Monday, 21 November 2011

Fast Dried Legumes/Beans (time saving for those with limited attention spans & organisational skills)

I love black beans, and chickpeas. They’re so nutritious, and so versatile. When prepared from scratch, they’re really cost-effective, too. However, canned chickpeas vary in quality, firmness, size and taste, and canned black beans are difficult to purchase – the major supermarkets don’t stock them, and the organic brands from health food stores can be very expensive. Canned legumes’ broth is not always appealing, either – but when you prepare legumes/beans from scratch, you can add some chickpea cooking broth to your hommus if it’s too thin or to add richness without fat, or make a Brazilian Portobello and black bean Feijoada and use the black bean broth in that.

I have a combination electric pressure cooker/slow cooker, so the actual cooking time of legumes for me is usually around 12-25 minutes (and at the press of a button, too! Doesn’t that beat standing in a hot kitchen for over two hours, stirring chickpeas while you wait for them to cook?). Let me answer that for you: yes.

The only hitch is the soaking. What a pain. Ideally, this is around 4-8 hours. And sadly, it stops a lot of people from enjoying legumes. And I have a short attention span and often have no idea what I want to eat until I want to eat it, so planning isn’t always possible. And I know you can “quick soak” things in pressure cookers or pots, or even not soak at all and just cook longer, but that’s not ideal – soaking is important for a number of nutritional and cooking reasons, but also helps remove the “field dust” dirt and grime from your beans. And that stuff is scary and yick. And to be honest, quick soaking something still takes long enough/enough effort that I’d rather just soak for a day/night.

Enter a tip from Vegan Dad – soak dried legumes/beans when you have time, and then freeze the soaked legumes/beans in ziplock bags in portions that you usually use! Brilliant! 1 cup seems reasonable to me, and can easily be split into ½ after freezing. That way, when it’s time for cooking – you can just cook them straight away, And if you have a pressure cooker, you can have black beans ready in 12 minutes! Or chickpeas in 20ish! Perfecto! I have been advised that the beans might lose their shape a little bit when pressure cooking after being frozen.

Though you may prefer to buy beans as you need them, doing them like this can save you a few dollars, as you can buy heaps of dry beans at once (which is often much cheaper) rather than a few cups here and there.

Bonus Box-Cat
If you're just buying beans for one recipe, Lorna Sass (of pressure-cooking fame, sadly, not all vegan)  has a great tip: take along a measuring cup when you're going to buy beans so you get the right amount and aren't left with odd bits of this and that.

Remember: eat simply, but use the best quality ingredients you can find/afford. It'll make such a difference to the meal!

Enjoy your Monday, everyone.


  1. I didn't know about freezing soaked beans.

    I always make my black beans from scratch, because even though I can get them at my local deli they are so expensive. I love cooking up a huge pot and then I portion and freeze them. I don't have a pressure cooker, so it is the long way for me. ;) I quite like it, though.

    Which reminds me, I have some black eyed peas in the cupboard that need some soaking and cooking and freezing!

  2. I sympathize with the difficulty of planning enough ahead to soak beans. Last summer I managed to soak them overnight, then get them into the slow cooker in the morning to cook all day without my help. The only problem was having to eat the same kind of beans all week — but that was OK. And the slow cooker didn't heat up the kitchen. I like the idea of cooking then freezing, so when they come out of the freezer I can just pop them into a dish.

  3. @Susan... Which is your local deli? I have *never* cooked black eyed peas, would you believe? I bought them, freaked out, and left them in the cupboard.. Time to buy some more (or maybe I need to use up EVERY OTHER TYPE OF LEGUME IN THE UNIVERSE which is in my cupboard?)

    @Andrea - I totally agree! It is so frustrating to know that you have 8 cups of chickpeas/black beans/white beans/whatever to use up, in new and inventive ways.. Once in chilli, once in patties, once in dip, etc.. It kinda puts you off. Luckily, in the pressure cooker, whipping up a quick batch is actually pretty easy for me - but I still have to clean it all up. Cooking then freezing isn't that bad an idea.. Do they hold their shape that way?


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