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Dried beans – to soak or not to soak?

Bowl of chick peas


People often wonder whether they should soak beans and lentils before cooking them – it’s a big discussion in the world of legumes. To make sense of this, it’s really important to understand what makes these two types of legumes special. Even though lentils and beans are part of the same family, they have their own cooking times and levels of digestibility. In this blog, we’re going to dig into these differences and explain when and why soaking these super-nutritious legumes might be a good idea.

Understanding Dried Beans versus Lentils: Grasping the disparities between dried beans and lentils can assist you in deciding if a pre-soak is necessary. Typically, legumes needing extended cooking periods have lower digestibility and could benefit from a pre-cook soak. Now, let’s delve into some common instances of each category.

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Dried Beans:

  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo)
  • Kidney beans
  • Adzuki beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Whole mung beans
  • Lima beans
  • Black (turtle) beans

Lentils:

  • Red (masoor) lentils
  • Brown lentils
  • Puy (French green) lentils
A collection of different beans, that have not yet been soaked

General Rule of Thumb for Soaking and Cooking Legumes:

Once you’ve identified whether you’re working with dried beans or lentils, apply this general guideline:

  1. Dried beans: require pre-soaking and longer cooking times (1-5 hours)
  2. Lentils: do not require pre-soaking but can be soaked if desired, and have shorter cooking times (15-45 minutes)

This difference is due to the higher amounts of oligosaccharides (long-chain sugars that are difficult to digest) found in dried beans compared to lentils. In essence, the larger the legume, the more challenging it is to digest.

Dried Bean Soaking Guidelines:

  • Larger dried beans (soy, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and lima beans) should be soaked for at least 8-10 hours, preferably overnight. Chickpeas and soybeans are the hardest beans to digest, so a longer soaking time (12+ hours for chickpeas) is recommended. Soy is best consumed after soaking and fermenting.
  • Smaller beans, such as adzuki and whole mung beans, need shorter soaking times of 4-6 hours. Split, husked mung beans (yellow mung dhal) cook faster and are easier to digest, so soaking is not necessary, although washing is advised.

Legumes, Cramps, and IBS:

If you experience bloating, cramping, or IBS-like symptoms, it may also be beneficial to soak lentils. Soaking them for even just an hour can help alleviate some of the issues they might cause.

However, it’s important to note that despite soaking lentils and taking other measures to improve digestion, some individuals may still experience difficulties. In such cases, consulting with a healthcare professional or considering alternative protein sources may be necessary.

3 spoons, each with different lentils.
Image from foodies feed

Summary:

  • Dried beans need pre-soaking and longer cooking times
  • Lentils do not need pre-soaking but can be pre-soaked to improve digestibility and reduce cooking time

Understanding the differences between dried beans and lentils, as well as their respective soaking and cooking requirements, can help you prepare these nutritious legumes in the most digestible and delicious way possible. By following these guidelines and adjusting your approach based on individual needs, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the many benefits of these versatile and healthy ingredients.

Want to know more?

Try our Puy Lentils recipe from – Lentils a pantry staple

This article has been adapted from one found on The Mindful foodie website. However, the link seems to be gone.

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