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Cooking With Legumes: Kidney Beans

Shaped like the organ after which they are named, kidney beans are large, dark red legumes (“white kidney beans” are a close relative, properly known as cannellini beans). Descended from the "common bean" along with black and pinto beans, kidney beans both hold their shape and absorb flavors extremely well, making them a first choice for dishes with long simmering times, such as chilis, soups, stews and curries.

In northern Indian cuisine, kidney beans, or "rajma," are a staple, often served as a masala curry over rice. Kidney beans are also popular in the Creole cuisine of the American South, especially in New Orleans and the rest of southern Louisiana, where they are often enjoyed simply as "red beans and rice." The dish is traditionally eaten on Mondays in order to use up ham bones left over from Sunday dinner (though with kidney beans’ robust flavor, they hardly need the addition of the meat).

But kidney beans aren’t just delicious – like all other pulses, they are loaded with nutrition, especially in the form of fiber and protein, with just one cup of cooked kidneys respectively providing 45 and 31 percent of the Daily Value of each, respectively. The same amount of kidney beans also provides 42 percent of the Daily Value of manganese, a mineral essential for energy production and antioxidant action.

Be aware that raw kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohemagglutinin, which is destroyed by boiling the beans for at least 10 minutes prior to slow cooking. Therefore, kidney beans cannot be enjoyed in their raw, sprouted form (as some other beans are). If you are going to slow cook them at a more moderate temperature please remember to boil them first for the required 10 minutes.

Cooking time: Boil 10 minutes, slow cook for 60-90 minutes

Liquid per cup of legume: 3 cups

How to cook kidney beans: Soak overnight. Drain water and replace with fresh, cold water for cooking. Place on stove and bring to a boil (for at least 10 minutes) in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting lid slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for up to 90 minutes, or until tender.

Recipe: Vegetarian Chili