Kidney Beans: How to Cook Them Perfectly Every Time For Your Favorite Dishes

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The kidney bean is a variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). It is named for its visual resemblance in shape and color to a kidney. Red kidney beans can be confused with other beans that are red, such as adzuki beans. In Jamaica, they are called “red peas”.

Kidney beans are a great addition to many dishes. They’re not the most popular bean, but they’re perfect for chili, stews, and soups. Plus, they’re high in protein and fiber.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to use kidney beans in cooking and what to look for when buying them. Plus, I’ll share some of my favorite recipes using kidney beans.

How to cook with kidney beans

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What’s the Deal with Kidney Beans?

Kidney beans are a type of legume that are native to Central and South America. They are named after their kidney-like shape and are available in both dried and canned forms. Kidney beans are a popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world, including Indian, Mexican, and American.

How to cook kidney beans?

To cook kidney beans, you’ll need to add them to a pot with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the beans cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until they are tender. If you’re short on time, you can also cook kidney beans in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot.

What are some delicious kidney bean recipes?

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few delicious kidney bean recipes to try:

  • Vegetarian chili: This hearty chili is packed with kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans for a protein-packed meal.
  • Buckwheat and kidney bean salad: This refreshing salad includes kidney beans, buckwheat, and fresh herbs for a light and healthy dish.
  • Kidney bean curry: This Indian-inspired curry features kidney beans in a flavorful tomato-based sauce.
  • Kidney bean and sweet potato enchiladas: These vegetarian enchiladas are filled with kidney beans, sweet potatoes, and cheese for a delicious and filling meal.

Get Cooking: How to Cook Kidney Beans to Perfection

Before you start cooking, you need to know that dried kidney beans need to be soaked. Soaking helps to reduce cooking time and rid the beans of toxins. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Rinse the dried beans in a colander and remove any debris.
  • Place the beans in a large pot and add enough water to cover them by at least 2 inches.
  • Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain the beans and rinse them before cooking.

Adding Salt and Other Ingredients

  • Don’t add salt or acidic ingredients like tomatoes until the beans are almost finished cooking. Salt and acid can toughen the beans and increase cooking time.
  • You can add other ingredients like onions, garlic, and herbs to the pot to add flavor.

Final Tips

  • The cooking time for kidney beans can vary depending on the size and freshness of the beans.
  • If you’re not sure if the beans are done, take a few out of the pot and test them for tenderness.
  • If you’re short on time, you can use a slow cooker to cook the beans on high for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Don’t forget to reduce the heat to a minimum after bringing the water to a boil.
  • Stir the beans occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • Adding a little bit of oil to the pot can help reduce foaming.
  • If you want to learn more about cooking kidney beans, there are plenty of recipes and methods available online to help you out.

Soak or Not to Soak: The Great Kidney Bean Debate

Soaking is the process of submerging dried kidney beans in water for a certain amount of time before cooking them. Some people claim that soaking the beans can help plump them up, make them softer, and reduce the cooking time. Others suggest that soaking helps to reduce the sugars responsible for causing digestive issues.

When should you soak kidney beans?

Here are some general guidelines to follow when deciding whether or not to soak your kidney beans:

  • If you’re making a dish that requires a shorter cooking time (less than 30 minutes), you don’t need to soak the beans.
  • If you’re making a dish that requires a longer cooking time (more than 30 minutes), soaking can help to reduce the cooking time.
  • If you’re making a dish that requires the beans to be tender and creamy (like a soup or stew), soaking can help to achieve this texture.
  • If you’re making a dish that requires the beans to maintain their shape (like a salad), soaking may cause them to split open and lose their skins.

What do the experts say?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to soaking kidney beans. Some experts suggest soaking to promote even cooking and reduce the risk of digestive issues. Others claim that soaking doesn’t make much of a difference and may even shorten the cooking time too much, resulting in undercooked beans. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether or not to soak your kidney beans based on your personal preferences and the dish you’re making.

Get Creative with Red Kidney Beans

Who says you need beef to make a hearty dish? Red kidney beans are a perfect alternative for those who prefer a vegan or vegetarian diet. They are a great source of protein and fiber, making them a healthy choice for any meal. Try adding them to traditional meat dishes, like chili or beef stroganoff, to increase the fiber and decrease the fat.

Quick and Easy Red Kidney Bean Recipes

Looking for a simple way to incorporate red kidney beans into your meals? Here are a few quick and easy recipes to try:

  • Red kidney bean and rice bowl: Cooked red kidney beans served over rice with chopped fresh vegetables and a little hot sauce.
  • Red kidney bean and vegetable stir fry: Sauté onions, garlic, and your choice of vegetables in a little oil. Add cooked red kidney beans and a sauce made from soy sauce, stock, and cornstarch. Serve over rice or noodles.
  • Red kidney bean spread: Mix cooked red kidney beans with chopped fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon juice. Spread on crackers or use as a dip for vegetables.

Get Creative with Your Cooking

Red kidney beans are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are a few ways to get creative with your cooking:

  • Mix cooked red kidney beans with ground beef or turkey to create a leaner meatball or burger.
  • Add cooked red kidney beans to soups and stews for extra protein and fiber.
  • Use boiled and mashed red kidney beans as a thickener in sauces and gravies.
  • Spread cooked red kidney beans on a tortilla and top with chopped vegetables and cheese for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Prevent Gas and Make Sure They’re Cooked

Kidney beans are commonly known for causing gas, but there are ways to prevent it. Soaking the beans overnight and then boiling them for at least 10 minutes can help break down the complex sugars that cause gas. Also, make sure the beans are cooked thoroughly before serving. Undercooked beans can cause digestive issues.

Check Out Popular Red Kidney Bean Dishes

Red kidney beans are a staple ingredient in many popular dishes from around the world. Here are a few to try:

  • Red beans and rice: A traditional dish from Louisiana that combines red kidney beans, rice, and spices.
  • Rajma: A popular Indian dish made with red kidney beans, onions, tomatoes, and spices.
  • Feijoada: A Brazilian stew made with black beans and red kidney beans, meat, and vegetables.
  • Chili con carne: A spicy stew made with ground beef, red kidney beans, onions, and chili peppers.

Cutting Down on Cooking Time

If you’re short on time, canned red kidney beans are a quick and easy alternative to dried beans. Just make sure to rinse them well before using to remove any excess salt. You can also use a pressure cooker to cook dried beans in a fraction of the time it would take to boil them on the stove.

Keeping Your Kidney Beans Fresh: Storing Tips and Tricks

Before you start storing your kidney beans, it’s important to know how to prepare them properly. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Rinse the dried kidney beans under cold water and remove any debris or stones.
  • Soak the beans in a large pot of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. This will help reduce cooking time and make them easier to digest by getting rid of phytic acid and phytohaemagglutinin.
  • Drain the soaking water and rinse the beans again under cold water.
  • Add the beans to a pot with a ratio of 3 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a minimum, cover and let simmer for about an hour or until they are cooked through but still slightly firm. You can use this method to cook an entire batch of beans that you can then store for later use.

Storing Kidney Beans in the Fridge

If you prefer to store your kidney beans in the fridge, follow these steps:

  • Let the cooked beans cool down completely before storing them.
  • Place the beans in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag.
  • Label the container with the date and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Thawing and Using Frozen Kidney Beans

When you’re ready to use your frozen kidney beans, here’s how to thaw them:

  • Remove the container or bag from the freezer and place it in the fridge overnight to thaw slowly.
  • Alternatively, you can pop the frozen beans into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes to speed up the process.

How Storage Methods Affect Kidney Beans

It’s important to know that the way you store your kidney beans can affect their texture and flavor. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Storing kidney beans in the fridge for too long can cause them to turn slightly slimy.
  • Freezing kidney beans can affect their texture, making them slightly softer than fresh beans.
  • Adding salt to the cooking water can speed up the cooking time but can also affect the texture of the beans.

Final Tips for Storing Kidney Beans

Here are some final tips to help you keep your kidney beans fresh and delicious:

  • Always make sure your beans are completely cool before storing them.
  • Label your containers or bags with the date and the amount of beans inside to help you keep track of what you have.
  • If you prefer not to soak your beans, you can still store them using the same method but you’ll need to increase the cooking time to about 2-3 hours.
  • If you don’t have time to cook a large batch of beans, you can also store dried kidney beans in a cool, dry place for up to 12 months.
  • If you’re in a hurry, you can also use canned kidney beans, which are commonly available in most grocery stores. Just make sure to drain and rinse them before using them in your recipe.

Why Kidney Beans are a Healthy Choice for Your Cooking

According to Bridget Benelam, a nutrition scientist, kidney beans are a staple in many cuisines worldwide and are widely known for their rich flavor and texture. They are a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians as they provide a low-fat, low-calorie, and high-protein option for meals.

The Nutritional Value of Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are a great source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, which is essential for the body’s proper functioning. A cooked portion of kidney beans counts towards one of your five-a-day portions of fruits and vegetables.

Health Benefits of Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are known to provide a range of health benefits, such as:

  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Improving digestion

How to Incorporate Kidney Beans into Your Cooking

There are different ways to use kidney beans in your recipes. Here are some ideas:

  • Add kidney beans to your favorite bean salad recipe
  • Make a kidney bean curry with basmati rice
  • Use kidney beans in a warm butternut squash and kidney bean salad
  • Pair kidney beans with coconut for a nourishing soup
  • Use kidney beans in a chickpea and kidney bean burger recipe
  • Make an Afghan-style kidney bean babaganosh dip
  • Add kidney beans to your baking recipes for added nutrition

Expert Tip: Spices and Olive Oil

To add extra flavor to your kidney bean recipes, try using spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika. You can also add a drizzle of olive oil to enhance the taste and texture.

Curious about Tinned Kidney Beans?

Tinned kidney beans are a convenient option for those who don’t have the time to cook dried kidney beans. They are a great alternative and can be used in the same way as cooked kidney beans. However, be mindful of the added salt and sugar in tinned varieties.


So, there you have it- everything you need to know about kidney beans and how to use them in cooking. 

They’re a great source of protein and fiber, and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. So, get cooking!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.