In Modernist Cuisine, they recommend using calcium chloride when cooking beans to help preventing them from bursting:

Beans often burst after being cooked in ordinary tap water. To avoid this...[a]dd 1g of calcium chloride for every 100g of water to gently firm the outside of the beans, which prevents them from splitting without making them tough.

My question is whether or not this would work for lentils too? I am specifically referring to varieties intended to stay intact such as green or brown lentils rather than the various hulled or split ones used in Indian cooking for dals.

  • Out of curiosity, is that during soaking, or during cooking? Don't have a copy of the books :-(
    – derobert
    Oct 12, 2012 at 15:44
  • 1
    It's during cooking, apparently tinned bean manufacturers use it when pressure cooking their beans.
    – Stefano
    Oct 12, 2012 at 16:02

3 Answers 3


That's a good question, and I have no direct experience in using calcium chloride, however looking at the ingredients for many canned lentil products shows calcium chloride being a very common ingredient, so I would suspect it may work. It's got a very salty flavor though, so don't go overboard.

As a counterpoint adding salt to lentils during cooking is discouraged as it makes them tough, it's quite likely calcium chloride will have the same effect.

If you do try it please post your experience, I'd really like to hear how it works out.

  • 3
    See cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/20754/…: salt softens the skins of beans, and calcium and sugar toughen the beans. The idea that salt toughens them too is a myth. And yes, the calcium chloride toughens them; that's kind of the point here.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 12, 2012 at 20:43
  • @jefromi- but does adding calcium to the water toughen them more? And if so would that make them more or less likely to burst? Oct 12, 2012 at 20:59
  • The question here is more whether the skins of lentils and beans can be considered as basically identical. I guess I'll just have to order some calcium chloride and do some tests!
    – Stefano
    Oct 12, 2012 at 21:17
  • 1
    @Sobachatina Given that it's in a lot of canned lentils and beans (and even canned vegetables), and those always seem fairly solid, and that McGee says adding calcium toughens them, and that Modernist Cuisine says the same thing... I think adding it toughens them.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 13, 2012 at 21:41
  • @Stefano Lentils don't always have as thick a skin as beans, but they're both legumes, from the same family; I think they're pretty similar. And calcium chloride is used as a firming agent in canned vegetables too, not just beans. I'm pretty sure it'll work just fine.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 13, 2012 at 21:44

Also, if you do a pre-soak you can use Calcium chloride, CaCl2 as a pre-soak and rinse. I use it in all my garden vegetables where a crispness after storage is wanted but, not in all such as with bell pepper. I pre-soak almost all dried beans and have very little splitting than they used to without. BTW... it is flavorless and does not present itself as salty. If you have a local wine/beer making supply house nearby you can get it there for pennies on the dollar compared to the Ball brand price. ~WineMaker747


I finally found the answer to this question: I was in the supermarket yesterday and on a can of lentils the ingredients listed on the side of the tin had the phrase 'firming agent' in brackets beside the entry for calcium chloride.

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