Make Extra-Tender Beans With A Little Baking Soda


  1. Drain the white beans and put them in a large pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Drain again and return to the pan. Cover with water and cook for approximately one hour, or until just soft. Remove from the heat and drain.

  2. In a large saucepan, heat the rapeseed oil over a medium heat. Add the streaky bacon and fry until crisp. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until the onion is soft. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, vinegar and 500ml/18fl oz water. Bring to the boil and then add the soaked beans. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1½-2 hours, or until you have a thick sauce with soft tender beans

  3. Meanwhile, make the soda bread. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

  4. Mix all the ingredients together and form into a loaf shape of your choice.

  5. Place on a baking tray, dust with flour and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the loaf is golden-brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Slice and toast when needed.

  7. Season the beans with salt and pepper and serve with slices of toasted soda bread.

Conclusion: Do you really need to add baking soda to chickpeas?

So, after all that… do you really need to bother adding baking soda to your chickpeas?

Adding baking soda can definitely help to soften chickpeas more effectively, and more quickly. However, for most purposes, the effect is so small that I don’t generally bother adding the baking soda.

The only occasions that I do bother adding baking soda are:

  1. If my dried chickpeas are particularly old and stale.
  2. If I’m blitzing the chickpeas into hummus, and therefore want them to be particularly soft.

I find this is a nice balance. When I really need to, I can get creamy beans by adding a spoonful of baking soda. But most of the time, skipping the baking soda is usually still fine, and I can find comfort in the knowledge that I’m getting all the nutrients the chickpeas wanted to give me. Best of both worlds.



It turns out that an alkaline environment starts a chemical reaction that causes the cell structure of legumes to break down. When we add baking soda to a pot of cooking beans, it results in tender beans in less time.

On the flip side, adding acid causes the cell structure of legumes to remain firm. If there is too much acid in the pot, the beans may never soften enough to be ready to eat. This means that you should be careful when cooking beans with acidic ingredients, especially tomatoes, citrus juices, and vinegar. We find it is best to add citrus juices and vinegars at the end of the cooking process—when the beans are already softened. (This also preserves the flavor of these acidic ingredients.) Tomatoes generally need some cooking time, so we often add tomatoes (including all canned tomato products) partway through the cooking process, after the beans have softened considerably.

The lesson? Along with brining and soaking, baking soda can work wonders on beans, saving you up to an hour of cooking time. Just be sure not to add more than a pinch—too much and the beans can end up tasting soapy and unpleasant.

Why add baking soda to chickpeas?

So, if baking soda is usually used to help baked goods rise, why on earth would you want to add it to dried chickpeas? It’s not like you need your chickpeas to puff up with carbon dioxide (right?!).

Well, it’s all to do with softening the chickpeas. As I found when I was researching splitting bean skins, cooking beans and chickpeas is a real art. It’s all about rehydrating your pulses to the perfect softness.

Chickpeas have a tough skin around them, and even with long cooking times, they can be difficult to soften. Sometimes, chickpeas can end up feeling a little crunchier than perhaps you hoped they would be.

This is especially apparent if you’re blending your chickpeas into hummus. If your chickpeas are not perfectly soft, your hummus may end up slightly grainy or lumpy.

How acidic liquid affects chickpeas

Adding baking soda to the water while the chickpeas soak or cook raises the pH of the water (i.e. makes the water more alkaline / less acidic).

It’s long been known that cooking chickpeas in an acidic environment can prevent them from softening completely, even with long cooking times. This is why it’s recommended to wait until after your chickpeas have cooked to add acidic ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar or lemon.

Alkaline environments (such as water with baking soda!), on the other hand, are brilliant for softening legumes. It makes the skins of the chickpeas more soluble, allowing the liquid to enter the cells more easily, and helping them to soften.

Chickpeas that have been soaked in water with baking soda will generally go on to cook in less time than chickpeas soaked without baking soda. Depending on how much baking powder you use, and several other variables, the difference in cooking time could only save you a few minutes, or it could cut your cooking time in half. You really need to just experiment to see whether you find any noticeable difference.

You may also find the baking soda chickpeas become softer and more creamy than those cooked without baking soda.

How do you take the fart out of beans?

“Soaking and rinsing dry legumes before cooking can help lower their oligosaccharide content,” Grosse said. For legumes in a can, make sure to rinse them under water in a colander until the bubbles disappear. “Canned, rinsed legumes have even lower levels of oligosaccharide than the dry, soaked and rinsed legumes.”

Why Some Beans Are Hard, and Stay Hard

Debbie Wee

But everyone's cooked beans and found some that seemingly refuse to become soft. There are a couple of reasons for this phenomenon. Bean hardness is a hot topic in bean science, specifically the phenomenon of H.T.C. beans. Many bean scientists classify beans as either easy-to-cook (E.T.C.) or hard-to-cook (H.T.C.). H.T.C. beans don't soften even after cooking because their pectin remains insoluble (although their starches also fail to gelatinize properly). H.T.C. beans are often the result of long storage times and/or storage in conditions of high humidity or temperature. However, if you brine H.T.C. beans before cooking them, they will cook faster and have a better final texture, and, in addition, they will have greater nutrient availability.

The hardening of the bean pectin takes place primarily because of two enzymatic reactions. An enzyme called phytase releases calcium and magnesium ions from the lamella, and these ions quickly encounter and attach to pectin molecules, which ends up strengthening the pectin. A second enzyme, called pectin esterase, will modify the pectin, too, making it even more resistant to being dissolved. The chemistry of pectin is quite complex, but for our purposes, the first enzymatic reaction is the one I want to focus on.

Since calcium and magnesium are partially responsible for hardening the pectin in beans, I reasoned that if there was a way to pop them out, I could destabilize the pectin and thereby the integrity of the bean, making it softer and fully tender with a shorter cooking time. And, of course, the reason why I focused on this element of bean hardness is that there's a simple way to remove those ions from the pectin.

If you’ve cleaned tarnished silver or copper utensils, you know that you can make them shiny all over again simply by dropping them into a pot of water mixed with salt and baking soda. The way this works is that, over time, silver and copper utensils become oxidized and develop a patina as the metal reacts with chemicals present in the air. When the tarnished utensils are treated with salt and baking soda, the sodium ions present in the solution displaces the silver in the tarnish and restores the metal back to its original state, and the utensil becomes shiny again. This reaction is called a displacement reaction.

The sodium present in salt (sodium chloride) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will perform a similar displacement reaction with any calcium and magnesium ions present in a bean's pectin. As soon as they come into contact, the sodium takes the place of calcium and magnesium, and the pectin consequently becomes more soluble.

Therefore, prior to cooking, beans can be soaked in brine made of either salt or baking soda. In addition, depending on the texture desired in a dish, beans can be either boiled in a pot of salted water or water to which a bit of baking soda has been added. The brine provides an environment where the sodium is in excess and helps push this transformation forward.

The Experimental Setup

To evaluate the beans, I set up three groups for each type: Water, Salted Water (15g in 1 L), and Baking Soda (5g in 1 L). The amount of salt used in these experiments comes from Kenji’s previous work on Serious Eats and the baking soda from a research paper published in Food Research International. To see how beans performed in a brine with a combination of baking soda and salt, I added one more group to the experiment, a salt and baking soda brine (15g salt with 5g baking soda in 1L of water).

To monitor how the beans performed, I measured the total dry weights of the beans and then both their raw and cooked wet weights after 24 hours. To give each bean a fair chance of starting out under similar conditions, I removed any beans that displayed any cracks or damage to their skins. To avoid any interference from salts that might be present in tap water (hard water contains a lot of calcium and magnesium, although, given the amount of sodium in the brines, the effect should have been negligible), I used filtered water in the brines. The beans were soaked at room temperature.

Both raw and cooked beans were rinsed gently with water and left to sit on dry pieces of absorbent paper towels for one minute before they were weighed to remove any excess water and get a more consistent measure.

The soaked beans were rinsed to remove any traces of the salts and then cooked in plain filtered water until tender. The endpoint for cooking beans was subjective; I determined the bean doneness by pressing them to see if they were tender all the way through.

How do you cook beans so they dont fall apart?

Place beans in a large stock pot and cover with fresh, cold water. Place over medium heat; keep cooking water at a gentle simmer to prevent split skins. Since beans expand as they cook, add warm water periodically during the cooking process to keep the beans covered.