And as we’ve gradually moved almost entirely away from meat consumption, they’ve taken on an ever bigger role in our cooking.
But even if you’re not vegetarian or even remotely interested in becoming one, legumes are terrific additions to a family’s menus because they’re so darned versatile.
A testament to that is their frequent appearance on the ingredient list of diverse and delicious recipes from all over the world.
They’re also very cheap. Eaten as the main course, they deliver meals at rock bottom prices.
And when added to stews, soups, or sauces that are meat-based, they can extend the number of servings considerably, stretching food budget dollars in the process.
Now, most people use the canned version of beans and other legumes. And that’s fine and quick.
But using dry legumes is the most economical way to buy and use them. So if you’re really interested in cutting your food costs, this is one easy way to do that.
- A pound of dry beans yields approximately 7 cups of cooked beans, which is roughly the equivalent of 4 cans of prepared beans.
The cooking times, expansion of the legume, and amount of water needed, will all vary somewhat depending on the type of legume.
- But a general rule of thumb is that one cup of legumes will expand to 2 ½ to 3 cups of cooked legumes. So, for every cup of dry legumes, add about 3-4 cups of water.
- Adding 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar to the water when cooking beans can prevent any excessive foaming.
- It’s best not to add salt until the end of the cooking time because it can retard softening of the legumes.
Traditional Soaking Method
Soak the legumes in plenty of water overnight. Drain and rinse them, and add fresh water to cover them by a couple of inches. Then bring the legumes to a boil and simmer, covered, for the required cook time, typically 1-3 hours.
Put the beans or other legumes in the crock pot, add about two to two and half times the water, and leave it to cook for 6-8 hours, and they’re ready to use in any recipe you have in mind.
Or cook them right along with the seasonings and other added ingredients the recipe calls for, as well as the extra water needed for the legumes to cook, and you’ve got an entire meal ready when you need it.
I’m not a big fan of a lot of kitchen gadgets, but there are a few I recommend having, and the pressure cooker is one of them. Marketers have found a way to make this old-fashioned technology seem more appealing (and expensive) with the "new" instant pots, so it's really trendy right now.
But pressure cookers have been around a long time. Busy cooks love them because, among other things, they can cut cooking time by two thirds or more for legumes. That amounts to hours of time savings.
To learn more about how a pressure cooker can be of use in your kitchen and save you money in the process, read my blog post on the topic here.
To cook legumes in a pressure cooker, simply remove the steamer basket from the bottom of the pressure cooker, if there is one, measure out however many legumes you need, and add 3-4X the water to the pot.
Put the pressure cooker cover on securely, and add the weight. Cook over medium-medium/high heat.
Below is a handy timetable to help you determine how long to cook legumes.
Calculate cooking times from the moment the pressure cooker is up to pressure (when the button has popped up, and the weight rattles slightly.