Beans (Part 1) How to Make Them More Digestible


Beans are a near perfect food. Nutritionally, they are high in protein, fiber, and lots of vitamins and minerals including iron and folic acid. They are versatile due to their ability to absorb flavor well. PicsArt_1427141781287-691x1024And there is no denying how extraordinarily economical they are. They might be THE cheapest way to get in nutrients from whole foods.

Despite all of the benefits, I find that the clients I work with avoid beans because they either don’t like the flavor/texture or they worry about upset stomach and excess gas. I totally get it! Beans will definitely cause gas and be all mushy and flavorless….IF you cook them wrong. Let me help you get beans back into your diet with a few small tweaks. Your tummy will be happy and you’ll get to use all that money you saved on something fun.

Steps to Making Beans More Digestible:

1. Start with dry beans. Don’t be intimidated! It is way less laborious that you might imagine. And with just a few exceptions, beans will cook more evenly, tenderly and in less time, if they have been soaked in cool water first. By soaking and discarding the water that the beans have soaked in before cooking, you’ll have removed a good amount of the gas-producing carbohydrate raffinose. Yes, hello happy tummy!

Sort & Rinse: (look for dried, shriveled beans or any non-bean things like rocks so you don’t break a tooth. Rinse the winners in a colander under cold running water).

Soak: in plenty of cold water. Beans will absorb many times their weight in water so aim for more than less. 5+ cups of water for 1 lb of beans is about right. Soak for at least 4 hours but I recommend overnight up to 12 hours. Sometimes, I’ll let my garbanzo beans go as long as 24 hours because those little suckers take the longest. Keep the beans soaking in a bowl on the counter -just cover them with a clean dish towel. Once done, drain and rinse again (gets rid of even more of that pesky raffinose).

Cook: In a large saucepan or pot, cover beans with fresh water by about 1 inch (3-4 cups of water for every cup of beans). Partially cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender. Cooking time varies depending on the bean but is usually around an hour to hour and a half. Here is a handy reference chart.

Note: If you get into cooking beans on the regular, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing a pressure cooker. I have an InstantPot and I love, love, love it. It does a lot more than just pressure cook which is nice too. But in terms of cooking beans, it is a rockstar. Your beans will generally be cooked in 10-20 minutes versus over an hour. And you can just set it and leave. You actually can cook straight from dried beans (i.e. skip the whole soaking process) however, if you are someone who avoids beans because they upset your stomach, don’t skip the pre-soak. That will help to make them more digestible.

KEY To Making Beans Even More Digestible

Ok, soaking, rinsing and draining all helps a lot but the other thing to do is to add one of the following to the water in which you are cooking your beans:

1. Cumin (a pinch or two)

2. 1 Bay Leaf

3. A 1 inch piece of Kombu (a wild sea vegetable in the kelp family that is loaded with vitamins and minerals)

Still having trouble digesting beans?

Have you tried all of the above and still had tummy troubles after eating beans? Try sticking with the easiest bean varieties to digest such as: black-eyed peas, adzuki, anasazi, lentils and mung beans (general rule of thumb is the sweeter the bean, the easier to digest though sweetness is a relative thing!). The most difficult beans to digest are lima beans, navy beans and soybeans.

Also note that beans are extremely high in fiber! That means if you aren’t used to eating them regularly, you probably should sit down with a bit ‘ol bowl of them. Slowly increase them in your diet and let your body get acclimated to the increased fiber (your body will thank you in the long term!).

So in review, you sort & rinse, soak & drain, and cook with a little added cumin, bay leaf or kombu. If that is not enough, stick with the more easily digestible varieties of beans (and away from the tough ones) and slowly increase them in your diet so you can get used to the fiber load. These key steps will give you tender, easy to digest beans. Give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised by how easy it is as well as how much better you feel when you eat beans prepared in this way!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my beans series where I’ll talk about how to make beans more flavorful and delicious.

What questions do you have about beans? I would love ideas to continue this series.



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  1. Rick Durchholz on March 24, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Love this post. I agree that beans are great because they are cheap and nutritious. I tried soaking beans before and still have the gas issue. I will try the other ideas and let you know how it goes.

    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on March 26, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Thanks Rick! I actually just added one additional idea to the list for folks who have already tried the soak:rinse method and perhaps even adding one of the key ingredients. Try sticking with the easiest bean varieties to digest such as: black-eyed peas, adzuki, anasazi, lentils and mung beans (general rule of thumb is the sweeter the bean, the easier to digest though sweetness is a relative thing!). The most difficult beans to digest are lima beans, navy beans and soybeans. And also start slow and work your way up. There is a TON of fiber in beans and the body needs time to get acclimated to that.

      • Bob King on January 13, 2020 at 2:42 am

        what are the setting for soy beans in an instapot – vent/no-vent; time; water added, etc?

    • Helen Adair on September 22, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      Did you soak them with baking soda overnight ?

    • YaHkoba on March 21, 2019 at 2:51 am

      Take a bit of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water and drink it before you eat it will greatly help with indigestion and gas issues.

      • Grace Githinji on August 6, 2020 at 2:05 pm

        Also soak the beans as advised above and add some apple cider vinegar and a cinnamon stick to the soaking water. Rinse well after the soak time is done. Gas will be gone!

    • Mary on June 6, 2019 at 4:57 pm

      Rick-in addition to all the above,I always discard the water I boiled them in and replace with fresh water or broth.

    • Marilyn on August 6, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      Try putting a teaspoon of baking soda in the water your soaking the beans in

  2. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine on March 24, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    I always soak my dry beans and then cook them the next day in my rice cooker with a bay leaf!

  3. Beans (Part 2) How to Make Them Delicious on May 11, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    […] the first part of this series, I talked about how to cook beans to make them more digestible. I think you’ll also find that […]

  4. Debra on March 24, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Do you think sprouting the beans a bit would make them easier to digest? I get these weird esophageal spasms that are unbearable when I eat most beans. I can tolerate aduki, mung, chickpeas, and lentils. I haven’t tried black eyed peas yet. I miss eating New England style baked beans made with navy beans but last time I tried I thought I was going to die. I also miss back bean burgers. These pains only started 5 years ago not long after I became vegan. So frustrating.

    • Helen on January 27, 2021 at 5:15 pm

      I know this was over 3 years ago, but I have also suffered from that unbearable spasm that seems to come from the lower esophagus area, often related to not chewing well enough, or certain foods like raw or undercooked onions or garlic. I did an apple juice cleanse that is supposed to work for gallstones, with the modification that I also ate at least 3 organic apples each day. There was a great improvement! For over a year after that, I ate at least one organic apple every day. I still have occasional bouts, like maybe 5 or 6 times a year rather than several times weekly. Sometimes the pain just pops up seemingly out of nowhere. Originally, I took Zantac for it, which really helped, but after the apple juice cleanse [which also involves lemons, olive oil and Epsom salt] I discovered that simply eating an apple at the very first sign of pain made this pain go away in a matter of minutes. As I understand it, there is something about the pectin in apples that works to dissolve gall stones, for one thing, and apparently has some other effect which seems almost magical to me, as no other food works this way for me.
      If this helps in any way, then yipee! If not, well, you’re no worse off. There just isn’t anything as awful as that stabbing pain. When I it hits, I can’t think of anything else until I fix it.

  5. Claudia Ruffle on July 17, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I do the long initial soaking, rinsing and draining but have had a problem with green split peas, lentils and black beans never getting soft enough for my satisfaction, even after cooking with plenty of water for 3 – 4 times longer than recommended times. They are edible but still have a crunch to them. I’ve read that this can happen if they were too old to begin with. Can you recommend a reliable source from which to get legumes which will not be too old ?

    • Sarah on March 13, 2018 at 12:57 am

      Rancho Gordo sells beans online. They’re the best.

    • Judy L on November 7, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      The key to tenderizing beans is to add 1/4 tsp. per pound of beans when soaking. It will speed up the deterioration of the pectin which holds the fiber structure together.

      • Susan on February 9, 2019 at 6:58 pm

        Hi Judy L … 1/4 tsp of (what ) ? per pound of beans will speed up the deterioration of the pectin holding the fibre structure together? Thanks

    • Andrea on May 24, 2019 at 1:39 am

      Pressure cook your beans and lentils. Different types take different amounts of time. If they are not soft enough. cook longer. InstantPots are perfect for this. So easy, and you save a lot of time and money. Don’t have to watch the pot. Get the timing down and it’s almost automatic.

  6. Martha Ann Mathews on January 16, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Would a mixture of beans, onions, garlic, hot chilli, hot pepper be easy to digest? I have pneumonia and am living in an old people’s facility so am trying to eat my own things. Just want to make sure they’ll not be like cement but esay to “move out”. ?

    • Helen Adair on September 22, 2018 at 7:44 pm

      Did you soak them with baking soda overnight ?

    • Melissa Unkel on January 20, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Make sure you are drinking enough water with them 🙂

  7. Lisa on March 26, 2018 at 1:31 am

    I have this great vanilla garbanzo “ice cream” recipe. But it gives me gas. So I didn’t rinse the can of beans. Would this have taken care of the problem? I am not cooking these beans. (maybe I should?, and then cool them down again?) Thanks!

    • Melissa Unkel on January 20, 2020 at 2:40 pm

      I rinse any canned beans and it always takes care of the problem. Rinse very thoroughly in a colander. It may also help to cook them and cool them like you suggetsed.

  8. Maureen Roddy on April 16, 2018 at 6:05 am

    Our tap water is really hard so my beans don’t cook well. Adding 1/4 tsp of baking soda solves the problem. Any other tips for us hard water folks?

  9. Adrian Chadrik on August 20, 2018 at 8:49 am

    For better digestion it pays to eat beans with other vegetables. Regularly eating canned baked beans by themselves, for example, is likely to create conditions for a lot of gas. The trouble with fast food is that sometimes you tend to eat it fast, as well. Tip: If you eat your beans too fast, your ‘tail’ will trumpet their up and coming arrival!!

  10. Patricia Rasimas on September 16, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    If making a recipe with beans that are harder to digest, is it OK to substitute one that would be easier. The recipe calls for black beans and I would like to try black eyed peas for easier digestion.

    • Ed on April 2, 2020 at 3:53 pm

      I’ve done that for awhile. Black eye peas taste good in many recipes that call for other beans.

  11. IMonica on September 30, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks. Also they can be cook in a Slow Cooker overnight. A cup of Black beans cup of white beens and half cup of Black rise.Most super rinse.Them slow cooker for night .At morning around the smell is amazing.The textures its smooth and taste delicious.Not gas not blotting abdominal.

  12. daisymom on January 11, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    “That means if you aren’t used to eating them regularly, you probably should sit down with a bit ‘ol bowl of them.”
    I think you mean to say ‘shouldn’t’ 🙂

  13. Ashley on February 2, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    My Indian friends use asafoetida when cooking beans and lentils. They say that aside from adding flavor it helps reduce gi upset.
    How do garbanzo beans, pinto beans, black beans and kidney beans compare in terms of easiness to digest?

  14. MOHAMAD on July 29, 2019 at 4:52 am

    Try soaking beans overnight with one spoonful of bicarbonate of sodium added to enough water.
    This method had been used in Lebanon for generations in order to fix all sort of problems arising from cooking hard beans like fava, broadbeans, chickpeas, borlotti, …

  15. Stefne Walton on November 7, 2019 at 2:15 am

    Gas nightmares!

  16. Ed on April 2, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    Good article! Another suggestion (just anecdotal but some other ideas here are unproven too)….try eating your beans with rice. It seems to help me! Not a complete solution, but it does seem to help. Another one that IS proven…..”Beano” (Alpha Galactosidase is the generic version). Some other generic brands of this are now available as well. its a naturally occurring enzyme that’s been scientifically tested and improves digestion of beans and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage and the like).

  17. Greg Zavala on August 14, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    by what process does bay leaf make pinto beans easier to digest

  18. Cecille on October 22, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    I have leaned when living in Mexico to add some small pieces fresh Ginger and take them out before serving.. It gives the beans a nice light flavor but not tasting the ginger too much. I also grated the ginger or used my Cuisinart when cooking bigger portions and left the ginger in the beans.

  19. Wren on January 22, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    I’m using Great Northern beans. After soaking many of the skins slide off. Does not using the skins reduce the flavor? Any reason why I should keep or not keep the skins on?

  20. Joe on February 6, 2021 at 2:34 am

    I’ve never tried cooking garbanzo beans without rinsing, soaking and (obviously) cooking. It’s okay but still not that easily digestible and I’d hate to think how it would go without using this method.

    I would like to mention one more thing though. As far as I know, you should also remove the foam that form on top of the water. Now that I write this I realize this might not be necessary in cases where all the water is discarded. However, in some cases, like for hummus, the water is used in the rest of the recipe because it has some more flavor. Not sure if that matters much.

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