Old beans soften more slowly than fresh beans during cooking.

How to Soften Beans After Cooking

by Erica Roth

A pot of homemade beans can be a nutritious, filling and comforting meal. Cooking dry beans from start to finish is a time-consuming task. Finding out after your beans are cooked that they are still hard as a rock can be disappointing, and doesn't help you get your family's dinner on the table. A quick kitchen trick with baking soda often softens the beans, but you might need to re-cook the batch for increased tenderness.

Stir baking soda into a pot of hard, cooked beans. Use 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of beans for best results. Beans that have been stored for more than a year are more likely to stay hard upon cooking. A bit more baking soda may be required in this case, to coax tenderness from the legumes.

Re-soften hard, cooked beans on the stove if baking soda does not help. Cover beans with water and boil for 2 minutes.

Drain and rinse beans after boiling. Unfortunately, you'll lose the sauce and need to re-season the beans during the second soaking process. Fill the pot with fresh water and soak them again for an hour or two. Add 1 tablespoon of salt for every quart of water if your water is hard. The minerals in hard water often result in harder beans.

Cook the beans again for an hour or so. Test with a fork for desired tenderness.

Items you will need

  • Baking soda
  • Colander
  • Salt


  • Salt and acidic flavorings such as vinegar and lemon can toughen cooked beans. Add these ingredients in the last few minutes of cooking instead of at the beginning. Let the beans simmer just long enough for the flavors to meld.

About the Author

Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.

Photo Credits

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