Turn To Your Microwave For The Fastest Way To Soak Dried Beans

Hearty, protein-rich, and available in heaps of varieties, beans can be a filling addition to soups, casseroles, fajitas, and many more dishes. However, it's important to first soak dried varieties in water before using in your recipes so that you can reduce the overall cook time and get the texture you desire.

Much like canned beans, dried beans will last for years in your pantry; but, the older they are, the longer they need to soak. If you don't have the time required, and are looking to skip this step, there's a big tip that won't eliminate the process completely but will significantly shorten the length of time needed — and all it takes is the magic of the microwave. In fact, using the appliance can reduce the time needed to soften the beans from hours to minutes.

A pan of boiling water on the stovetop works too, but the microwave is far quicker. That's because microwaves cook food from the interior and exterior at the same time, channeling the heat straight into the beans, unlike boiling that starts from the outside and gradually moves its way in at a slower pace.

How to soak beans in the microwave

To soak dried beans quickly in the microwave, you'll need hot water and a microwave-safe bowl. A good rule of thumb is to add at least double the amount of water to the beans in the bowl, so if you're using a cup of dried beans, add at least two cups of water. Then set the  microwave for 15 minutes (perhaps longer depending on the size and variety of beans you're using) and wait for it to do its thing, stopping once halfway through to give everything a stir. 

On hearing the microwave ping, you should have a bowl of beans that are just swollen and soft enough to be transferred to a pot on the stove for their final cook. If the beans aren't as tender as you'd like, return them to the microwave and cook for a further five minutes or more, if needed. Generally, kidney and cannellini beans cook faster than other varieties of dried beans, like pinto beans and black beans.

This easy microwave hack means you can still make that dinner or side dish with the black-eyed or garbanzo beans that you accidentally forgot to pre-soak the night before. Just give them a quick spin in the microwave so you don't have to forgo enjoying your favorite recipes, from chili con carne and hummus to veggie burgers and soups.