Kidney beans, also known as rajma, are a staple of Indian and Western cuisine. The savory red kidney bean can be cooked in soups, chillies and curries, used in salads and rice dishes, and is a protein- and vitamin-rich meat alternative, as well as simply delicious on its own. If you want to learn how to properly cook dried kidney beans, you can learn the steps required, as well as what to do with them when you're done.
Part 1 of 2: Cooking dried kidney beans
Step 1. Soak dried kidney beans in cold water for 8-12 hours
Dried kidney beans must be soaked in water before being cooked and further prepared. For best results, soak the beans overnight in a full pot of cool water at room temperature.
- It's a good idea to hand-pick and rinse the beans first to remove any dust, sediment, or small pebbles that may still be left in them. Rinsing in a colander is usually enough.
- Without thoroughly soaking and boiling the beans first, kidney beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, also known as lectin, which causes stomach upset. To avoid this, they should be cooked for at least 30 minutes
- If you don't have time to soak the beans overnight, you can also use a faster method. Bring dry beans to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them soak for about 2-3 hours. Discard the soaking water and then cook the beans as you normally would.
Step 2. Choose a cooking method
Beans are probably most thoroughly cooked by boiling them for a few hours in a pot of clean water on the stove. There are several ways to cook beans, depending on what you have available.
- Another traditional and quick method is cooking kidney beans in a pressure cooker. Soak the beans as normal, put the lid on the pot, then follow the instructions for your specific pressure cooker.
- Canned kidney beans do not require cooking. You can add them to any recipe that calls for beans without cooking them.
Step 3. Simmer the beans gently for 1-2 hours
After soaking, rinse the beans thoroughly in fresh water and place them in plenty of clean water, keeping them about 5-8 cm under water. Then put the lid on the pan and bring the water to a boil, after which you immediately lower the heat and remove the lid from the pan. Cook the beans over a very low heat. You want the beans to barely move in the pan so they cook evenly and as well as possible.
- If you want a creamy pot of beans, cook them with the lid on (but slightly open) – if you want firmer beans, leave the lid off.
- After 45 minutes, check the beans by trying a few (squeeze them between your fingers or try one out). After a while they should be soft and creamy. When they have reached the desired consistency, remove the pan from the heat.
- Stir the beans regularly so they cook evenly and thoroughly, making sure to keep the beans submerged.
- Beans cooked at a higher heat will cook, but they will break open very quickly and become more mushy and floury than beans cooked more slowly and softer. If you like, you can continue cooking the beans for as long as you like to get the texture you want. Mushy beans are great for dips, curries and many other dishes.
Step 4. Skim the foam from the top of the pan regularly
As the kidney beans cook, you will notice that a gray-red foam begins to appear on the top of the pan. That's the lectin that cooks up from the beans, and it's best to regularly spoon it off and rinse it in the sink.
Step 5. Add salt and season to taste when the beans are almost tender
It is very important to cook dried beans unsalted, otherwise the beans will take much longer to cook and may not soften at all. While some varieties of beans take longer to cook than others, others (such as garbanzo beans) will never fully cook when cooked in salted water.
- At any point in the cooking process, you can add finely chopped aromatic vegetables. If your recipe calls for onions, garlic, carrots, or other vegetables, you can add them at any time to soften them. If you want the vegetables firmer, add them later in the cooking process.
- It is also common to add a 'ham hock' or some pork bone to a pan of beans, for added flavor. This is especially common with rice and beans, described in the next chapter.
Step 6. Strain the water from the cooked beans, if necessary
Beans have a somewhat variable cooking time. It is usually common to add a little water while the beans are simmering to help them cook evenly. This can lead to some water remaining when the beans are cooked.
- The rule of thumb is to add three cups of water for every cup of dry beans you add to the pan. This should theoretically end with a pan of cooked beans with no residual water.
- It is also common to retain most of the moisture in the pan, which can make for a nice gravy. Depending on what you make with the beans, you don't always have to drain them.
Part 2 of 2: Kidney bean dishes
Step 1. Make red beans with rice
Red beans with rice is a classic Cajun dish that's spicy, hearty, and inexpensive to make. It's also perfect for all kinds of ingredients, meaning it's an easy recipe to adapt to your own taste. A basic version goes like this:
- Sauté a small red onion, two garlic cloves, two celery sticks and a chopped bell pepper in a pan with some olive oil. Stir in about a pound of cooked kidney beans. You can also add these vegetables to the kidney beans during cooking, as described above.
- To this, add 2.5 cups of water, a cup of white rice, and a ham hock if desired. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes until the rice is tender. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and chili sauce to taste. Garnish with chopped coriander.
Step 2. Make a bean salad
With kidney beans you can make an excellent and simple cold salad that works very well as a side dish at any barbecue or when cooking outdoors. After pre-cooking kidney beans, try the following bean salad recipe:
- Mix one cup of kidney beans with one cup of garbanzo beans, one cup of black beans, one cup of chopped bell pepper and half a cup of chopped green onion.
- Marinate the beans in three tablespoons of red wine vinegar, two tablespoons of olive oil, one teaspoon of sugar, one teaspoon of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Leave in the fridge overnight, mix well and serve cold.
- A ready-made oil-based salad dressing can be a great substitute for the vinegar and olive oil, if you prefer. Italian salad dressing goes well with it.
Step 3. Make kidney bean curry
Boil kidney beans and add onions, garlic and other aromatic vegetables to them as a base for this delicious and easy Indian recipe. Kidney beans are the main ingredient, often served with roti or other flat breads. After cooking the kidney beans in a separate pan, do the following:
- Saute a white onion, three cloves of garlic and a piece of grated ginger in some ghee or butter. To this add three small chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a tablespoon of ground coriander, half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a teaspoon of red chili powder.
- Immediately place your kidney beans in the tomato base. Add 2-3 cups of water or use the liquid from the cooked beans to thicken. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of garam masala. Serve with rice, roti or naan, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and lime.
Step 4. Make chili
A very well-known recipe in the United States that uses kidney beans is chili. Whatever chili recipe you prefer, kidney beans make a wonderful addition (except in Texas, where they turn a blind eye). For a simple chili, do the following:
- Brown a pound of lean ground beef in a pan, add one white onion, three cloves of minced garlic, and 3-4 tablespoons of red chili powder. Cover with 3-4 cups of water and add two cups of cooked kidney beans. Simmer on low, uncovered, for 1-2 hours. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
- Other good additions include garbanzos, black beans, corn, and macaroni. Chili goes well with tortillas, cornbread and baked potatoes.
Step 5. Make a bean soup
Vegetable soup can be made more interesting with kidney beans. If you're looking to make supper to clear out your fridge, a vegetable soup is a great option, and one that you can spice up with a variety of ingredients. For a basic version, try the following:
In a pan, sauté a finely chopped onion and some garlic in olive oil. Add 1-2 chopped carrots and a cup of potato. Add 2-3 cups of chicken/vegetable stock or water and bring to a gentle simmer. Add whatever veggies you have on hand: canned, frozen, or fresh green beans, corn, and a cup of kidney beans. Season with chopped basil, salt and pepper
Step 6. Eat them as a side dish
Salted and seasoned with a little cayenne pepper, kidney beans make a nice side dish in their own right. Kidney beans are high in vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium and protein.