somewhat reduces the cooking time, although the former gives the pulses a mealy texture instead of creamy, and the latter may give a soapy taste with an unpleasant, slippery mouth feel.
  • Drain and rinse the soaked pulses.
  • Discard the soaking water, it must not be used for cooking.
Boiling:
  • Measure the pulses, place in a large saucepan/pot and cover with fresh, cold water. Use a minimum of three to four parts of water to every one part of pulses (in volume). If you are using a pressure cooker to cook your pulses, refer to its manual for instructions and recommended cooking times.
  • Adding baking soda to the cooking water quickens the softening of the pulses, while salt slows it (but adding it to the soaking water makes the pulses cook faster, see "Soaking" above). Adding sugar, acids and/or calcium also slows the softening process of pulses, but helps to preserve their structure during long simmering or reheating.
  • Bring the water to the boil. Skim any foam from the surface. Reduce the heat and let the pulses gently simmer, uncovered, until they are thoroughly tender. Test by taking up one bean/pea and crushing it between your thumb and index finger  —  it should be easily mashed into soft puree (see the recommended minimum cooking times for various legumes in the table below).
  • If you like, you can change the cooking water about halfway of cooking: boil plenty of water in a kettle or pot, quickly drain the pulses, place back in the pan with the new, boiling water and continue cooking until the pulses are done.
  • Drain the pulses and they are ready for serving or using in cooking.
  • Discard the cooking water, it must not be used for cooking.
  • After chilling the pulses, you can freeze them in smaller batches for later use.

Minimum cooking times for various dried legumes (after pre-soaking)
Bean type Minimum
cooking time
Azuki bean
(Vigna angularis)
45 min
Black-eyed pea
(Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata)
30 min
Broad bean, fava bean (large-seeded cultivars)
(Vicia faba var. faba, V. faba var. major)
1 h
Broad bean, fava bean (small-seeded cultivars)
(Vicia faba var. minor)
30 min
Chickpea, garbanzo bean
(Cicer arietinum)
45 - 75 min
Common beans (haricot/navy/pea bean, cannellini, flageolet)
(Phaseolus vulgaris)
30 - 45 min
Cowpea
(Vigna unguiculata)
30 - 45 min
Garden pea (green/yellow)
(Pisum sativum var. sativum)
1 h
Hyacinth bean
(Lablab purpureus, Dolichos lablab)
30 min
Kidney bean, brown bean
(Phaseolus vulgaris)
45 - 60 min
Lentil (green/red), pre-soaking not necessary
(Lens culinaris)
20 - 30 min
Lima bean, butter bean
(Phaseolus lunatus)
30 min
Mung bean
(Vigna radiata)
20 - 30 min
Pigeon pea, red gram
(Cajanus cajan)
30 min
Runner bean
(Phaseolus coccineus)
1 - 1½ h
Soybean
(Glycine max)
30 - 90 min

Recipe source: The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and McGee, H. (2004) On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner.


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