Dried beans – to soak or not to soak

Bowl of chick peas
Image from foodies feed

The question arises because there’s often confusion about whether lentils and beans should be soaked or not.

What I find helpful is knowing your dried beans from your lentils — because even though they are all part of the legume family, they are different from each other, as indicated by their different cooking times and levels of digestibility. (Hint: a requirement for longer cooking times usually indicate lower digestibility).

Examples of common dried beans and lentils:

  • Dried beans — soybeans,
    chickpeas (garbanzo), kidney beans, adzuki beans, cannellini, whole mung beans,
    lima, and black (turtle) beans.
  • Lentils — red (masoor), brown,
    and Puy (French green)

Once you know your dried beans from your
lentils you can apply this general rule of thumb:

  • Dried beans need pre-soaking
    and longer cooking times (1–5 hours)
  • Lentils do not need pre-soaking
    but may be pre-soaked (see below) and have a shorter cooking time (15–45

This is because dried beans are larger and have higher amounts of oligosaccharides (long-chain sugars that are difficult to digest) than lentils. So you could say the larger the legume, the harder it is to digest.

So the larger dried beans (such as soy,
chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans and lima) will need the longest soaking
times — preferably overnight, for at least for 8–10 hours. Chickpeas, along
with soybeans, are one of the hardest of the beans to digest — so the longer
you can soak them, the better. I usually soak chickpeas for 12+ hours. And soy
is best eaten soaked and fermented.

Smaller beans, such as adzuki and whole mung beans don’t need long soaking times. I find 4–6 hours is enough. Split, husked mung beans (yellow mung dhal) is an exception. Because it’s not the whole bean and the skin is removed, the cooking time is much quicker and it’s easier to digest. I actually don’t soak before making dhal but I do wash.

Legumes, Cramps and IBS

If you have issues like loading, cramping or IBS- type symptoms then you will almost definitely need to soak lentils too. Soak them for around an hour or so, and it should alleviate some of the problems they may cause.

However, despite soaking lentils and taking other measures to help digest them, some people may still have issues and not be able to tolerate them. Another thing you can try is Asafoetida. It’s commonly used in dahl and curries and the like. Here’s a link to wiki for more information on it.

Image of spoons of lentils
Image from foodies feed


  • Dried beans need pre-soaking and longer cooking times
  • Lentils do not need pre-soaking but can be pre-soaked to improve digestibility and reduce cooking time

Want to know more?

Try our Pou Lentils recipe from – Lentils a pantry staple

This article has been adapted from one found on the The Mindful foodie website, however the link seems to be gone.

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