Home » How to Soften Beans: 10 Ways To Tenderize Old Dried Beans

How to Soften Beans: 10 Ways To Tenderize Old Dried Beans

Want to know how to soften old dried beans, take a look at the top 10 ways to tenderize them in the article below.

  1. Cook in a pressure cooker
  2. Increase the soak time
  3. Short boil method
  4. Baking Soda Method
  5. Add salt
  6. Distilled Water
  7. Sodium Bicarbonate
  8. Increase Cooking time
  9. Avoid adding high-acid ingredients
  10. Bean Flour

To learn the specifics of tendering old beans, continue reading.

Boiling dried pinto beans
Ready Squirrel Bean Cookin

#1 Soften Beans With A Pressure Cooker (soften dried beans)

Soften old dry beans to make them edible by cooking them in a pressure cooker.

Cooking beans in a pressure cooker accelerates the cooking process by hours.

Pre-soaking the beans overnight is still suggested, but you can also do a pre-soak in the pressure cooker.

#2 Electric Pressure Cooker (How to soften beans)

Electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are one method of making old beans edible.

Pre-soak beans by cooking under high pressure for 2 minutes and then let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Finally, release the remaining pressure. Let the beans sit for 4+ hours and cook as you normally would.

It’s hard to tell how long it takes to cook beans if they’ve gone rock-solid. Experiment with cooking times. If they aren’t coming out to the desired consistency, add minutes of cooking time until they reach perfection, or you throw them in the compost pile.

The old “cook beans on the stovetop method” usually includes pre-soaking beans for 12 hours to reduce cook time. (see chart below)


Natural Pressure Release VS. Manual Pressure Release

1. Natural pressure release, you don’t do anything but let the pot cool down. The float valve that holds pressure in the pot will drop as the pot cools.

2. Quick release you vent the pot manually, which causes the cooker to depressurize quickly. When cooking beans, don’t quick-release without letting the pot cool (natural pressure release), or you might get a volcano of hot bean foam shooting out of the valve opening.

Learn the best method of storing beans in long-term storage for maximum shelf-life. Check out the Ready Squirrel article “Store Bulk Beans Like a Rockstar.”

#3 An Overnight Soak (How to soften beans)

Cover your beans with 3″ of fresh water, add 1 Tablespoon of table salt and let them sit overnight, uncovered.

For tough old beans, double the soaking time to 24 hours. A little extra soaking with salt might cause your beans to swell.

Adding salt to pre-cooked beans is controversial some believe it makes beans tough, but studies show salt breaks down tough bean skins.

Once you’ve soaked the beans, drain the pot and add fresh water to cook.

How Much Survival Food Do I Need?

Pre-soaking Beans: The Controversy

4 Reasons to Pre-soak beans

  • Reduces gas and bloating when beans are consumed.
  • Reduces cooking time
  • The creamier texture of the bean
  • Decreases overall cooking time.

Reasons Not to Pre-soak Beans:

Pre-soaking beans to reduce gas is a wives-tail that doesn’t reduce gassiness. Pre-soaking may reduce bean nutritional value by leaching discarded nutrients when you freshen water the next day.

#4 Short Boil Or Quick Soak Method (how to soften dried beans)

Boiling beans and then letting them set on the stovetop. I usually use this method because it’s easy. Once you’ve cooked the beans, you can forget about them until you are ready to make your meal.

Put your beans in a pot on the stovetop, add one tablespoon of table salt, and cover with 3 inches of water, 3 cups water per 1 cup of beans, or 10 cups per pound. Bring water to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove beans from the heat, cover them, and let them sit for 1 to 4 hours.

If you are working with tough old beans, follow the same steps but let the beans sit longer. Even if I’m using fresher beans, I usually boil them in the A.M. and let them sit until cooking time.

#5 Baking Soda (how much baking soda to soften beans)

Take an hour off of how long it takes to cook beans by adding some baking soda to the cooking water but don’t add too much baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate), or the beans will turn into a pot of mush. So, how much baking soda should I use with my beans?

How much baking soda is used to soften beans?

Add 1Tablespoon of baking soda to 1lb of beans and 10 cups of water or 1/8 tsp per cup of dried beans and 3 cups of water. When cooking with fresher beans, limit baking soda to 1/4 teaspoon per pound.

If you don’t know how dried out your beans are, you may have to experiment to get the perfect water ratio to baking soda.

Water to Bean Ratio

Use 3 cups of water per 1 cup of beans and 10 cups for a 1-pound bag of beans.

#6 Add Salt

Salt softens the skin on beans and makes for even cooking, but salt is also blamed for making beans tough when it’s the cooking water with a high mineral or acid content that is doing it.

Salt will slow how long it takes to cook beans because it slows water absorption.

#7 Neutralize Hard or Acidic Water

Your beans might not be too old, and it could be the water you are using to cook them.

Hard water with a lot of calcium and minerals will prevent beans from softening. If you have hard water, use baking soda by adding 1T of Baking Soda to your pot or 1/8 tsp per cup of beans.

Acidic water and acidic ingredients will also make beans tough as they cook. Avoid adding acidic ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar, ketchup, sugar chili sauce, molasses, lemon juice, or wine until the beans are cooked.

If you go overboard on cooking beans and they’ve gone too soft, adding the highly acidic ingredients mentioned above will make them firmer.

Neutralize acidic water and soften beans by adding 1/8 tsp of baking soda per cup of beans.

Baking soda, also known as Sodium Bicarbonate, works to counteract the calcium and other minerals in your water.

” The addition of baking soda to soften beans destroys B vitamins.”

Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach (see link under sources)

Don’t go overboard with the baking soda, or your beans will turn to slop.

Another option for hard water is to cook your old beans in bottled or distilled water.

#8 Increase Cooking Time (soften dried beans)

After you’ve soaked your beans, the next step is to cook them.

Cover your beans with fresh water and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the bean type, cook from 30 minutes to 2 to 3 hours.

Testing beans for doneness

Remove a few beans every 15 minutes and crush them between your fingers to test for consistency.

Bean Cooking Chart: The times below are for cooking beans that have been stored properly.

If you use older or improperly stored beans, increase cooking times. Check beans every 15 minutes by smashing a couple of beans between your fingers.

Chart #1: Bean Cooking Times

1lb Dried Beans/ 2 cups Water/BrothStovetop
cook-time minutes
Pressure cooker
cook-time (hours)
Adzuki1030 to 40*4 4 – 5
Black-eyed Peas1030 to 4515 to 256 to 12 3-4
Black Turtle1060 to 9020 to 408 to 12 3-4
Cannellini1060 to 9020 to 408 to 12 3-4
Garbanzo1090 to 12035 to 4010 to 12 3-4
Kidney1060 to 9020 to 4010 to 123-4
Lentils1030 to 45***5
Lima1045 to 60***4
Mung1030 to 40*45
Split Peas1045 to 50*8 to 104
Pinto109025 to 4010 to 124
White or Navy Beans1060 to 9020 to 408 to 124
Soybeans10120 to 180*244
Information Compliments of PC Natural Markets *beans that foam excessively may clog the pressure valve on your pressure cooker **Use longer cook times for tough old beans.

#9 Avoid High Acid Ingredients

Acidic water and ingredients will make beans tough as they cook. To reduce water acidity, add baking soda to soften, use distilled water and leave ingredients like tomatoes out of your beans until they are at the desired consistency.

To Avoid tough beans, don’t add acidic ingredients until the beans are at the desired tenderness.

Here are some high-acid Ingredients: tomatoes, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, chili sauce, molasses, lemon juice, and wine.

When Your Beans don’t Soften: Make Bean Flour

I suggest milling bean flour from fresh, dried beans and old ones. Bean flour is a powerhouse of protein and allows you to tackle the sometimes tricky task of repeatedly eliminating palate fatigue from eating the same things.

Note: Bean flour is an excellent thickening agent for soups and stews

#10 Bean Flour

This is an example of how to do it in a household blender. If you are prepping for SHTF, consider getting a quality grinder such as a Country Mill. Hand-powered mills that don’t require power are your best bet for long-term power outages. I have a country mill. It will grind everything from dent corn to wheatberries and, of course, beans.

Note: hand-grinding beans, corn, or any other dry good by hand is a lot of work so test it out before depending on it for survival.

  1. Wash and sort dried beans
  2. Let beans dry
  3. Fill your blender with dried beans or do small batches if you have a small motor on your blender (the bigger and beefier your blender, the better the results)
  4. Blend Beans Until Powdery or desired consistency
  5. Dump flour into a bowl
  6. Get a second bowl to sieve bean flour
  7. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to push flour through the sieve into the second bowl.
  8. Re-blend the bits that don’t push through the sieve (optional)


Dried Beans, Peas, and Lentils Can Help You Save $$ link

PCC Markets, Choosing and Cooking With Beans link

How Long Do Beans Last: 16 Top-tier Survival Beans, Ready Squirrel

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