Baking Soda Can Save You Hours On Cooking Beans. But There's A Catch

Dried beans — once cooked — transform. For example, dried chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are bland and uninspired, until they meld together on the stovetop, ready for your blender and a batch of homemade hummus. Kidney beans likewise come plain and dry in their packaging, but, with heat, turn into a soft and creamy dish, ready for your dinner plate.

The only downside of cooking beans? The time it takes, which can easily be amended with a little bit of baking soda. Seriously, soak your dried beans in baking soda and they'll cook in just a fraction of the time. There are two ways to achieve this — you can either pre-soak your beans in baking soda or add them — and the baking soda — straight to the pot.

Either technique is known to expedite the bean-cooking process, so it's practically a no-brainer to use baking soda in your next batch of beans. But before you pick up the measuring spoons, pause for a moment. A little bit of baking soda goes a long way, but if you use too much, it can ruin the taste of your beans.

Beware of using an off-ratio of baking soda to beans

Chances are you've heard the age-old adage, but if not, let's clarify: you can have too much of a good thing. And, if that thing is baking soda, you'll ruin your beans.

The reason baking soda — not to be confused with baking powder — works wonders on dried beans comes down to its alkaline properties. Baking soda essentially causes beans to soften and break down faster than they would without the ingredient. Too much baking soda, however, can make your beans taste soapy and not at all as you intended. Baking soda is best used in moderation, so while it can save you hours of cooking time, it can ultimately backfire if you go overboard.

So, to play things safe, baking soda and beans are all about balance. As for where that tipping point lies? Well, it depends on the amount of beans and whether they've already been soaked. In most cases, cook a pound of soaked beans with no more than 1/8 of a teaspoon of baking soda. Alternatively, deploy nearly two teaspoons of baking soda, plus salt, as a brine per pound of dried beans.

The exact ratios may vary, but the sentiment remains the same. A little baking soda goes a long way. Save yourself time — and your beans their taste — by starting small.