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Soaking Beans In Salt Water

Last year I posted a video on how I cook dried beans in my crock pot, and I still love making them that way. It makes it so easy to cook up a large batch of beans and freeze them for use in soups and Mexican food.

I recently learned a new tip for soaking my beans though that I am loving. It is really helping the texture of my cooked beans.

I have always been one to soak my dried beans. I know many people say you can skip the soaking step, but in my experience I always have better results when I soak them. So, I continue to soak them, but this new method I found for soaking beans works way better than just soaking them in water.

I posted a few months ago about how much I love the Cook’s Illustrated Slow Cooker Revolution Cookbook. It has become one of my favorite crock pot cookbooks. It is full or not only recipes, but tips for using your crock pot.

One of the tips in the book is for soaking beans in salt water before cooking them. A friend told me a few months ago that she had read the tip in the Slow Cooker Revolution Cookbook and tried it. She thought it worked great and wanted me to know about it.

I knew with the amount of beans we use that I needed to give this tip a try. Plus, if both Cook’s Illustrated and my friend thought it worked, it must be worth trying.

So, I recently soaked my beans in salt water according to the directions in the Slow Cooker Revolution instead of just plain water, and I agree, it works great.

I loved how the beans turned out. The salt really helps tenderize and soften the beans. ( I also think it helps aid in digestion if you know what I mean, although CI does not mention that. )

All you do is put 2 tablespoons of salt in about 4 quarts of water and stir well. Add 1 lb of beans and soak overnight. Drain the beans, and rinse salt water off. Cook as directed or according to the recipe you are using.

I am curious have any of you heard or tried this tip for soaking beans before?

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. I have never heard that tip. Sounds interesting and I just may trying it. I have heard that soaking beans helps to make them less of a problem with the “gas”. I had never put much thought into it, until one time when I didn’t plan ahead. I just cooked some white beans longer instead of soaking them. The stomach gas I experienced was so painful I couldn’t believe it! Same thing happened when I ate leftovers the next day. I hate to admit it, but I ended up throwing out the rest of the soup. I just couldn’t handle it. So, let’s just say….From now on I am going to soak my beans every time!!!

  2. Never heard of this way to soak beans. When I was growing up we used baking soda in the soak water. Now they say not to do that as it cuts down on absorption of vitamin’s. Going to give this way a try next time I cook beans and see how we like it.

  3. I don’t suppose it would matter if it was sea salt of not??

  4. I don’t suppose it would matter if it was sea salt or not??

  5. I have used baking soda also for soaking beans, when you have hard water they just won’t get soft without it! I’ll try the salt next time.

  6. i’m surprised how many people don’t soak their beans in saltwater! i used to do this all the time, until i read that using baking soda really helps with breaking down something in the beans that causes the ..digestive problems 😉 i use that instead now!

  7. I tried that once, but I always seem to forget the salt.

    The best way I have found to cook beans (after soaking overnight) is to cook them on high in the crockpot.

    I just saw your Panera potato soup and my mouth is watering!!!

  8. I don’t soak them overnight. I did one time in college and completely forgot about them. It was a gross science experiment. 🙂 However, I use the quick soak my mom taught me. Rinse the beans, put the beans in a pot and cover with water, boil for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Rinse again and put them in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4hours. I’ll have to try the saltwater. I did try to add baking soda a couple of time and the water in the pot turned color. I think it had a reaction with the metal pot and the beans?

    Growing up in Tennessee this was a staple. My grandmother always had a pot of pinto beans and a pan of cornbread ready when we came for a visit. A jar of chow-chow and you’re ready for dinner. 🙂

    • Forgot to say when you put them in the crock pot obviously you cover them with water and keep an eye on the water level. I’ve also added a bouillon cube on occasion.

  9. I like to use a tblsp or two of beef or chicken bouillon granules in the water when I’m soaking my beans. There is a lot of sodium in it but most of it gets drained away and you are right about how high the sodium is in canned beans!

  10. I JUST read about it this weekend in the Cooks Illustrated newsletter. It was barely mentioned in passing that the salt absorbtion improves their texture as they were advertising their new cookbook, so I looked it up to learn more. I am excited to try it, because I have become increasingly frustrated with my mushy beans lately.

  11. Thanks so much for a great tip, Lynn. I have been having issues with my pinto beans not being tender enough, or something was just “off.” I couldn’t figure out what was going on–I was doing everything I was supposed to do. When I read your post, something clicked, and I realized salt-soaking is probably what I’ve been missing. Enjoy your site so much. Thank you!

  12. Treva Buchanan says

    My mom taught me when I was younger to soak our beans overnight. She used all sorts of methods on her beans. She would soak them overnight (changing the water several times), put baking soda in the beans and cook them for an hour, strain them and then put fresh water back in the pot (w/the beans) and then cook 6-8 hrs. She even put a peeled potato in cheese cloth and put them in her beans while they were cooking and throw away the potato once the beans were cooked. She told me that would remove the “gas” from the beans. I normally soak the beans overnight (changing the water 1 or 2 times) and then slow cook the beans for 6-8 hrs..I add in the following ingredients while the beans are cooking: a ham hock (for flavor), garlic (to taste) , 1/4-1/2 c. ketchup and about 1 tsp of chili power. Love the website! Thanks for all the info!

  13. I have used this tip from Slow Cooker Revolution, and I’m on the fence about it. For instance, yesterday morning I soaked some large home-grown and dried lima beans in salted water. When I got home from work, I set about to cooking them (after draining and rinsing) and made sure to add no additional salt. 3 hours later, the beans were still not soft!! I seem to find an even split on the web of articles claiming both negative and positive that salt will prevent beans from ever getting soft. Its also possible that I have hard water to blame. Right now I am thinking that there is a reason Cook’s Ill. put that tip in Slow Cooker Revolution: if the beans are going to cook for 4 hours minimum then salting doesn’t matter.

    • Ryan, Much of the “hard bean syndrome” comes from the age of the beans. Using fresh beans, the soaking can be a little as 8 hours, with old beans, 80 hours is not enough. When in doubt I pressure cook them for about 7-8 minutes on a high pressure setting. However that works, I label my bean bag accordingly. Currently I am using fresh beans (Great Northern Bush) from my garden…..Ohhhhhhh….I will try not to go back….. ever……Unfortunately I only grew enough for a couple months, lol. Good Luck to you

  14. Annette Bates says

    Someone told me to put Ginger in my beans and it takes out the gas. I forgot how much so I would start with 1/2 tsp or so and work your way up.

  15. Lynn,
    I would like to try this method of soaking in salt water. With that being said, although you drain them, will my beans be way too salty if I add a ham bone while cooking? You say that you rinse the salt water off the beans, but do they retain the salt?


  16. I have never heard of this way to do it either, and I always thought that salt hardens meat so I applied that principle to just about everything, however in Jamaica (where I am from) we soak our beans overnight with garlic. Not only does it add flavour but it does help. And yes it takes time off from pressure cooking the beans! I think the garlic and salt would go even better together.

  17. Thanx for the tip Lynn! I have been reading a bunch of ways to soak beans to prepare for cooking but all of them say not to add salt while soaking. I was a little worried because before I looked up the various ways I had all ready set them up to soak and had all ready added salt. I work graveyard so there was no way to fix it till I came home in the morning so I thought I was going to have to scrap my dinner plans for tomorrow. I was curious so I typed in the Google search field why are you not supposed to put salt in soaking beans, and your suggestion came up and I was relieved! (WHEW!) Anyway, I will definately let you know how it turns out tomorrow!
    Thanx again,

  18. Heard that soaking,black beans,causes outer shell,to soften,there fore,bean cooks more evenly inside,making bean tender. Using the salt soak way.

  19. I just tried soaking some blackeye peas in salt water for the first time, and I was delighted with the results. I was curious to know if you should go ahead and add some salt to the cooking water when you cook them. I flipped a coin and salted it to taste, and everything worked out fine.

    • I am so glad you liked how they turned out. I think it really helps. I usually don’t add salt to the cooking water and just add to taste at the end. I think I depends on how salty you like things on what is best for that. Thanks for letting me know how they turned out for you.

  20. I have heard of soaking in Baking soda from a chef but not salt water.
    Thanks for sharing this tip. Ill try that this week.

  21. Soaking almonds in salt water deactivate enzyme inhibitors. Shouldn’t the same apply for beans?
    Nobody mentioned that so I’m not sure.

  22. What if you have hard water… Should you add salt AND baking soda ?

  23. I tried this on my own figuring the salt might get infused into the beans. They slow cooked very fast and they were tasty and I did not have to keep adding salt and more salt. I also added several cloves of garlic, one whole tomato a nd about 1/4 onion with ham fat saved and they are delicious! Even my refried beans from this batch have never tasted so good! I will always use this method when cooking.pinto beans.

  24. I too have used the salt soak method and find the beans creamier and tastier!

  25. I haven’t tried soaking the beans in salt water, so I’ll have to give it a try. 🙂


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