Basic Beans Photo Tutorial – Recipe

Basic Dried Beans Photo Tutorial from thishappymom.comLong ago, I needed a basic beans tutorial!  The first time I bought a bag of dried beans, I left them sitting on the counter for two weeks, just waiting for inspiration or instructions!  There’s as many ways to cook beans as there are desperate frugal women, and the huge variety of instructions and recipes was kind of intimidating.  So was my husband’s attitude that any  woman who couldn’t cook a decent pot of beans wasn’t worth marrying (no pressure).

I was scared to mess them up, and confused by all the different pieces of advice. There is nothing fancy about this recipe, but then again there doesn’t have to be.  I have Pinto Beans on my menu this week, but I make just about every kind of beans using this same method.   I change up the seasonings and vegetable add-ins based on what we have available.  Start with something basic and then make small changes based on what works for your family.

If you have leftovers, they reheat well.  Or you can add a splash of salsa and then mash them up.  Put them in a skillet and cook while stirring until the beans tighten up.  Poof – refried beans.  (The recipe doubles if you want to plan on some refried beans for Taco Tuesday).

Here’s a photo tutorial for basic beans.  It’s nothing fancy, but it does taste good.

To start with, you need beans…

… this is a combination of navy and kidney beans.  Why?  Because I have a big glass jar of red and white beans that someone artfully layered as a decorative object.   This would work with almost any kind of dried beans (except chick peas or lentils*), so use what you have.

(you can skip pre-soaking pinto beans and skip straight to sticking them in the crockpot)

Put your beans in a big microwave safe bowl.  Pick out anything that doesn’t look like a bean.  The cover with several inches of water.  I have 1 cup of beans and about 5 cups of water in the bowl.

If you have a ton of time, you can just leave the beans sitting on the counter overnight.  Heck, you can even pre-soak every bean you own and then freeze them (uncooked) to use whenever you want to cook beans.  But I’m not that patient… and I don’t have unlimited freezer space.  So, I microwave the beans for 5 to 6 minutes.  The water boils for the last minute or two, just make sure it doesn’t boil over the edge of your bowl (bean water is starchy enough to be hard to clean up in the microwave).  Then, leave the beans alone for an hour.  I leave them alone, in the microwave, with the door closed.  That means I don’t burn myself with boiling bean water, and I have a steamy microwave that’s much easier to clean.

Rinse the beans (drain off the cooking liquid — my dad told me that’s where all the “gas” was hiding).  Then put them in a medium sized crockpot.  The soaked beans shouldn’t come up further than 1/3 of the way up the side of the crockpot.

Then, it’s time to bring some flavor to the beans.

Secret #1 is a simple bay leaf.  We have a bay laurel tree, and using fresh bay is an amaaaaazing  way to make food taste fabulous.  But, any bay leaf will do.  Buy them in bulk, they make almost any slow-cooked dish taste a little better.

Secret #2 for beans that taste good is… pork fat.  I use peppered bacon, because it’s easy.  You could use a bit of ham hock or salt pork if you have it.  If you can’t manage pork, you can use turkey bacon.  Or, you can use a well-smoked chicken or turkey wing (the very tip without much meat).  The fat works wonders to make your body feel satisfied and stay full longer.  And the taste of meat satisfied that carnivore instinct.  I keep a rasher of bacon wrapped in saran wrap in the freezer.  When I need flavor, I just slice off a chunk of it (still frozen)…

… see?  Zero extra effort, and I just wrap the rest back up in the saran wrap.

When I’m cooking for vegetarians, I use a handful of chopped dried mushrooms (available cheap at the asian market) instead of the pork fat.  I also add a tablespoon of olive oil at the end of cooking.  Not the same, but still delicious.

All that’s left is some salt and herbs.  Since I used peppered bacon, I don’t need to add any more black pepper.  And, since I’m going for simple, I went for seasoned salt.

Sorry for the bad photo, I had some “help” from Watty.  It’s 3/4 of a tablespoon of Tony Chacherie’s Creole seasoning.  It’s a good shortcut to adding a bunch of different seasonings at one time, and it’s available at Wally World.

Add about 4 cups of liquid (chicken stock is nice, but water works too).  You want enough liquid to come up about 2 inches higher than the beans. Then, cover up the crockpot and cook it on low for 4-6 hours.  How long depends on your crockpot.  When the beans are tender, they’re done.

(more “helper” photos, sorry)…  Now, once the beans are done, TASTE them.  I added another tablespoon of salt.  Hubby said they needed some Tabasco.  My kids thought they needed cheese (but so does everything else).

I serve by basic beans with cornbread.  The kids like the sweet cake kind, I like the jalapeño variety.   I add a plate of seasonal fruit and call it a meal.

If you just absolutely have to have rice, make rice pudding.  🙂

If you want to, you could add 1/4 cup chopped raw onion or half a can of diced tomatoes into this recipe.  Both add flavor, texture, and nutrition.  If I added the canned tomatoes, I would reduce the chicken stock by an equal amount.

*So, why not chickpeas or lentils?

lentils don’t require soaking.  they have an entire different cooking technique chickpeas are entirely different.  i stick with the canned kind.

Basic Beans Recipe (printable)

Basic Beans Tutorial - Recipe with Photos.
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Basic Bean Soup to serve with cornbread
  • 1 cup dried beans, soaked in 6 cups of water and then drained (pintos don't need presoaking)
  • 4ish cups liquid (chicken stock)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ tablespoon seasoned salt (Tony Chachere's)
  • 2-3 ounces chopped bacon
  1. Place ingredients into crockpot.
  2. Cover and cook until tender (4-6 hours).
  3. Eat.
If you want to, you could add ¼ cup chopped raw onion or half a can of diced tomatoes into this recipe. Both add flavor, texture, and nutrition. If I added the canned tomatoes, I would reduce the chicken stock by an equal amount.


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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. I made hummus from dried chickpeas for the first time last week! It was easy, why are dried beans so intimidating at first? Loved your tips (bay leaf is perfect)

    • i’d love your recipe for hummus. i love the stuff, but lately i’ve been buying it. homemade is so much better (even from cans) and i can’t imagine how good the from scratch kind would be.

      have you tried the recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough flavored hummus? 🙂

      i think i was intimidated by dried beans because my mom never cooked them. she said it was too much work. lol!

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