Tips for Cooking with Dry Beans and Other Pulses

Are you looking for ways to incorporate dry beans and other pulses in your kitchen routine but wanting to shorten cooking time? ‘Pulses’ include dry beans, in addition to chickpeas, dry peas, black-eyed peas, and lentils. Here are some helpful tips!


Soaking gives pulses time to soak up water before you begin cooking, shortening cooking time. However, avoid using hard water because it can prevent pulses from softening.

Add Salt

There is a common myth that adding salt prevents dry beans from softening. However, adding salt actually shortens cooking time and can improve appearance by helping prevent pulses from bursting open during cooking. Plus, it adds flavor.

Hold Acidic Ingredients Until the End

Acidic ingredients—like lemon juice or tomatoes—can prevent pulses from softening. If you are adding a large amount of acidic ingredients, wait until the end, when the pulses have already softened.

Store Beans Well

Pulses that have not been stored properly can dry out sooner and will become harder to cook. Store pulses in a well-sealed container in a cool, dark, dry place.

Find Fresh Beans

As pulses age, they lose moisture. The drier they become, the longer it can take for them to cook, and eventually it may be almost impossible to get them to soften, even with extended cooking. Try to purchase pulses that have been harvested more recently.

Pick Your Pulse

Some pulses cook much faster than others. For example, lentils do not need to be soaked and they cook quickly, especially red lentils.

Remember Elevation

Pulses take longer to cook at higher elevations, so a pressure cooker can be your friend and speed up cooking. Cooking times need to be adjusted accordingly, even in an electric pressure cooker. The recommendation is to increase cooking time by 5% for every 1,000 feet above 2,000 feet elevation, so cooking at 7,000 feet above sea level may take 25% longer.

Fun in the Kitchen! Food Science in Action

Save the aquafaba, or the cooking liquid from different pulses. It whips up like egg whites and can be used as a vegan egg white substitute.