Forage

whole food ~ well made

minestrone-soup

Don’t Throw Out That Bean Water

Y’know when you cook dry beans and there’s all that beany water that just goes down the drain?

{If you don’t simmer your own beans, you might consider it, since there’s not just a little BPA in those cans. What you save on buying dried legumes in bulk you can spend on a pressure cooker–a great investment. 2018 update: Or an Instapot! I haven’t yet made the jump but I’m not an early adopter type.}

I was thinking about that murky water just today and what an incredibly valuable cooking resource it is.

So, next time you boil up a pot of beans, save that bean water.


{2016 Update: Here’s an everything you’ve wanted to know about bean water all in one FAQ post along with my all-purpose recipe for Tasty Basic Beans.}


Stock Options

Today I needed stock for a spinach-sorrel soup made from some greens delivered by generous greenhouse-owning friends. (Have you noticed how much local product I use is actually given to me? What a place! See? Not everybody needs to ranch, farm and garden themselves to eat local.)

ready-to-use-bean-water

I don’t stock vegetable bouillon in the cupboard. It tastes funny to me. And while a veggie stock is not hard to make, it’s just another step I don’t have time for in my life right now.

While I could use chicken stock, I don’t make a habit buying it because even the organic stuff is questionable when it comes to animal welfare.

But I do make beans. Every week. At least once a week. And it reliably yields a good quantity of bean water.

Many Beans & Their Uses

Garbanzos are the house favorite. Both girls love this garbanzo-tomato stew. Benjamin and I adore pinto beans and black beans from our traveling days in Mexico & Central America.

Cannellini beans always go into my minestrone and since I’m from New England, I hafta have navy beans for Boston baked beans.

And there are so many more I don’t use nearly enough, from mung to adzuki to butter beans. Considering there are oodles of dry bean varieties, I should probably branch out more.

minestrone-soup-in-the-pot
A steaming bowl of minestrone is but one example of bean water magic.

Anyway, I cook beans regularly because once they’re soft and edible, I have a lot of options. I can purée them for a spread or dip, add them to a soup or stew or throw some into a salad for extra sustenance.

I even treated myself to a breakfast of huevos rancheros last week just because those black beans needed eating up.

Yup, breakfast, lunch and dinner, those beans!

Save that Bean Water

And every single time, the by-product of my bean cookery is bean water. I always save this bean water. It is starchy and mildly flavored but way better than using water in your cooking.

Taste it next time you cook a pot of beans, and you’ll see that this is a flavorful liquid best put to good use.

Like making soup!

bowls of minestrone soup

Since I usually simmer beans with a chunk of onion, a clove of garlic, a bay leaf and a little salt, the bean water is tasty all by itself. And it inspires a soup-making session like our family favorite minestrone.

And since it just snowed 8 inches here, it’s still soup season and will be for a while.

Subscribe

and become a forager

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

The stock for this recipe comes from saved bean water from home cooked dry beans. You can substitute any stock or broth you like, but water will not provide enough flavor on its own. (It probably goes without saying that you can also use canned beans in this recipe, but be sure to rinse them well before adding them to the soup.) I've learned to leave the pasta out of the minestrone and to portion it into the serving bowls instead. That way the pasta doesn't swell and drink up all the broth.

Course Soup
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Lynne

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups bean water or vegetable stock
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes organic
  • 1 2-inch chunk parmesan rind optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-2 cups cooked beans, such as cannellini, navy or garbanzos
  • 1-2 cups green vegetable, such as cut green beans, diced zucchini, chopped chard or spinach
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta, such as orzo or ditalini
  • finely grated parmesan cheese for serving optional

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, carrots and garlic, stirring for about 4 minutes until the onion turns translucent but the vegetables do not brown.

  2. Bring the bean water and tomatoes with their juice to a simmer. Add the parmesan rind, if using, salt and pepper and check for seasoning, adding additional salt to suit your taste. (You can prepare the soup in advance up to this point.) Simmer for about 15 minutes.

  3. Add your choice of green vegetable and simmer until cooked through but the vegetables still have some life and texture, about 15 minutes.

  4. To serve, portion the pasta into serving bowls and ladle the hot soup over the pasta. Top with a portion of parmesan cheese, if using.

Recipe Notes

 

Comments

  1. Jane

    How do you store the bean water? Can you freeze it, like I do my other homemade stocks?

  2. Lynne

    Hmmm. I usually use it right away. Don't see any reason you can't freeze it if you've got the storage place. That must be some damn good bean water!

  3. Brenda on the S OR Coast

    I freeze mine in quart jars, with plenty of headspace. Works great!

  4. Rural Eating

    Thanks, Brenda. I'm going to start doing that, too. It would be great to have on hand for risotto or minestrone.

    How else do you use it?

    1. rose

      i use the bean water to add to minestroni. i cook dry beans then add the water they cooked in to homemade tomatoe soup.

  5. Cyndi

    No “flatulence effect?”

    1. None whatsoever.

    2. David

      I did a bunch of searching on this… The real cause of gas is that the person doesn’t eat beans enough. Once you get the enzyme (or whatever the right biological name is) , which digests the beans, built up in your system, gas is rare.

  6. Brad

    I’m cooking dried pintos with ham hocks, onion and seasonings in my slow cooker. I didn’t presoak the beans. Will the leftover liquid be ok to use as stock still?

    1. Hope I’m not too late, Brad. To be honest, I hardly ever soak my beans. Yes, indeed, your stock will be extra delicious with all those wonderful ingredients you included. The only thing is that it may be nice and salty from the ham hock. Just don’t reduce it, like I’ve done before.

    2. Nathan

      Hey Brad, I am cooking navy beans and ham hocks right now. I had the same question. Thanks for asking. Hope your soup was good. Looking forward to some white beans and ham for dinner.

  7. Jodi

    I freeze my bean broths and use them in “matching” foods: Black bean broth with beef or as a substitute for beef broth, Chickpea broth instead of chicken broth. They are vegan, free, delicious and healthy. What more reason to keep and use them? I love potato leek soup made with chickpea broth.

  8. Dovid

    The cooking liquid from Northern beans or garbanzos can be used in making bread and pizza dough. As for freezing, I freeze some in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I pop out the cubes, and put them in large freezer bags. I then have a convenient small portion to use whenever I need to add some liquid to what I am cooking. Since I don’t salt or season the cooking liquid until late in the cooking process, the liquid is just bean broth, and can go with many things.

    1. These are great tips, David. I never thought of using the bean water for doughs. Since I don’t like to buy commercial meat stocks, having a supply of any homemade flavorful liquid on hand is essential for me.

  9. ben

    This recommendation shocked me because I’ve always heard and just turned up a gazillion results in a google search, that the phytates which that end up in the water after soaking beans are what causes gas, among other things such blocking protein absorption in our bodies.

  10. ben

    …to add to my comment – I realize you mean the cooked water, not the soaked water, but even in the cooked water a large number of phytates remain so people often recommend changing the water during the cooking process if you want to make fart proof beans

    1. Ana

      being sick with a cold and just having defrosted a jar of garbanzo bean broth (sounds better to me than bean water) to make egg drop soup I have come across this site. I would like to add that if you really want to maximize the nutrition and minimize any negative effects of any beans and also seeds for that matter it is best not only to soak but even sprout them. It’s as simple as soaking overnight, draining the liquid and then let them sit another day or so, depending on the seed or bean. Superfood!

    2. Miranda J Miranda

      I was thinking the same as Ben….so does the cooked bean water contain lots of phylates which should be discarded or not?

    3. Cindy Smith

      I soak my beans for 48 hours to hopefully get rid of the nasty parts of the beans. (in the frig, of course)

  11. Albert

    Do you know how many calories in one cup of unsalted pinto bean broth?

  12. Jean

    Be careful when using bean water. Beans have a natural toxicity (red beans and limas especially). The FDA has handling recommendations here: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/CausesOfIllnessBadBugBook/ucm071092.htm. More info with reference links here: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2385/

  13. Barbara

    I learned to use it while undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer. You boil a quart of water with a cup of beans for fifteen minutes and sip it all day as a tea. It helped with the side effects.

  14. Faisal

    Thank you for the article. I was searching for this answer.

  15. Do you the nutritional facts in bean water?

  16. Rachel

    Also the bean water can be used as an egg replacement in baking 🙂

  17. Leaf water > bean water

  18. Beverly

    Would black bean water be good with this recipe?

    1. If you are making a black bean soup, then yes. Otherwise, black bean water can make an unappetizing color in other uses while it still tastes great. So, it’s really a matter of your audience and your final use.

  19. Shauna

    I am so confused now. Is it safe or not to use the bean water? The post by Jean with a link to davesgarden.com gives me question as to the safety of bean water but it sounds like many have used it without problems.

    1. Hi Shauna. I understand your confusion since there are a lot of comments in this post with all types of references. The first thing I want to point out is that “cooking water” is not the same as the “soaking water.” So, if you do soak your beans either using the cold water or the quick boil method, that is not the flavorful water to save for the other uses I suggest in this post. The other thing to note is that the beans need to be thoroughly cooked using the approved method, especially kidney beans, which have a higher level of the PHA protein that can cause illness in *undercooked* beans. Provided you do not have any other health concerns, the water from the thoroughly cooked beans is a flavorful liquid to use at will. I hope that addresses your concerns. For more information, check out my bean water FAQ https://lynnecurry.com/2016/10/bean-water-faq/.

  20. MimineM

    So glad I checked your site before tossing my bean broth! My “must go” soup turned out fantastic! There were so many still fresh tidbits in the fridge that I wanted to use up. The beans had previously been soaked and well rinsed before using fresh water for cooking them.

    1. We’re kindred cooks! Sounds terrific.

  21. Jan

    In reading through this site I conclude the bean soaking water should be discarded but the bean cooking liquid is healthy. So my question is what to do if I use an instant pot for cooking beans and therefore do not pre soak them? Is that cooking water healthy or not?

    1. Hi Jan,

      In general, the issue centers on cooking the beans to a high enough temperature to both cook them thoroughly. You’ll find a lot more information in my bean water FAQ post here: https://lynnecurry.com/2016/10/bean-water-faq/.

    2. I forgot to mention that I rarely soak my beans and I use the cooking water as a liquid for making all manner of soups and stews. There really should be no difference in your Instapot, since it does reach high cooking temperatures, unlike a slow cooker. Hope that helps.

  22. Kat

    I am a vegan and make my own dog food. I made a huge batch of lenils, leans, quinoa and kept all the water. The dried stuff came packaged, dried and sprouted. I did not soak them as it said i didnt need to. And i AM new to actually COOKING. I did alot of research on dog nutrition and i LOVE that i can make this giant amount of food and i can eat it too! Its a TOTAL win… but i got caught up in the water issue too. Ive frozen some, fridge some. .. so is the packaged sprouted stuff ok to use (cooking water wise) in the same way soaked then cooked water could be? Last thing i want to do is kill my dog! Btw, i DID NOT PUSH a vegan diet on her, she always got my safe food scraps along with excellent and expensive grain free kibble. Then i added some vegan kibble i found just for a change and now she wont eat the other stuff. So i went full blown… so cooking water comments only please and THANK YOU!!!!!!

    1. Since I’m not a veterinarian, I do not want to comment on nutritional needs/concerns for dogs. However, as far as bean cooking water is concerned, I have not found any credible source or cause for concern *provided* that the beans and the cooking liquid are cooked over 200 degrees (which they would be if boiled) and there are no other health concerns for the individual.

  23. kristine

    Hi! I do cook my own beans but when i find organic ones on sale in a bpa free pouch, i stock up. Is the liquid in these pouches the same as what would be created when cooking your own, except for maybe the seasonings/salt?

    1. Yes, I suspect that’s correct but I’ve never used these. If you like the flavor, no reason not to use it!

  24. Mary Beth

    I regularly use bean cooking liquid in place of plain water in my bread baking. Chickpea liquid is exceptionally tasty for my Italian bread. I have used kidney bean liquid in multigrain loves and black bean liquid is good for pumpernickel. I also just use it to cook other veg and/or pasta. (Pasta water being another delicious liquid!)

    1. Great ideas, Mary Beth. Thanks for posting!

share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *