Preparation of pulses is child’s play

"Preparation of dried legumes takes so long", is a common excuse not to use beans in the kitchen. And yes, it is true that the preparation is something you should put in motion. But most of the preparation time you can enjoy doing other things, because the beans do the hard work. In fact, the preparation of dried legumes is child’s play, so don’t let the duration stop you!

They have been laying in your kitchen cupboard for a long time and you had big plans for them: tasty hummus with pesto or perhaps a gluten-free chocolate cake for the birthday of a friend with celiac disease. It just hasn’t happened, to get going with those small round beans, and frankly you haven’t had the time (or so you think). Stop thinking of your busy schedule and grab that bag of dried beans or peas out of your cupboard. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that you want to eat beans tomorrow, or somewhere in the coming week. It's time, and this is what you're going to do:

busy schedule

Step 1: a child can do the laundry

(as we say in Dutch)

Wash the beans well in a colander. Throw away any twigs or small stones that have remained in the bag of beans in between the farm and the supermarket. This is also the time to pick out the bad looking, or damaged pieces and throw them away.

Step 2: time to sink or swim

Now put the pulses in a large bowl, pan or mason jar, together with enough water. You need about 3 times as much water as dried legumes. Cold tap water will do just fine. The beans can on the kitchen counter. Most dried legumes (you do not need to soak lentils) need to soak at least 8 hours, but longer (up to 24 hours) is not a problem.

Why have them swim? Soaking is an important part of preparing and eating beans. First of all, soaking shortens the cooking time, which is also good for the environment because you need less gas for the preparation. So that's already a double win: for your schedule and for the environment. On top of that, soaking is also very important because it is beneficial for the nutritional value. Believe it or not, those wonderful, nutritious marbles also contain some anti nutrients. These are substances that affect our health in a bad way, such as lectins, phytic acid and saponins. I would be able to write a full blog about this, but the good news is that soaking, as opposed to cooking, virtually wipes out the consequences of these anti nutrients. That is certainly true for lectins and phytic acid. So, give those pulses a lengthy time to swim!

Step 3: don't get yourself steamed up

Have they grown nicely? Then it's time to boil them. You need nothing more than the soaked beans, a large pan, water and of course a stove. Fill a pan with the soaked beans and plenty of water, about two thirds of a finger more than there are beans in the pan. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat and turn the stove to very low as soon as it boils, so it just continues to simmer. You can cover the pan partly if you like. Check regularly whether your beans are starting to soften and whether there is still enough water in the pan. The cooking time depends on the size of the bean, but also on the time that the bean has been preserved in dried form, so cooking time can vary: about 45-90 minutes.

It is possible to add seasonings while boiling, but this is not necessary. You could think of a bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme or a clove of garlic. That all depends on the recipe that you are going to make with the beans after they are cooked. It is not so wise to salt at this stage, because it weakens the skins of the beans. Some beans have a soft skin anyway, and these beans are more likely to fall apart when cooking if you add salt.


Are they soft? Then they are now ready to use in your chili, soup, salad, hummus or whatever you had in mind. A good idea is to always prepare a large amount, because you can keep the beans in their cooking water for about a week in the refrigerator. This will help you to prepare a nice lunch, or a creamy bread topping, in minutes.