Beans that won't soften... - VeggieBoards

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#1 Old 11-02-2006, 06:55 AM
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On several occasions I have bought a batch of dried beans that will not soften with cooking no matter how long I soaked, cooked, mashed or otherwise abused them. Why is this? Let's say it happens with pintos - is it the variety of pinto bean, when it was picked (as in too early?), a poor growing year?

Is there any way of spotting bad prospects before I buy? I usually buy from bulk bins. Thanks.
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#2 Old 11-02-2006, 07:58 AM
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Did you add salt to the cooking water? That apparently stops them from softening. Otherwise, no idea, sorry!
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#3 Old 11-02-2006, 08:05 AM
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Hi Sneezi,

Things that make a difference.

I find for whatever reason, that boiling the beans for couple minutes and then letting them sit for an hour works better than overnight soaking.

Any tomato products (or acidic foods) will stop beans from fully softening. Do not add these products until the beans are fully cooked.

Old beans do not soften as well (if at all) compared to fresher, dried beans. Unfortunately age can be really hard to tell. Buying in a coop, whole foods market, etc. where the turnover of product is high tends to be a good option. I currently live in the southern U.S. and find bean turnover in the grocery stores here tends to be higher than when I lived up north.

When you get a batch of beans that just doesn't soften - you might try throwing them into the blender and turning them into a puree that you can use in soups, for refried beans etc.

Hope there is an idea or two that you haven't already tried.
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#4 Old 11-02-2006, 08:06 AM
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what is the longest you have cooked these beans?
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#5 Old 11-02-2006, 08:06 AM
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Older beans take longer to soften, and if they are truly ancient, they just won't soften. This will happened at least once to everybody I know who cooks with dried beans. I usually deal with it by pretending that they were supposed to be crunchy, and buying from places with a quick turnover.
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#6 Old 11-02-2006, 04:45 PM
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Thanks, but I have tried everything you all mentioned here, including buying my beans at a busy store like Whole Foods & Wild Oats, and I think I've gotten duds from them at times too. I've cooked them all day, refrigerated them overnight, cooked them again the next day with NO improvement. At this point they go to the compost. I've had this happen with Pintos, Navy, and pea beans. Not often, but often enough to wonder what's going on.

As for age, I could probably test this as old beans would have a lower germinaton rate, right? So, next time I get saddled with slacker beans I will test them against better ones. If they are equal I will try carbon dating...

I just want to know why!
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#7 Old 11-02-2006, 05:07 PM
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Yes, if you have soaked them and cooked them for a very long time in salt water and they still won't soften they are past their "use by" date. You have old beans my dear! Myself I still eat them. I hate throwing food out. I do what surya does, pretend they are meant to be crunchy, and try and avoid that shop in future, especially if I've got old beans there before.

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#8 Old 11-02-2006, 05:59 PM
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Okay- question: Does that mean if you soak beans overnight they should be completely soft the next morning? Is that right? Because I recently decided to use dried beans instead of cans (cost issue) but had never used dried before. I soaked them all night plus some and they were still semi hard. I made chili with them, cooking them for about 2 hours and they still weren't as soft as they should be. Why? Same deal as original poster?
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#9 Old 11-02-2006, 06:13 PM
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Aha -- this looks like a job for the BeanLady!

Unless your beans are a gazillion years old, they will cook up nice and soft, as long as you counteract their natural acidity, which increases with time. I always add a tablespoonful of baking soda to my soaking water.

I soak my beans overnight, then drain & cook in fresh water with other non-acidic ingredients until tender. Acidic foods and flavors, like tomato, lemon, etc. should only be added after the beans are nice and gooey.
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#10 Old 11-02-2006, 06:30 PM
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i also find it helps if you use a small piece of sea weed when you cook the beans. i cook a lot of beans this way. i never season them until they are almost fully cooked. i find anything besides beans and seaweed in the cooking mwater make the beans take longer to cook.
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#11 Old 11-04-2006, 07:45 AM
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I always soak overnight or while I'm at work..Rinse really good, add what ever spices you like (no salt or tomatoes as was mentioned earlier) and cook in my pressure cooker about 45 minutes...Perfect outcome..
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#12 Old 11-05-2006, 08:55 PM
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And since this seems to be a somewhat regular problem, you might consider that your water source is hard. And for that... either use different water or... the easy way is to do BeanLady's suggestion.

Actually, about 2 months ago, we had a great informative thread on cooking beans and their causes for not softening. If I get a chance later, I'll see if I can find it and post the link.
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#13 Old 11-05-2006, 09:16 PM
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I agree with the hard water suggestion and am suprised no one mentioned it sooner.

Also, contrary to popular belief, if all else is working the way it should, you CAN actually add acids and salt early in the cooking process and the beans cook up just fine, only tastier! I went to a Culinary Arts class on vegetarian cooking (for one class they had open to the public) and they cooked their beans with tomato products and they turned out FINE so I've been doing it ever since.

That said, I think I must not have hard water or "old bean" issues because I have never had this hard bean thing happen, and I've been cooking dried beans, peas, lentils, split peas, etc. for over 20 years.
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#14 Old 11-06-2006, 06:23 AM
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I had the same problem last week with cannelini beans. I soaked them overngiht then cooked them the next day for over two hours and they were not soft enough, some were even still crunchy like a peanut. I was annoyed because I am trying to get away from canned beans but I love how canned beans are always so tender and flavorful unlike my own cooked dried beans.
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#15 Old 11-06-2006, 02:26 PM
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I read an article about some beans being heat treated to destroy bacteria. That heat treatment also makes the beans impossible to cook to a softened state no matter how long they're cooked.

I read this in reference to NZ's beans (the imported ones, usually) so I have no idea if it's JUST NZ or if it's done in other parts of the world as well.

Otherwise, I'd say you just have really hard water. Beans don't like hard water at all.
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#16 Old 11-06-2006, 02:58 PM
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About baking soda in the cooking water... I think this destroys some of the B-vitamins, but this might be a worthwhile trade-off if excessively chewy beans are too unappetizing to enjoy. Besides, maybe we get plenty of B-vitamins from other sources.

I find Garbanzo beans difficult to cook to a tender state, but kidneys (or other red beans) and pintos usually soften up OK. Lentils and peas soften VERY quickly compared to other beans.

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#17 Old 11-06-2006, 03:32 PM
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Okay, I think I googled the terms "beans", "bicarbonate" and "vitamin" and got this link:

That site mentions hard water as a problem too.

Peasant (1963-1972) and Fluffy (1970s?-1982- I think of you as 'Ambrose' now)- Your spirits outshone some humans I have known. Be happy forever.
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#18 Old 11-07-2006, 07:28 AM
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interesting link - thanks for the post!

As for cooking garbanzos... I've tried doing it on the stove and it takes FOREVER and they never soften up nicely like they do when I cook 'em on the crockpot. When I CP them, they turn out perfect EVERY time. So glad my CP is big so I can cook a bunch at a time. Btw, what I do for garbanzos in the CP is soak them overnight first. Toss the water and rinse the beans. Then put them in the CP. I pour a fresh batch of filtered water (I never use tap or distilled, either) over the beans. If I want to save an hour on cooking, I'll boil the water and immediately pour it over the beans and already have set the CP on high. Doing it this way, the beans are done in 3-4 hours to perfection. If no boil, the beans are done in 5-6 hours. Perfect... everytime.

Then save the garbanzo bean liquid for a veggie broth replacement. Works great!
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#19 Old 11-07-2006, 02:24 PM
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what's your altitude, Snezi?

When I moved above 5000 feet, I had to invest in a pressure cooker for beans. Works great with the "flash soak" method of boil, drain add more water.
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#20 Old 11-07-2006, 06:19 PM
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Tom -- I enjoyed the bean link, too. I never put baking soda in the cooking water for my beans, just the soaking water. But I'm going to try the bottled water idea; judging from the crud inside my teakettle, my water is hard as a rock!

Orapunzel -- I am so with you on the crockpot thing. Even though I live alone, I have a big crockpot, and I just love the way you can cook a big mess of great beans and then use them for all different dishes.

By the way, it should be mentioned that soft, gooey beans (delicious though they are) are not desirable for all recipes. For example, salads. Beans you cook up and then chill for a salad ought to have a bit of chewiness to them, and should hold their shape tossed with other ingredients. If I'm cooking beans for a summer salad, I skip the baking soda and let the hard water have its way with them!
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#21 Old 09-09-2012, 09:18 PM
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hi there. this often happens with me and garbanzos. the beans looked small, so i thought they might be old. i soaked them for FOUR DAYS then cooked them for 11 hours and they are still hard and gross. mad.gif

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#22 Old 09-09-2012, 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by frankieolives View Post

hi there. this often happens with me and garbanzos. the beans looked small, so i thought they might be old. i soaked them for FOUR DAYS then cooked them for 11 hours and they are still hard and gross. mad.gif

FYI, this thread is 6 years old. If you want to start a current discussion, you might get more interest with a new thread. smiley.gif
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#23 Old 09-10-2012, 01:09 AM
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"this often happens with me and garbanzos. the beans looked small, so i thought they might be old. i soaked them for FOUR DAYS then cooked them for 11 hours and they are still hard and gross. mad.gif"


Just throw them away if they look really old, or if they've been stashed in the cupboard too long. Old pulses become inedible.

But otherwise, a pressure cooker is a good idea.

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