How To Soften Beans After Cooking

Beans are a great protein, fiber, and iron source and take little preparation time. There are situations, though, when beans don’t soften enough during cooking.

Various beans are available, from the flat fava bean to the little curvy pinto bean. Besides the apparent pattern and color differences among beans, another way in which they differ significantly from one another is in the length of time and type of preparation each variety needs to be cooked for. 

While you can cook some beans quickly to become tender and creamy, others can take hours or even days and may benefit from being soaked in fresh water first.

Read on to learn how to soften beans after cooking and why your beans may be hard even after being cooked. 

How To Soften Beans After Cooking

While you can do little if your beans have been cooking for hours and are still hard, you can try a few to speed things up.

1. Continue Boiling Them

There’s no harm in giving your beans an extra few minutes in the pot. You should always cook beans until mushy, especially in bean soup and chilis, regardless of your favorite bean recipes.

Remember, this may also vary depending on the variety of beans you are cooking. The cooking time for most beans ranges from 45 minutes to two hours. Here is an approximation of the cooking time for a popular type of bean:

  • White beans: up to half an hour 
  • Black beans: up to 90 minutes
  • Red beans: up to 90 minutes
  • Great Northern beans: up to one hour  
  • Kidney beans: up to two hours 
  • Navy beans: up to two hours 
  • Pinto beans: up to two hours 
How to Soften Beans After Cooking

Notice; the above are just approximations; your beans may take shorter or slightly longer than indicated above. 

2. Add Baking Soda

The beans, and other legumes like split peas, chickpeas, and lentils, can be made much softer by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon of baking soda in the last few minutes of cooking. 

Beans lose their pectin structure when exposed to an alkaline substance like baking soda. As a result, less time is spent cooking the beans, and they turn out perfectly tender and sweet stews.

3. Add Bay Leaves

If you want your hard beans to be tender quickly, add two bay leaves before cooking them. This will help neutralize the water and increase the pH level to where it needs to be. 

The bay leaves will still soften the beans and shorten the cooking time even if you add them late. It’s a quick soak method for achieving a creamier texture in your beans. This can also work in other legumes, like black-eyed peas.

4. Use a Pressure Cooker

Using a pressure cooker can save time when cooking. If slow cooking and soaking don’t work, use a pressure cooker instead. All you have to do is find out how long you must cook the legumes.

The end product isn’t usually gorgeous, but if time is of the essence and you need to get these beans done, it could be your best bet.

Why Your Beans Won’t Soften

Many factors could be keeping your beans from softening throughout cooking. Yet, the most typical reasons include the following: 

1. The Beans Are Too Old

Beans have an average life span of one year. The shelf life can increase to three years if stored in an ideal environment; a cool, dry area. While they can go that long t their usefulness as food decreases after just two years; thus, you should cook them before that point is reached.

If your beans have black spots, patches of color variation, or any sort of mold, they are bad and should be thrown away.

If you open the bag of beans and notice a strange odor, it’s time to toss them, even though they appear to be alright. Indicators such as these indicate that your beans have expired and are useless.

2. An Acid Was Added Too Soon

Things like lemon juice and tomatoes have acid content, making beans hard to cook if added too early. The acid attaches to the bean seeds, reducing their ability to absorb moisture.

While acidity hardens the bean skins, acids enhance the beans’ flavor or consistency.  

3. Chlorinated Water or Hard Water 

Water with a high mineral (hard) or chlorine content is not the best for cooking your beans if you want them to get soft faster.

Lima beans and navy beans cook more quickly than darker varieties, yet they may still have difficulties softening in the wrong water.

Instead of tap water, consider using fresh cooking water if you have trouble getting your beans tender enough.

4. Unsoaked Dry Beans  

It’s recommended to soak beans for four to 12 hours. Beans are sometimes soaked overnight before being cooked. Most dry beans are safe to soak overnight before cooking.

The beans will take less time to cook if they are already soft when you start the cooking process.

While black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans may require more time than others to soften in fresh water, all three varieties can have a shorter cooking time if soaked overnight.

They are usually ready to be cooked when they begin to “peel” and lighten in color. You should also ensure you buy your beans from a reliable grocery store.

How Do You Soften Old Cooking Beans?

There are a few different approaches to reviving dried beans for cooking, including the following:

  • Boiling: Pour a few inches of water into a large pot to cover the beans. To cook the beans, bring a pot of beans to a boil and toss the beans in for two to three minutes. Put an hour’s worth of beans soaking in the boiling water by removing the saucepan from the stovetop.
  • Soaking overnight: Place beans in a deep dish and cover them with water by at least a few inches around. Leave them in soaking water for at least eight hours, preferably overnight; add salt. Draining and rinsing the beans with a colander before boiling them is best. You can also soak canned beans overnight.  
  • Pressure cooking: Cooking beans can take around twenty to thirty minutes by cooking them under high pressure in a pressure cooker. With this method, you may save time without sacrificing quality. 
  • Slow cooking: The pound of beans and water needed to cover them can be placed in a slow cooker and cooked on the lowest setting for eight to ten hours or until the desired consistency is reached. The best slow cooker is a crock pot. 

Take Note: Always opt for instant pot for optimal results. 

How Do You Prep Beans For A Salad?

Here are the simple steps for preparing beans for a salad…

Step 1: Wash And Rinse The Beans

After you remove the beans from the can, wash them well in a sink full of cold water; running. This gets rid of any extra salt and makes the food taste fresher.

Step 2: Remove Any Debris

Remove any small stones or other dirt from the beans if you find any.

Step 2: Combine With Other Ingredients

Drain and rinse the beans before adding them to a salad, along with other ingredients like chopped vegetables, chopped herbs, and a salad dressing.

Step 3: Prepare The Beans

you can cook dried beans and use them in salads after rehydration by soaking them in water for 12 hours, draining the water, and then boiling them until tender.

Step 4; Chill The Salad

The salad is best when chilled for 30 minutes after being mixed in the bowl. This lets the flavors mingle, making for a tastier salad. 

Note: Cumin is an excellent complement to any bean dish, such as soups, dips, salads, and more. 

How Does Baking Soda Help Old Dried Beans?

Baking soda creates an alkaline environment, which shortens the soaking and cooking times and prevents the bean skin from cracking. It can also change the old bean’s colors from dull to vibrant. Young beans lack the creaminess of baking soda beans. 

How to Soften Beans After Cooking

However, many people dislike the “soapy” taste of baked beans that baking soda brings about. Use them right, and beans are at their most delicious, just like you picked them up from the local farmer!

The water content in dried beans is roughly 16%. Pectin causes the skin to dry out and harden, a natural consequence of aging. The time it takes to soak and cook these beans might double. 

Because baking soda raises the pH of water, it can dissolve pectin and speed up the softening process for beans. Baking soda reduces the rate at which beans absorb water by removing particles from hard water, calcium, and magnesium. Pre-soaking in baking soda is effective and can be used in the kitchen.


There are several methods to soften beans that have already been cooked but are still too firm for preference. The most effective ways to cook beans are by using a pressure cooker, adding acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice, or simmering them in a liquid such as water, broth, or tomato sauce. 

Cooking times for beans vary widely depending on their age and variety; for optimal results, waiting until they’re tender before attempting to soften them more is recommended. By following these steps, ensure your beans are excellent, mushy, and ready for use in your favorite recipes.


Why Are My Beans Still Hard After Cooking?

Dried beans often fail to soften despite long cooking times due to one of three leading causes: Old age, hard water, or acidity; among other things, they break easily.

Does Soaking Beans Soften Them?

Hot soaking is recommended since it shortens the cooking time, eliminates gas-causing chemicals in beans, and consistently produces soft beans. Rapid Soaking. We recommend this as the quickest option. For every pound of dry beans (about two cups), you’ll need Six cups of water to cook them in a large saucepan.

Do Soaking Beans Longer Make Them Softer?

Softening beans by soaking them is possible. Beans require an overnight soak of eight-ten hours. After 12 hours of soaking, they may have lost their original flavor and become too mushy to enjoy. Avoid soaking them for far too long to get the most outstanding results.

What Happens if You Boil Beans Without Soaking?

Unsoaked beans usually take longer to cook, but they eventually become edible. The hot soak approach is helpful if you need to remember to soak your beans the night before you plan to prepare them. Boil the beans for three minutes in enough water to cover them. Remove them from the oven and soak them in boiling water for an hour. After that, you’ll want to dump, rinse, re-fill, and boil.  

Does Baking Soda Make Beans Softer?

Baking soda makes beans softer. Baking soda’s ability to raise water pH, causing the pectin to dissolve and the beans to soften more rapidly, is massive assistance. A cup of beans may absorb water slowly if you use hard water, but baking soda can help.


At Cooking be Fun, we believe that cooking can and should be an enjoyable experience for everyone. We provide a comprehensive resource of recipes, cooking tips and advice to make the process easier whether you’re just starting out or have been cooking for years.

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