I'd like to make a colourful dish from mixed dried beans. After soaking the beans overnight they still have rich and varied colours and patterns, but I'm told that beans should always be cooked before eating, and after simmering for 30min or so the beans all just turn brown. Is there any way to safely serve dried beans which keeps them visually interesting, such as for a legume salad?

The beans are probably a mix of borlotti beans, green split peas, black eyed beans, red kidney beans, various lentils, cannellini beans and chickpeas.

  • Your beans all turn brown when you cook them? – paparazzo Feb 3 at 10:53
  • 2
    You cook them separately, I assume? – Jan Doggen Feb 3 at 11:04
  • @JanDoggen actually, from the description I think they are cooking them together, that would be the most likely reason for such a result. – rumtscho Feb 3 at 11:18
  • @JanDoggen are you going to turn this into an answer? – Stephie Feb 3 at 12:48
  • @Stephie No. It is only suggestion and I do not know that they won't brown to some degree. The question is unclear: probably and no picture. Unless that is fixed it is not worth answering. – Jan Doggen Feb 3 at 15:41

I've recently changed from tinned beans to dried in my mixed bean chilli, which I slow cook. White (cannellini or black eyed) beans stay fairly white if starting from tinned, but dried beans absorb some colour in soaking/cooking. This is reduced by soaking the kidney beans separately (it makes it easier to boil them hard to remove phytohemagglutinin) and would be further reduced by soaking and pre-cooking the white beans on their own (as demonstrated by the tinned.

To minimise the darkening you need to minimise the amount of coloured liquid they absorb. This means minimising the time they spend in contact with the sauce, and making sure they're fully hydrated when added. Cooking then completely separately and stirring them in just before serving is the obvious end point. I wouldn't consider that myself, preferring to optimise for flavour, energy consumption, and effort over a minor aspect of appearance, but I rarely serve it to others, and when I do they're too hungry to care! All of this means starting with separate beans. I find them much cheaper that way anyway.

Just a thought, but I would suggest bypassing the dark black beans in the mix, (or soaking them separately), soaking them all overnight with just a dash of baking soda, rinse them thoroughly the following day, then steam in a pressure cooker. The colors leach into the cooking water, so steaming may preserve the color better. Without the pressure cooker though, it might take forever.

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