How Long Do You Soak Beans?

Soak your beans because it reduces cooking time! Soak your beans because it decreases flatulence! Soak your beans because it decreases antinutrients! Soak your beans because…okay, okay. You are convinced, but how long do you soak beans? 1 minute?….1 hour?…1 day?

Let’s find out.

First things first

When you think of soaking beans, there are three elements you must consider.

  1. The type of bean
  2. The length of time you are going to need to soak them
  3. What solution you are going to soak them in.

While there is a general principle that governs soaking, you can gather from these three elements that all beans are not treated the same. Some will require longer soaking time than others and some will benefit from the addition of certain substances to the soaking water.


Methods of Soaking

There are three main methods of soaking which are utilized when soaking beans. The choice of method is usually dependent on the time available or how prepared you are. Did you plan your bean menu from yesterday are did you just decide that you wanted beans for dinner which is just 3 or 4 hours away?

Whichever method you decide to use you always need to do this first.

  • Spread out the beans in a container which will allow you to see them clearly and pick out dirt, pebbles, shriveled up old beans, or any kind of debris which needs to be discarded.
  • Rinse the beans properly in clean, cool water.

Now here are the three methods.

Traditional Soak

  • Place beans in a bowl and pour cold water over them to cover them completely. Aim for about 2 inches of water above the level of the beans.
  • Cover and soak for 12 – 24 hours. You might want to put it in the refrigerator to prevent any unwanted fermentation from taking place, but if your kitchen is cool you can actually leave it on the kitchen counter without any detrimental effects.
  • After the time is up, drain beans and discard the soaking water.
  • Rinse the beans in fresh, cool water and you are ready to cook
  • If you want your bean soaking to be more effective at eliminating gas, a good suggestion is to change the soak water every 3 hours as much as is possible.

Quick Soak

This is very likely the method you are going to use if you had not planned your menu in advance.

So it is 3 hours away from dinner time and you have just decided you want beans.

Here is what you do.

  • In a large pot place your rinsed beans and cover with cool water. (Ratio of 3 cups of water to 1 cup of beans).
  • Bring water and beans to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Turn the stove off, cover the pot and let it sit for 1 hour.
  • After the hour is past, drain the beans and discard the soaking water
  • Rinse the beans in fresh, cool water.

You have saved the day. Your beans are now ready to be prepared into your favourite mouth-watering dish.


Hot Soak


The hot soak is recommended as the method which gives the best results in terms of decreased cooking times and most consistently producing tender beans. It is very similar to the quick soak method, the main difference being the soaking times.

The method is as follows:

  • To a large pot add water to beans in the ratio 5 cups water to 1 cup beans
  • Heat the water and beans to boiling and boil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes
  • Remove the pot from the heat.
  • Cover and let it soak for 4 to 24 hours
  • After the time has passed, drain beans and discard the soak water
  • Rinse with fresh, cool water




Let us suppose that you have absolutely no time to soak your beans, not even an hour, and you are really craving some delicious chili. Is all hope lost? The answer is “No”. Here is one option you can utilize.

Cooking without Soaking – Using a Pressure Cooker

It is possible for you to cut considerable time off of your preparations by just cooking your beans directly in a pressure cooker. The average time for cooking dried beans in the pressure cooker is 20 minutes. The drawback with this method however is that you would not be able to get rid of as much phytic acid as you would if you soaked the beans. Also, soaking helps to reduce the unwanted occurrence of excess intestinal gas. Missing the soaking period causes you to miss those benefits. After all there are very good reasons why we should soak our beans.


Different Beans, Different Soaking Times


As we mentioned at the beginning, some beans have different soaking times than others.

Some beans need to be soaked for only 1 to 2 hours such as the red lentil and adzuki beans while others need to be soaked for as much as 12 to 24 hours. These long soaking beans include kidney beans, garbanzo, lima beans, white beans, soy beans, pinto beans and fava beans. There are other beans that fall somewhere in between such as green lentils and split peas which require 2 to 4 hours of soak time, black eye peas, 4 hours and black beans 4 to 6 hours.




What to do with your soak water when you are done soaking

Some recipes you see will tell you to cook the beans in the soak water. But why on earth would you want to do that? You just went through the trouble of soaking for extended periods to get out all sorts of unwanted stuff. Gas forming sugars and phytic acid (antinutrient) are all dissolved in the soaking water. Now who wants to ingest that stuff? Just go ahead and throw away that soak water.

If you really want to do something with it, take it and water your plants. They will thank you for it.


Check out this video of Maggie (of Maggiesveganeats) cooking up some delicious black beans from scratch.

Additional tips to soaking

We mentioned factors relating to soaking such as the type of bean and soaking time required but we have not mentioned the one other factor we identified at the beginning. That is the solution used for soaking.

Although for the most part, plain water is used for soaking beans there are some additions that can be made which can help your soaking process and improve your overall experience with cooking and eating beans.

Additions to the soak water

Add baking soda to the soak water of dried beans before cooking.

This serves to:

  • significantly decreases the content of the raffinose family of sugars which are known culprits when it comes to gas.
  • act as a tenderizer for dried beans. Have you ever used beans that are so old and dried up that no matter how long you soaked you just can’t get you beans to be soft and tender? Try adding some baking soda to your soak water.

You only need a pinch of baking soda per cup of beans which you will rinse off before cooking so it won’t affect the taste of your beans.

Baking soda is not the only additive that is used. Some persons actually add Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice to their soak water.

The choice to use apple cider vinegar or baking soda depends on the type of bean. I really don’t know the science behind it but the recommendation is that for black beans and kidney-shaped beans you add apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and for the other non-kidney shaped beans you add baking soda.

About 1 tbsp of ACV / lemon juice per cup of beans is all you need.

Of course these additions are optional. The truth is that most people don’t use them at all. They use only the pure water for soaking. But feel free to go ahead and give these additives a try to see of it affect the outcome of your beans,

I hope you now have a good handle on how to go about soaking your beans before cooking. Utilize these techniques and I am sure your bean cooking and eating experience will be all better because of it.


Do you have other soaking tips that you use?

Please share your experiences with us in the comments section below.


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