The Best Way to Cook Beans

After countless pots of burning beans left unattended on the stovetop, I discovered this simple and somewhat foolproof oven method that requires far less monitoring. Even with my middle-aged brain, no scouring is required and my Le Creuset collection is the better for it.

The fresher your dried beans are the less time they need to cook. Shop at a store with a good turnaround of their dry goods—just because beans are dried doesn’t mean they should be old. The farmers market is my favorite place to buy dried beans. You can actually have a conversation with the farmer about when they were dried. Check out the fantastic selection at Roots, Mamas, Hilltop Farms and Tom Shepard for exciting options that are grown locally. Or if you’re not in Santa Barbara Rancho Gordo heirloom beans are a fantastic and tasty alternative. I use this method for all types of beans and love experimenting with new varieties.

I use this method to make beans to add to Quinoa Salad, Bean Dip, Broccoli Rabe with Cannellini Beans and Croutons, Refried beans, and Cuchi Cuchi beans. Cooked beans last 3 to 5 days in the fridge. Store them in an airtight container immersed in their cooking liquid.

Beans deserve their own moment to shine just keep them out of your chili.

Dutch Oven Baked Beans

Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8 as a side

 2 cups dried pinto beans or black beans

2 fresh bay leaves

½ large white onion, cut in half (used as a flavor enhancer in the cooking liquid)

3 garlic cloves, press to flatten (used as a flavor enhancer in the cooking liquid)

1 Tablespoon of kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rinse beans in a colander of water, removing any grit or pebbles.

Place beans in a heavy-bottomed large Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches, then add the bay leaves, white onion, and garlic and cover with a lid. Bake beans in the oven until tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Check on your beans periodically and stir scraping off any that have stuck to the side of the pot. Just before they’re done cooking (when they’re still a tad toothsome), add 1 tablespoon of salt. If you add the salt too early it will make the beans shrivel up and the skins loosen. Taste for seasoning, adding a bit more salt if necessary. Remove the bay leaves, onion quarters and garlic cloves (if you can find them!).