How to Cook Perfect White & Pinto Beans

by Fern Fischer

Use the same basic methods to cook most varieties of dried beans.

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Cooked, dried beans provide a substantial amount of fiber and protein as well as vitamins and minerals. Preparing dried white or pinto beans for cooking is easy, but it takes a little time. Once they’re cooked, the beans keep in the refrigerator for five days. Instead of buying canned beans, cook your own and store them in the freezer, where they’ll keep for several months. Use refrigerated or frozen white or pinto beans in your favorite recipes as you would canned beans.

Fast Soak

Sort the dried beans and rinse them under cool running water. When you sort, look for bits of stem and plant debris, and watch for small pebbles that sometimes slip through the screens during packing. Discard these foreign bits along with any discolored or shriveled beans.

Place the rinsed beans in a large pot and cover them with 6 to 8 cups of water per pound of beans. Bring the water to a rapid boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover with a lid and let the beans sit for an hour. Drain off the soak water and rinse the beans.

Return the rinsed beans to the pot and cover them with 6 cups of hot water per original pound of dried beans. Bring the water just to a simmer and cook the beans until they’re tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The liquid level should just cover the beans. Check periodically and add more water if necessary.

Overnight Soak

Sort and rinse dry white or pinto beans, throwing away debris and blemished beans. Rinse them under cool water and place them in a large pot.

Pour 6 to 8 cups of room temperature water per pound of dry white or pinto beans into the pot. Cover the pot and let the beans soak for at least 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and rinse them under cool water.

Place the rinsed beans in the pot and cover them with 6 to 8 cups of hot water per pound of original dried beans. Simmer them gently for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the beans are tender.


  • Cook a large pot of beans without seasoning and freeze them in cartons in common recipe amounts. Add the seasoning the recipe calls for after you thaw the beans.

    Larger-sized beans typically need to cook longer than small beans to reach the same degree of tenderness.

    Generally, two cups of dry white or pinto beans equal one pound of dry beans.

    Boiling the beans during the final cooking time can cause the bean skins to burst. Keep the burner just high enough to maintain a simmer. Drain the beans as soon as they are tender to stop the cooking process and keep the beans from becoming mushy.

    Add salt in the final cooking liquid to avoid rinsing it away, or omit it completely for salt-free beans. Add sauces, tomatoes and other ingredients during or after the final cook time. Adding acidic ingredients or ingredients rich in calcium early in the cooking process can prevent tenderness.

    Hard water minerals can also affect the tenderness of cooked beans. If your beans seem hard even after extra cooking time, try soaking and cooking them in purchased bottled water.


Photo Credits

  • iacona/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.