Bean Science Part II


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

The Flavor Files is a read-supported online space for curious cooks passionate about flavor. Learn how to cook with bold flavors to create food that nourishes and satisfies and apply food science to make you a smarter cook, written by Multi-award Winning and Bestselling author and photographer Nik Sharma.

Before we jump into the second part of Bean Science, here’s a quick recap from Part I. I apologize in advance for the heavy use of emojis 🫘💨.

  • Beans turn hard on drying, and this contributes to longer cooking times.
  • Pectin is a complex carbohydrate found in plant cells and is one of the significant contributors to hardness in dried beans.
  • Salt, baking soda, citric acid (lemon juice or lime juice), and sodium citrate are effective agents that can change the chemistry of pectin and help beans cook faster and turn creamy and tender.
  • Us humans can’t digest dietary fiber from plants. However, our naturally present gut bacteria can eat these fibers up and, in turn, produce flatus (aka stinky farts). (We’re going to talk a lot about this today.)

While beans remain popular (and tasty), they are notoriously associated with lectin side effects and flatulence (I promised you we’d dive straight into farts in this part II).

Let’s begin with lectins.

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2 Responses

  1. I want to ask a question about your article “Brining Beans With Baking Soda: An Investigation” at

    Here’s the table you included for black beans:

    Raw Beans Cooked Beans Cooked Beans
    Black Beans % Total Weight Increase % Total Weight Increase Texture (Degree of Creaminess)
    Water 145.20 150.72 +
    Salt 137.51 158.05 ++
    Baking Soda 142.61 161.72 +++
    Salt + Baking Soda 107.72 108.60 ++++

    I’m surprised by the last line, that weight gain for the combination of salt + baking soda is less than for any of the other “soaks” — I just wanted to ask if that was by any chance an error, and if not, you have any explanation as to why. (I won’t show the kidney beans table, but in that one, the combination soak has slightly more or almost not much less than any of the other soaks (after cooking).


    1. Hi, the numbers reported are what we saw. A couple of points to remember (these are all mentioned in the original article at SE) – not all beans are created the same which is why some cook faster than others. Kidney beans are much harder to cook than black beans because their chemistries are very different. In the case of the black beans, a large portion of the structural carbohydrates migrate into the water after solubilization in the brine which explains the lower % weight increase. The amount of sodium in this brine is very high in comparison to the other experiments in the set which causes this effect. It is quite likely that black beans are easier to cook because they can lose these structural carbohydrates much more easily than kidney beans. This study also demonstrates that while water gain is one way to understand how brining works, there are other measures like the structural carbohydrate leaching into water, that also contribute to the lower cooking time. I hope this helps.

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