Rancho Gordo logo
This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

For orders or assistance: 1-800-599-8323

We Get Letters: Can You Oversoak Your Beans?


In our last Rancho Gordo newsletter, I made this comment:

I was looking through our customer reviews on ranchogordo.com and in general, the feedback is the kind of thing most companies dream of. We have about 95% five-star reviews and the occasional clunker. Most of the bad reviews state something like this: “I've been cooking the beans in a bean pot for six to eight hours now and they still aren't soft. They were soaked for twelve hours and have been simmering in a ceramic bean pot all afternoon and evening.” Or “I soaked them at least 24 hours and used them in my recipe and no matter how long I cooked them they were still crunchy.”

What do they have in common? Excessive soaking.

As I’ve said many times before, most of us here don’t soak our beans. We know how fresh they are and it’s easier to just cook them. Sometimes I’ll get up early on a Sunday morning and soak the beans for cooking later in the day but I really think between four and six hours is more than enough. It’s not science, but a suspicion I have is that the beans are starting to sprout.
I’m not anti-soaking but I do think you can over-soak the beans.

I was naive to think there wouldn't be a response! I've decided to post some for you here. So many great responses and so many great customers. I'm a happy fellow.

I should add, I don't have any problem with our beans not softening. And judging by our customer service inquiries, neither do the vast majority of you. We have all kinds of problems, but this just normally doesn't come up as one of them. But when it does, it seems to be accompanied by an extremely long soak.

As a geologist, I thought I would add to your over-soaking comment. Many water systems have natural salts that may also harden prevent the beans not cooking . Everyone knows only salt the at the end of cooking.
I never had success cooking beans until I discovered Rancho Gorda beans and your website.
Thank you for the great products, cooking methods and fab recipes.
All my best,

Hi Steve,
That's an interesting take on soaking. I just drop the dry beans into boiling water, let them boil for 1 measured minute and then let them soak for an hour. They come out perfectly so long as I use the beans of the year.
I just finished harvesting my crop of Marcella's and Tigereyes and am in process of harvesting white runners. I doubt that I will plant the last next year. The vines take over the world! This spring I harvested a small crop of red lentils and am waiting for cooler weather to cook up a mess of red lentil/Italian sausage potage.
I tried some nuñas popped in the microwave and was less than impressed. I'll try them in a skillet next time but this variety doesn't look like a repeater to me. Maybe some garbanzos will be worth a try next spring.
Growing and eating beans is immensely satisfying!

As I always say, if you have a system that works for you, keep on it.
re the Nuñas, I like the idea of them popping but after years of drying them to try and get them to pop, it's seemed less than a thrill.

I find that if you add salt or tomatoes before the beans are soft, they will never get soft. Many recipes include salt or tomatoes too early.
I love your beans!!!

Steve, I'm wondering if your customers who are commenting on cooking issues are adding salt too early to the cooking water. I believe (from experience)that has an effect on cooking time. Love, love your beans! I'm grateful to my friend who introduced me to your products. Thank you, thank you. Elita

Hi Steve,
I'm just wondering about your thoughts on the recommendation by Americas Test Kitchen on "brining" beans during the soaking period. Like you, I typically only soak for 3-4 hours before cooking but have found that 3-4 tbs of salt in the soaking water helps. You do have to rinse this off and cook in unsalted water after that and only adjust seasoning at the end. They (ATK) claim that brining causes some change to the skin structure which keeps it intact but not hard. Just wondering in RG has ever tried or heard of this?

We talk about this a lot because people bring it up. It's hard to bother when our beans seem always to come out. Julia has promised to try this over the holiday weekend.

Steve: another culprit is salt. I used to salt my beans as soon as I added the water and other ingredients, but sometimes they never softened, no matter how long I cooked them. After doing a little research, I found a Diana Kennedy recipe that says to NEVER salt beans until near the end of the cook time. Now I never salt until the end, and they come out perfect every time! Salud, James

I tend to salt at the point when the beans aren't quite done but it's clear that there's no turning back. The pot starts to smell like beans. If you wait too long, you'll have salty broth and bland beans. It's a balancing act.

Hi Steve,
So are you saying that over soaking causes "hard" beans??

Yes. It can happen!

Steve -
I agree! Rancho Gordo beans are so fresh they hardly require any soaking. I never have to soak the Midnight Black Beans - they are my all time favorite!
Will you ever have the Florida Runner Beans again? Or something similar?
Best -

Hi Steve! Hope you are well! On soaking beans, I will say that those who live in places where the water is hard as a rock, do need to add a teaspoon of baking soda to the quick pre soak, to soften the cooking water and then drain. Others may not know to leave the salt out till they are cooked soft, as salt pulls water out of foods. The lovely Corona is just a big bean and needs more cooking, it's all relative Steve. :) Hope this helps! Munson

Hello there!
Regarding soaking beans: I've been experimenting a little with my new toy…a Fissler stove top pressure cooker. I have been doing a quick soak first. I pour boiling water from the kettle on my beans and soak for about an hour, then pressure cook them for about 20 minutes. I probably don't need to do the presoak. I never have when I've cooked my beans the normal way. But I like the way the beans are coming out. Just thought I'd share.
Best wishes, Cheri

Loved the New Yorker article. Really enjoying your beans. A quick question hopefully.
I soaked a pound of Scarlett runners (will do less soaking next time, I hear you on they’re so fresh don’t necessarily need it). I drained early the next morning and put in a container and promptly forgot about them. They’re about ten days old now. They look fine, smell fine, haven’t sprouted, aren’t soft or mushy, etc. Do you think they’re okay to cook still?

Another question as I’m writing this: can I freeze simply cooked beans (I’m thinking I do a basic cook, split in half, freeze one, cook the other and the next week or month, unfreeze and make a completely differ t recipe).

Thanks in advance for anything you might offer. Hope all is well there for you and yours!

I would pass but only based on instinct, not science.
Freezing is easy and those that do it recommend freezing with plenty of bean broth.

Interesting article on bean soaking…we are above 5000' and use a pressure cooker…never had problems with soaking overnight…no consistent issue except maybe for some beans in the batch. just our two cents worth for what that is worth anymore :)
great beans and newsletter…
best, Will

Ah ha! So one CAN oversoak beans! What a help, that is. I'm sure I've sent some into sprout mode plenty of times.
Recently, I took a class at Sur la Table. We used an Insta-Pot to cook unsoaked beans and they were fantastic…in half an hour or less.

If you soak beans (at least garbanzos) long, they start to ferment. Bubbles give it away. Jacques Pepin says that makes them unhealthful, but I can't imagine that being true. Fermenting generally makes things more digestible by breaking down long sugar molecules. I wonder if that could affect cooking, however. I believe I have run into the phenomenon you mention after soaking them a long time (generally due to unplanned delays in cooling) up to a few days
Best, Paul
ps - In your searches, please look for small garbanzos. I got some from Arrowhead (sorry) but most are much bigger. The little ones are more like those I've had in Italy.

I just read your latest newsletter and I wanted to say something about oversoaking beans. I'm with you -- my (starting to become extensive for a home cook) experience shows that yes, you can oversoak beans. Basically, I think that once the soaking water starts to froth on the top they've been soaked too long and are starting to ferment (or maybe sprout, as you suggest). 12 hours is too long! Overnight is too long! 24 hours is way too long. 3-6 hours is fine, and not soaking at all is also fine but does take a little longer. Maybe an hour or two. So I'm not sure if you're really saving much time by pre-soaking anyway.

The only Rancho Gordo beans I've found tricky in regards to cooking time are the teparies. They are really unpredictable. But delicious enough that I don't care :)

Thanks for all your work,

1 comment


We live on a military base and found out that the water here is extremely hard. Once i started buying distilled water and using that to soak and cook my beans, everything came out amazing and consistent. I figured i’d add that! So if you have hard water, try using distilled!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


No more products available for purchase