Soaking and Cooking Beans and Legumes

Most dry beans and legumes, except lentils, mung beans and split peas need to be soaked. This shortens the cooking time, makes them easier to digest. Soaking times will vary depending on the type, but 8 hours is a general recommendation. Put your beans in to soak before going to bed, and they will be ready to rinse and cook in the morning.

The outer shell of beans and legumes contains so called ‘anti-nutrients’, such as phytates, that can interfere with digestion as well as the absorption of many vital nutrients from the beans and legumes themselves and from other foods consumed alongside them. By soaking and then rinsing them the ‘anti-nutrients’ are removed and neutralised.

Normal soak

Step 1

Rinse beans thoroughly under cool water and drain, then remove any debris.

Step 2

Cover the beans with three times their volume in water and 1-3 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice. Cover and leave for 8 hours to soak.

Step 3

Drain and rinse the beans well in a colander or sieve.

Transfer beans to a saucepan and cover with fresh water.

Step 4

Bring to the boil, reduce heat and gently simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours or until tender. Skim any foam that forms as they cook. The time can vary with different beans and legumes so follow the packet instructions.

When tender remove from the heat and drain.


  • A cup of dried beans is equivalent to about three cups of soaked and cooked beans.
  • Adding a tsp bicarbonate of soda when cooking can soften the outer skin of beans and legumes.
  • Although it isn’t necessary to soak lentils, it is advised to increase digestibility.
  • Cooking soaked beans and legumes in a pressure cooker can reduce the cooking time to around 12 minutes.