Learn how to cook dry kidney beans safely on the stovetop with this tutorial! Tips for using and freezing red kidney beans are also included.
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Knowing how to cook dry beans is a great skill for plant-forward cooking. Yes, canned beans are convenient. But once you make your own beans from scratch, you’ll see just how delicious and creamy they can be! I find the whole process very satisfying for some reason.
I’ve been experimenting with different ways to prepare beans, and this tutorial will focus on how to cook dry kidney beans on the stove. It’s not the only way to cook red beans, but it’s very easy and doesn’t require an Instant Pot or pressure cooker.
Before we get to the tutorial, let’s discuss some FAQ about red kidney beans. You may have questions about their toxicity, how long they take to cook, and how to tell if they’re actually cooked.
Are kidney beans toxic?
In their raw form, kidney beans can be toxic. They contain a compound called phytohaemagglutinin that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea if it’s not destroyed via cooking. That’s why it’s so important to fully cook red beans before eating them.
Do you need to soak kidney beans?
For dried kidney beans in particular, experts suggest soaking them for at least 5 hours before cooking. Whether or not you should soak beans in general is always up for debate. Some claim that soaking makes beans easier to digest, while others claim otherwise.
Personally, I like soaking beans because it promotes even cooking and shortens cooking time. If I’m making beans in the Instant Pot, however, I don’t soak them.
How long does it take to cook kidney beans?
On the stovetop, it takes between 45 and 90 minutes to cook kidney beans. However, depending on the soaking time and age of the beans, they may take less time to cook. They are finished cooking when they are tender and have a creamy texture. It’s normal for some beans to split open while others maintain their shape.
Cooking Kidney Beans Safely
The process of preparing kidney beans involves sorting, soaking, cooking, draining, and storing. It takes some time, but it’s super easy! Here’s everything you need to know about how to cook dry kidney beans.
For soaking, you’ll need a large bowl. For cooking, gather a colander, Dutch oven or large pot, and a wooden spoon. You may also want to get out some containers for storage at this time.
Soaking Kidney Beans
Look through the kidney beans before soaking and remove any shriveled, damaged, or broken pieces. Then place the kidney beans in a large bowl. Make sure the bowl is big enough to account for the kidney beans expanding during soaking.
Add enough water to cover the kidney beans by a few inches. For one cup of dried beans, use about 4 to 6 cups water. For one pound of dried beans (about two cups), double that amount. Let the kidney beans soak for at least 5 hours or overnight.
Cooking Kidney Beans on the Stove
Drain the kidney beans from the soaking water. Place them in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add 10 cups of water if you are cooking a pound (about two cups) of kidney beans. Add two bay leaves if desired.
Bring the pot to a boil for a few minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 45 minutes and up to 90 minutes. You’ll know kidney beans are cooked when they are tender and creamy. Some of them may split open.
Be sure to stir the beans every once in a while to promote even cooking. Check them for doneness at 30 minutes, since cooking times can vary depending on soaking time and age of the beans.
I like to add a teaspoon of salt about 10 minutes before I take the beans off the stove. Some people claim that salt prevents the beans from getting soft during cooking, so I add it towards the end to be safe.
Storing Cooked Kidney Beans
Drain the cooked beans, or use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans to storage containers. I like to use a slotted spoon so that I get a little bit of the liquid with the beans, but it’s up to you. I like how they get creamier when they’re stored in liquid. If you want to cool down the beans before storing, rinse them with cold water in a colander.
Since most recipes call for beans in 15-ounce cans, I like to store cooked kidney beans in portions of 1 and 3/4 to 2 cups (about 15 ounces). This makes it really easy to add them to future recipes.
You can keep cooked beans in the fridge for up to a week. They last for up to 3 months in the freezer in airtight containers or silicone bags. You usually do not need to thaw frozen kidney beans before adding them to recipes, since they are commonly used in soups, chilis, and other cooked recipes. I don’t recommend using frozen beans in cold recipes like salads.
Ways to Use Red Kidney Beans
You can use cooked kidney beans in soups, chilis, tacos, and salads. They also make a great base for pureed bean dips and are the main ingredient in red beans and rice recipes!
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Stovetop Cooked Kidney Beans
- Large bowl
- Dutch oven or large pot
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans
- 2 bay leaves - optional
- 1 tsp salt
- Sort through the kidney beans and remove any shriveled or broken ones.
- Place the kidney beans in a large bowl and cover with 10 cups of water. Leave the bowl on the counter and soak for at least 5 hours or overnight. The beans will swell up in size as they soak, so be sure to use a bowl that's big enough.
- Drain the soaked beans and place them in a Dutch oven or large pot with 10 cups of fresh water. Add the bay leaves to the pot.
- Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the beans simmer for 45 minutes and up to 90 minutes until tender and soft. Add the salt about 10 minutes before you think they'll be finished cooking. Some beans may split open during the cooking process. Depending on the soaking time and age of the beans, they may only take 30 minutes to cook, so check them then to see if they're done. Stir the beans periodically while they're on the stove to promote even cooking.
- When the beans are finished, remove from heat. You can choose to drain them completely or transfer them with a slotted spoon to storage containers. I like to include a tiny bit of liquid with my beans when I store them, so I use a slotted spoon. If you want to cool the beans down before storing, drain and rinse them under cold running water.
- Store the beans in 1.75 to 2 cup portions (equivalent to a 15-ounce can of beans), since this makes them easier to add to recipes that call for a can of beans. They will last for a week in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.
- Leave a rating or review by tapping the stars on this recipe card (above) or in the comments section (at the end of the post)!
- It’s very important to cook kidney beans completely. They contain a compound that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea if it’s not destroyed via the cooking process.
- Use the ratio of 5 cups water for 1 cup of dried beans for both soaking and cooking. So, for a pound of dried beans (~2 cups), you need 10 cups water.
Enjoy your beans! – Lizzie