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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Never Waste a Flavor: Don't Toss That Bean Cooking Water!

Frankly, we debated whether to write this post, fearing that readers would find it pathologically frugal. But one undeniable fact proved the deciding factor: this cheapskate habit has given us many pots of delicious soup and stock. (Also, we come by our frugality rightfully: Ruth's late father left behind a box of batteries carefully labeled "not completely dead.")

As we've reported almost ad nauseum, we cook a lot of beans—black, white, pinto, chickpeas—and eat a lot of lentils. This results in a great deal of rich cooking liquid that we use to boost the flavor of soups and stews. Last week we made a pot of vegetable soup, adding a quart of frozen black-bean cooking liquid; the soup ended up with a velvety richness it would not otherwise have had. Lentil liquid would have been even more velvety.

If you find yourselves with a few cups of leftover bean or lentil cooking liquid, freeze it for later use; if you aren't cooking soup, add it to your homemade stock. You'll be glad that you made the effort.

TWO IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER: Although the cooking liquid from beans is wonderful, don't confuse it with the soaking liquid you use to soften the beans before you cook them. That liquid should be discarded and replaced with fresh water before cooking. If you don't, you'll end up with an indigestible bunch of beans and a nasty batch of cooking liquid.

Also, this tip should only be used with homemade beans. Don't use that slimy goo that comes with canned beans; although canned beans are great in a pinch, the liquid they come with is full of salt and God knows what else.


  1. Oh! I'm glad you wrote this - I never thought to use it - but why not???

  2. What a great tip! I have reused bean water a few times but more out of laziness than frugality. Now I know it was just my inner tightwad coming out. ;) Great Post!

  3. That is a great tip . . . good to know. Sometimes I think I squeak, I waste so little.

  4. i appreciate the info. why reinvent the wheel!

  5. Is throwing the bean broth away normal for people? That is just...wut. Beans are born to be served in a bowl with their broth, alongside rice that was cooked in their broth, that's like the whole point. I'm baffled that this post needs to exist. Don't they know already? Who are these people that need to be told not to throw their bean broth down the drain? Certainly not anyone I know. I'm way too upset about this.

    1. I'm one of these people :) My family NEVER ate beans growing up (and on the rare occasion we might have it was always canned) so their versatility is still something I'm discovering. I only recently discovered the bean broth from dried beans is great to use in other recipes so I'm grateful for posts like this :) Educating a poor girl who was raised on mac n cheese and fish sticks!

  6. Does anyone know the nutrition info of this cooking liquid from the beans?