Mountain Protein: Dried Beans and How to Cook Them

Because of what we do and our living situation in the mountains we travel quite a bit. We live about five hours from the nearest town (as in a place that would have a store where we can buy groceries, gas, etc).

In a perfect world we would prefer to travel to buy supplies and groceries no more than every three months, but we travel the rough mountain roads in and out of our small village more often than that. Because of the long day of travel from the grocery store or market to our home we must choose the least perishable and inexpensive sources of protein for our diet.

Our drive to and from the grocery and market is 5 hours of this.

Our drive to and from the grocery and market is five hours of this.

Bringing a cooler for frozen meats is a good idea, and something we do on occasion, however, if we were to break down on the road, calling AAA roadside assistance is not really an option. And we’d rather not lose money as we watch our frozen meat thaw and spoil in the sun. So, what do we eat for protein? Well…canned fish, tuna, salmon, and canned chicken, but also…

Lots of dried beans!

Dried beans and legumes are an inexpensive and healthy way to add not only protein, but complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber to your diet. Beans have around 80 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per 1/3 cup serving. And a 1 kg (2.2lb) bag of dried beans here in Mexico costs around $1.80 – $2.20, depending on the type of bean, and will make around 10-12 cups of cooked beans!

Here’s some info on the nutritional profile of a few different types of dried beans:

1 Cup
Cooked Beans
Baby Lima Black Blackeye Cranberry
Calories 230 228 200 240
Carbohydrates 42g 40g 36g 44g
Protein 14g 16g 14g 16g
Dietary Fiber 12g 8g 12g 10g
Folate 274mcg 256mcg 358mcg 366mcg
Calcium 52mg 48mg 42mg 90mg
Iron 4mg 4mg 4mg 4mg
Fat 1g 1g 1g 1g
% Calories From Fat 6% 8% 10% 6%
Sodium 6mg 1mg 6mg 1mg
1 Cup
Cooked Beans
Garbanzo Great Northern Large Lima Navy
Calories 270 210 218 260
Carbohydrates 46g 38g 40g 48g
Protein 14g 14g 14g 16g
Dietary Fiber 6g 10g 12g 10g
Folate 282mcg 182mcg 156mcg 256mcg
Calcium 80mg 122mg 32mg 128mg
Iron 4mg 4mg 4mg 4mg
Fat 4g 1g 1g 1g
% Calories From Fat 28% 6% 6% 8%
Sodium 10mg 4mg 4mg 2mg
1 Cup
Cooked Beans
Pink Pinto Red Kidney Small Red
Calories 252 236 218 226
Carbohydrates 48g 44g 38g 40g
Protein 16g 14g 16g 16g
Dietary Fiber 8g 12g 8g 8g
Folate 284mcg 294mcg 130mcg 230mcg
Calcium 88mg 82mg 78mg 50mg
Iron 4mg 4mg 4mg 6mg
Fat 1g 1g 1g 1g
% Calories From Fat 6% 6% 2% 6%
Sodium 4mg 4mg 8mg 4mg

(Chart courtesy or American Dry Bean Board)

Uses for cooked beans:
Add them to soups for texture and protein, add a 1/2 cup to the top of your salad for a boost of protein and fiber at lunch, sautee with onions, peppers or other veggies you like, add salsa and use in tortillas as an enchilada or burrito filling, make homemade veggie burgers (these are one some of my favorites), or blend beans with olive oil and spices to make a yummy bean dip for veggies. They even make a great vegetarian Italian meal with organic marinara sauce and chopped basil served over a bed of wheat pasta. The options truly are endless.

But doesn’t cooking dried beans take forever? It can, but it doesn’t have to.

Since I cook with a lot of dried beans I thought I would share with you how to get your dried beans cooked and incorporated into your favorite recipes without wasting all day simmering them over the stove. The trick: soaking and a pressure cooker.

Steps to Cooking Dried Beans in Your Pressure Cooker

1.) Select the type of dried beans that you would like to use for your recipe. Measure out how many you will need (remember 1 cup dried makes around 2 cups of cooked beans) and sift through them, picking out any broken ones or pieces of rock that might be in with the beans. Then put the beans in a deep bowl.

2.) Fill the bowl with filtered water until the beans are covered by 3-4 inches of water. Set on your countertop for 6-8 hours or overnight. I prefer overnight, but if you’ve forgotten, even 4 hours will do; you will just have to adjust the cooking time once in the pressure cooker. The soaking process helps the beans release excess sugars which makes them more easily digestible.

3.) The next morning, take your soaked beans and drain them in a colander or strainer. You will need to rinse them a few times with clean filtered water. Then add the drained beans to your pressure cooker.

4.) Cover the beans in your pressure cooker with clean filtered water. Don’t let the water rise above the middle level line inside your pressure cooker.

The next step is a matter of opinion…I add a tiny drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt to my beans before placing the lid on the pressure cooker. Some people use just salt, some just oil, some neither. You will have to experiment and see what works for you.

5.) Put the lid on the pressure cooker and seal it in place. Turn your stove burner to medium high heat, and place the rocking knob on the top of your pressure cooker. Once your pressure cooker reaches pressure the knob will begin to rock back and forth slowly. You then need to cook your beans (whichever type you have chosen) for the specified amount of time at pressure. (You should have a book that came with your pressure cooker, or here is a handy dandy chart that lists the pressure cooking times of beans.) Again, you will have to experiment with your pressure cooker and different types of beans to know exactly how you like them cooked.

6.) Once the cooking time at pressure has finished, turn off the heat and allow the pressure to come down on it’s own. Once the pressure is down, your beans are ready to be drained and put into whatever recipe you choose.

Cooking beans in a pressure cooker is so easy. It has become habit now that I put out my beans to soak at night before going to bed, and in the morning while I’m preparing our breakfast and morning coffee, I drain them and put them to cook in the pressure cooker. Then once it’s time for breakfast dishes, my beans are ready for me to incorporate them into lunch or dinner. You can also pressure cook a large batch of beans on the weekend and store them in the fridge or freezer to incorporate into your lunches and dinners throughout the week.

This coming week I will do a post on my “favorite bean/legume” (Is it weird that I have a favorite bean?) and a couple easy and delicious recipes you can try with them at home!

Have a great weekend!


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