Do you really need to soak dried beans overnight?

If you've ever tried to make your favorite Mexican side dish or pot of chili at home using canned beans, you may have noticed a big difference in texture and flavor compared to what you get made by the pros. That's because the dried beans a lot of restaurants use to make their foods from scratch (via The New York Times) are a much more economical and flavorful option than canned. But if you don't remember to soak your dried beans overnight, does that mean you can't make them for dinner? Not necessarily.

It turns out that whether or not you need to soak your beans really depends on what kind you're using, and how old they are (via Serious Eats). Smaller beans that have thin skins (like black-eyed peas, lentils, and black beans) don't really need to be soaked, though they might take a little longer to cook than if you had. Heartier beans (like pintos, chickpeas, and cannellini beans) can usually benefit from an overnight soak. They're bigger and tend to have thicker skins, and without soaking, you might end up with undercooked centers.

Another reason you might want to soak your beans is if you don't know how old they are, or if you're suspicious of their quality. Though dried beans are shelf stable, they continue to dry out as they sit in your pantry, meaning that really old dried beans might take longer to cook than newly purchased dried beans. Soaking your beans if you think they might be old (or just aren't sure) helps deliver more even cooking results. 

If you want to soak your beans but don't have time to do it overnight, you have two options. One, you can roll the dice and just cook the beans without soaking, knowing that they might take a lot longer to cook than you'd normally expect — probably not the best option when you're hungry. Two, you can try a quick-soak. 

To quick-soak your dried beans, add them to a pot with water, bring them to a boil for 2 minutes, then take the pan off the heat and cover it, letting the beans soak for about 1 hour, before proceeding with cooking as usual (via Lifehacker). You get the benefit of a soak without having to wait 24 hours. It's a win-win.