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Photo Credit: Sina Mizrahi

Oh, the humble bean. It’s economical, easy to flavor, and holds its own in the good meal department. But it takes so very long to cook and soften and reach that perfect balance of soft but not mushy. I make my kids a bean stew almost weekly and precooking the beans takes so long. I knew there had to be a better way.

I wanted to test the baking soda hack and see if it really does cut cooking time in half and if it will solve the mystery of why some beans seemingly refuse to soften no matter how long they’re cooked. So I presoaked one batch of beans in water and baking soda and one batch just in water.

Cooked Beans
  • 16 oz (450 g) navy beans
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp kosher salt
Method 1

Place beans in a bowl. Add enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches (7½ cm).

Add baking soda to mixture and stir to dissolve. Cover; soak for 12 hours or overnight. Rinse.

Place beans in a saucepan with the salt; cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until desired doneness.

Method 2

Skip the baking soda and proceed as above.



Once you’ve cooked the beans, you can freeze them in batches and add them to a sauce. Here’s my basic bean soup (marak shu’it) recipe:

Sauté 1 diced onion in 14 cup oil. Add 1 batch cooked beans along with 15 oz (425 g) tomato sauce and boiling water to cover. Bring to a boil; season with 1 Tbsp chicken soup mix, 1 Tbsp paprika, 2 tsp salt, and 12 tsp pepper. Cook for 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

My Verdict

I haven’t seen such a stark difference in a long time. The baking soda in Method 1 made a remarkable difference. I usually cook presoaked beans for at least an hour and a half, but by 35 minutes the beans were so incredibly soft that they were too mushy. Jaw-dropping amazement!

The second batch I cooked for close to an hour and they were softened but not fully cooked. I found discrepancies where some beans didn’t soften as much or were even still hard.

There is a clear, indisputable way to cook beans: presoaked with baking soda. If you’re short on time, add a pinch of baking soda to the boiling water to help speed up the cooking.


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 841)

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