Both my mother and grandmother, both now long passed away, would be horrified if when soaking beans, pulses, barley, lentils or rice etc. overnight for a soup or stew, the soaking liquid was used in the dish itself. My guess is that in their eyes, this action would reduce the amount of scum that floats to the surface during the cooking process, which to my knowledge, appears to be perfectly harmless protein which can be stirred back in.

Looking at similar questions, even the edge case of kidney or black beans, the liquid seems perfectly OK to use, provided it is cooked for the relevant period of time afterwards.

Is there ever a case when one should dispose of the soaking liquid rather than use it as additional flavouring to a stock (which is then cooked for a sufficient period)? Also, if that is not the case, should the pulses be stored in the refrigerator overnight as the liquid will have been stored well outside the safe temperature limits?

  • 6
    You don't soak rice, you wash it. The Indian fermented rice pancake known as a Dosa is an interesting example of these concepts.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 19:33
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    Greybeard: I just noticed that your question includes rice and barley. The method of soaking both of these, and the ways of handling soaking water, are completely different from beans. I suggest that you omit these from your question; all of the answers below only concern beans, regardless.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 20:35
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    @NeilMeyer You can absolutely soak rice, and some kinds of (black) rice should be soaked. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 9:03
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    @NeilMeyer, the basmati rice I frequently use says it should be soaked for 30 minutes on the bag.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 10:33
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    Greybeard: if you want to ask about rice & barley, make it a separate question.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 18:16

7 Answers 7


That water may contain all sorts of fungicides, dust, contaminants, rodent feces, insects, and so on. The process of production of beans is far from sterile. If you wash the beans thoroughly before soaking, you may avoid it, but a common kitchen practice is to just dump dry beans into water, maybe rinse once to get rid of the worst of the possible contaminants, then soak, stir a bit to detach whatever might have been stuck, and drain, and you have nice clean and well hydrated beans.

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    I add bicarbonate to my soaking liquid, and this should be removed before cooking. It does make a difference Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 9:17
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    @JulianaKarasawaSouza the paper says sodium bicarbonate negatively affected the flavor though.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 18:56
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    @SF. You rinse the beans thoroughly when you remove it from the soda water. It just breaks down the hull of the beans
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 19:30
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    Most of the contaminations you list will actually be rendered harmless from cooking. By contrast, heavy metal contamination (especially arsenic) in rice is somewhat common in many parts of the world (including, depending on the country of origin, Europe), and cooking doesn’t do anything about it. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 9:04
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    @KonradRudolph Maybe harmless, but still disgusting.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 10:25

The other reason to discard the soaking water is (theoretically) limiting flatulence.

According to The Bean Institute and other sources:

Soaking overnight and then discarding the soaking water leaches out sugars in beans that are responsible for gas production.

Scientific evidence supporting this is weak and contradictory. However, it hasn't been disproven, and many cooks and nutritionists believe that a long soak followed by discarding the water reduces bean-generated flatulence. For this reason, the common practice is to soak for 8-12 hours, discard the water, and rinse off the beans.

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    I have always soaked my beans but it still produces spectacular flatulence. Something which is as high in fiber is just always gonna get your stomach moving.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 19:27
  • That would also make a great deal of sense as M & G suffered from digestive problems and I can see the practice being looked upon as a possible solution.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 10:46

Maybe the women in your family would shocked because they had the practice of soaking beans in bicarbonate of soda. That is going to give up some unpleasant taste if you cook them in that liquid. Lentils typically need no soaking and you can cook them right out of the pack.

The problem with beans and lentils is that you cannot add salt or any acid during the cooking process. All the flavorings have to be added at the very end after the beans / lentils are thoroughly cooked. If you don't do that you get hard and cooked beans, which goes down about as easy as eating car tyres.

I have found beans and lentils to be a neutral tasting vegetable protein. It is the sauce and the spices that you make with it that makes it tremendous, I never really thought it had much of its own taste. The soaking of beans is a way to break down the fibers of the beans to aids in digestion. Beans are naturally high in fiber something which is painfully lacking in many western diets.

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    Im pretty sure they debunked the 'add salt/acid at the end, otherwise beans don't cook properly' - there have been plenty of people test this out,
    – nr_aus
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 2:17
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    "Maybe the women in your family would shocked because they had the practice of soaking beans in bicarbonate of soda." Nixtmalized beans?
    – nick012000
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 8:52
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    Nick: different reason, you use baking soda to soften the bean skins. It's particularly common with chickpeas.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 0:41
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    "If you don't do that you get hard and cooked beans, which goes down about as easy as eating car tyres." This is untrue in my experience.
    – Daron
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 12:02
  • I only use a few kinds of beans so my experience is limited to those but I add seasoning and other ingredients during cooking all the time and never had hard beans. I always soak beans for 8+ hours.
    – xxbbcc
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 13:37

When preparing lupin, the water used to soak them in should be discarded, and even this should be done several times, or it has a bitter taste.

Wikipedia page states that if not prepared correctly, lupin can be toxic.

(This is answer is community wiki so knowledgeable people can improve it. :-) )

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    Raw red kidney beans also contain toxins, and should be boiled and the water thrown away to make them edible. Canned kidney beans are less hazardous however because they are pre-cooked, and eating the juices from the can won't kill you.
    – Robyn
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 4:20

The soaking water does not make a difference in the case of beans. Soaking is osmosis between beans and the soaking liquid, nothing comes out of the beans themselves, that is if they don't contain pesticides or other chemicals. The liquid is generally thrown just because it is sitting in open for hours and may contain dirt or impurities.

However, while soaking rice, you should really wash the rice thoroughly first (until the water runs clean) to get rid of the starch and discard the water if soaking is required.

  • After soaking beans, the water usually takes on quite a bit of color - and more color for longer soak times. And some flavor, if you taste it. This seems to contradict your "nothing comes out of the beans themselves". Do you have any sources to support your claim? Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 1:44

hmmm. I honestly thought this was crazy talk when I read it.
But I give these guys a pretty high reliability estimate:

https://www.fda.gov/food/metals-and-your-food/what-you-can-do-limit-exposure- arsenic

Now that I think about it, Utah, where I live, has some places with a pretty high arsenic content in the soil. Of course, we don't have enough water to grow rice.


Is there ever a case when one should dispose of the soaking liquid rather than use it as additional flavoring to a stock


Extract from FDA PUBLICATION May 13, 2014 Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products Risk Assessment Report (Revised March 2016) | 2

We knew that arsenic was present in a variety of foods in the U.S. diet but until recently there were not enough data to determine the amount that is inorganic versus organic. To provide information for our estimates of dietary intake of arsenic from rice and rice products, we measured the arsenic levels in these foods. We found that average concentrations of inorganic arsenic – the more toxic form of arsenic – were as follows:

92 parts per billion (ppb) in white rice

154 ppb in brown rice

104 ppb in infants’ dry white-rice cereal

119 ppb in infants’ dry brown-rice cereal

Sorry for getting so excited but......Well I am absolutely amazed by both "The question" and "The answers."

Obviously, our health advisors are missing their target with "Stack Overflow" users.

Soak your rice overnight – this opens up the grain and allows the arsenic to escape. Drain the rice and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.

How to Cook Rice to Remove the Most Arsenic

I think this article says it all really, and rice being the main offender does not mean we can just exclude beans & pulses. Personally, I find the statement on organic rice "Whether rice is grown organically or conventionally does not have an impact on arsenic levels" particularly interesting.

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    Pretty sure that if rice had any significant amount of arsenic in it, it wouldn't be allowed to be sold. Reducing a quantity that's basically zero by 50% or 80% doesn't really make a difference, because it's still basically zero.
    – nick012000
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 6:59
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    there was a recent study done by a University in Ireland and reported in Yahoo News on this subject and actually, it is quite worrying. If you eat rice often, that is. But in any case, it is a very good reason to not recycle the soaking water.
    – Brad
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 7:07
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    "In April 2016, the FDA proposed an action level, or limit, of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal." Like I said, basically zero. Unless you're eating multiple kilograms of rice, it's not a big deal.
    – nick012000
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 7:16
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    @nick012000 so 125g rice with 100ppb, would be equal to 10% of your 50 μg/L per day.
    – Brad
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 9:03
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    Welcome to SA, Brad! However, I'm afraid that I've -1'd your answer, because you are offering specific food safety advice without linking to a reputable source of this advice. If you can fix your answer to link to advice from recognized food authorities, I (and others) will likely upvote it. Thanks!
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 18:22

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