How do I win the war against tasteless beans?

Joined Nov 4, 2015
I'm trying to find a good book or tutorial on how to make beans submit to my flavourings. 

I usually use dry beans since they keep well and don't have a weird tin flavour. I'll soak them for hours or whatever generally comes up on a google search (for example, right now I am working with black eyed peas and I boiled them for a few minutes then let them sit for 90 minutes before cooking them in broth for an hour).

I'm having a hard time getting beans to pick up flavour. I heard once that salt is very bad in the beginning of the cooking process because the beans will harden or something. But I really don't know and I don't have any experience with bean techniques.

Could anyone point me in the right direction? Beans and legumes are incredibly healthy, affordable and versatile.I just need to figure out how to cook them properly. 



Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Beans are more a foil for flavors around them than in them. Your great bean dishes aren't really about the bean but what's happening around the bean. Hummus and Refried beans are probably the most bean dense dishes and are strongly seasoned because of the bland bean puree. Moving to intact bean dishes like chili, red beans and rice, these are still strongly flavored with onions, garlic and intense spices. 

Salt helps. Yes it toughens the skins somewhat. But it does improve the flavor of the bean. Where you're talking healthy, then lets skip the cooking with salt and recognize that the bean is just what it is. We don't need extra salt in the bean to make a good dish of beans.

I'm not fan of the soak and such. Primarily it helps prevent beans from exploding or shedding their skins. You can get rid of a little oligosaccharides, but not enough to benefit imho. You're just adding complication to what should be pretty easy. 

There's that little rough patch on a bean on the inside curve where it was attached in the pod. This is where all the water and flavor will enter your bean during cooking. This is why beans cook slowly.

Get a big teaball, 3-4 inch diameter. This will run you about $10.00. A good asian grocer will have one or you can get it online such as at Amazon.  You'll cook your beans with your aromatics in the teaball. Sure, you can cook your beans with the aromatics mixed in too, but you'll have more versatility with the beans separate. Fishing out the herbs and spices and such is much simpler with a teaball. Also good for other things like soups. Put parmesan rinds, bay leaves, whole herbs and such in the teaball. Easy to remove when its time.

Cook your beans for the recommended time with the seasonings of your choice. I usually use some onion quarters, smashed garlic cloves, whole pepper corns and bay leaves. This leaves the beans with a little more flavor, but not a lot more. 

If I was doing Chili, I'd probably add extra garlic, whole cumin, some dried chiles, and oregano as well.

If you're serious about beans, a pressure cooker will simplify your life greatly. Once the pressure cooker is at pressure, the cooking time is just 45-55 minutes depending on they bean. Maybe a bit more for a large kidney bean. And with a pressure cooker, the onion and garlic just turn to mush. You'd never get them out of the broth without having them in a teaball. This makes it much simpler to prepare a minestrone or chili while the beans cook. About the time the beans are done, your chili or soup is ready to receive the freshly cooked beans. 
Joined Aug 21, 2004
Through the years and by doing side by side tests, what works for me is to not soak (blanch, rinse, whatever) the beans, just start them (it takes longer but makes for a more flavorful bean because flavor components are not going down the drain, if you do soak them however, cook them in the soaking liquid for the same reason). Salt about 1/2 way through. To my tastes, this makes for a more salt influenced bean (as opposed to salting at the end which makes for a more salt influenced broth). Salting half way through (as opposed to at the begining) doesn't change the flavor but it does help the beans to hold their shape better.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Bacon, ;) and put them in a flavorful broth or gravy.  When you cook them, use whole mirepoix, add aromatics like bay leaf and parsley.  But really they're kinda like tofu, forget it if you want to get flavor into the bean itself.

So for example when I cook my red beans for red beans and rice, I will cook it with a ham hock, then remove everything and use some of the liquid and puree some of the beans with it.  This makes for a "gravy" of sorts.
Joined Nov 15, 2012
Ahh, speaking of red beans I love the ones from the Popeyes franchise, love that sauce and I believe they make a puree as Kan mentioned. Then apparently they simmer the whole batch until the skins of the whole beans break open and absorb, or perhaps they assist with some mechanical breaking up.  Very smooth, very tasty.  I would try it myself but presently beans are on the restricted side of my diet.

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Joined Aug 15, 2003
I'm firmly in the season early camp. I really don't think that salting early has much detrimental effect on the bean. Honestly--think of the #1 thing we use to flavor beans (salted pork products, i.e. bacon, ham, sausage, salt pork, pancetta, etc) and their liquid. 

I like using a soffrito as well (Italian style, not spanish/latin). Just throw some rough cut carrot, onion and celery into a food-processor, and pulse until fine but not mushy. Then put in a pan, cover with oil, and slowly cook until it is about to start caramelizing. Add this to your beans in the beginning, along with your herbs, pork, etc. Works wonders. 

Now, ACID will toughen your beans. So things like tomatoes, molasses, vinegar, wine, etc. Keep that in mind. Add this stuff near the end or expect to cook your beans for a long time. Sometimes this is a key component in controlling the timing and length of cooking (think Boston baked beans), but unless you are doing it for a specific reason, avoid.

Also, it helps to get good quality beans. If you use shitty/cheap beans, they might not turn out as good as they should. Old beans suck too. 
Joined May 5, 2010
We actually grow the beans we use here on the farm. We grew Pinto and a weird looking bean called Calypso, (they look like ying/yang on a bean.

True that the beans get their flavor from what they are cooked in and with. 

Bacon is always a winner, I utilize a lot of fresh herbs in beans, as well as things like onions, tomatoes, shaved fennel (fresh).


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
OH yeah, like chefross says, the finish garnish too.  When you put that fresh stuff on there, fresh oils, fresh aromatics, when they hit the hot beans it makes it a whole different dish.
Joined Jun 27, 2012
I think everyone agrees that the best pot of beans will have a slightly thick, flavorful "gravy" .

@kuan  mentioned breaking some up and I agree.

As soon as the bean is soft enuf take a potato masher to it (3-4 squishes should do it) and continue to cook.

You now have the "gravy" medium and from there you can adjust seasonings and know more how things are going.

I also add whole veg in for more flavor (whole so you can fish out easier) peeled carrots (chef's treat ;-) trimmed celery, peeled and quartered onions.....a  cleaned bell pepper all bring something to the pot.

I don't use much more than that.

Homemade hock stock...veg...ground black pepper/salt and a "grab" of cilantro during the last 30 min or so (then removed).

No packaged bean seasonings or chilies (raw or processed into powder) or garlic.

Funny thing ...I really didn't care for cilantro until someone used it in pintos.

I now am desensitized to the soapy aftertaste and use it much more in my TexMex cooking (makes a great add in to pico).

Of course the best pot of beans are "aged" overnite in the fridge.

Have some refrieds (no extra fat...use some water instead)  and fried potatoes with chopped sweet onions (1015's down here)  and homemade flour tortillas as a campout breakfast some chilly fall am.

Nothing better.



Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
As for mashed beans for thickness I do different things depending on the dish. For Red Beans and Rice or refried beans, I like the potato masher pretty well. Back of a wooden spoon is good too. 

For soups or chili, I usually some cooked beans and some of the broth or cooking liquid and puree it with my stick blender. Then I mix that back in repeating as needed for the right texture. This keeps the beans in the dish intact, but the  flavor and texture trick is not obvious to the diner. 

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