Forget about watery beans! We help you dive into the world of added thickness.
When was the last time you spent hours cooking beans only to find that they were bland and watery? Beans can be damn right delicious if you eat them the right way. But sometimes you want them—no, you need them—thicker.
So what is the best way to achieve that?
There’s more than one way to thicken beans. For example, a slurry of cornstarch and water works well when cooked into the beans. Adding tomato paste, ketchup, or instant potato puree can also help thicken and reduce the liquid.
If you want to avoid any additives, you can puree some of the beans to thicken the dish.
You can use different techniques to thicken your beans: Some require additional ingredients, and others need a little tweaking without adding more components. If you don’t like runny beans (let’s be honest among ourselves here, who does?), see the list below for some of the best methods for thickening beans.
Cook the Liquid Down to Thicken Beans
When the beans are done, yet your soup or stew is a little too runny, strain the beans—and any other vegetables—and simmer down the sauce over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reduces down and thickens.
If you don’t want to strain the legumes and other ingredients, you can just as well simmer the soup or stew over low heat, once again stirring often, until enough of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened.
Cooking the dish for a longer time to allow the liquid to reduce is easy, that’s for sure. But it may take time because you need to make sure it is on low heat to prevent your dish from burning.
The method is perfect for when you can take your time, and for when you don’t want to alter the taste of your beans by any means.
Mash Some Beans to Thicken the Sauce
Pureeing part of the beans is another excellent way to thicken a bean soup or stew. It does not change the dish’s flavor because you do not have to add any extra ingredients. You use the beans themselves to thicken the sauce: genius!
Remove about a quarter to a whole US cup of beans, depending on how many beans you have in the pot and how thick you want the sauce. Mash them up in the blender, using a potato masher, or with a fork.
Try to do so as smoothly and as uniformly as possible. Add the bean mash back to your dish, stir it in, and continue simmering for at least 10-15 minutes. The simmer will bind everything together.
Make a Slurry to Thicken Beans
Making a paste is the most common method for thickening food in general, beans included. You can use all-purpose flour or other yeast-free flours you have at home. You can even add cornstarch to make a “bean porridge.”
Measure about a tablespoon of the desired flour or cornstarch with twice the amount of water or broth and whisk until smooth. Add the porridge to the pot with the beans and stir quickly while the beans are simmering.
The bean sauce will start to thicken after a few minutes.
The measurements will depend on how much liquid is present and how thick you want the sauce—use your discretion.
The slurry method won’t change the flavor of your dish, but it may soften the degree of seasoning somewhat. So keep that in mind, and add a little more salt and spices if you deem necessary.
Add Instant Mash to Thicken Beans
Instant mash is a fantastic component to thicken your bean sauce. An unflavored instant mash is still flavorful and will add an extra oomph to your dish.
But remember that this method may slightly alter the original taste of your beans: it will make the soup or stew taste, no prizes for guessing, like potatoes.
Mix 1-2 tablespoons (depending on the thickness you want) with some water or broth to use instant mash. Add that mixture to your beans and mix it in. You will notice the sauce starting to thicken.
Add Instant Soup to Thicken Beans
Instant soup powder is an excellent way to thicken and flavor beans. You can mix about a tablespoon or two with water or broth. Add this mixture to your beans and stir well. The sauce will begin to thicken.
Keep in mind that instant soup is salty. So, if you have already added salt and spices to your beans, you may want to opt for one of the other methods on my list.
Use Tomato Paste to Thicken Beans
Tomato paste is a preferred ingredient option to use when cooking beans. Many people will use fresh chopped or liquidized tomatoes. But that won’t give enough thickness to the sauce of the beans like tomato paste will.
Scoop up a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste instead, or in addition to, fresh tomatoes. Cook your beans as you would normally do. You could also add the tomato paste later on if you feel the sauce is not thick enough and allow it to simmer for a few minutes.
The paste will give your sauce a thickness to it.
Add Ketchup to Thicken Beans
If you need slight thickening to your beans, you could add a few tablespoons of ketchup. Ketchup has a thicker consistency and can help to make your beans less watery.
If you want to use ketchup but your beans are pretty runny, you may want to cook the liquid down first and then add the ketchup. Unless you add cups of ketchup, it won’t significantly thicken your sauce.
Clearly, this method is for those who like the taste of ketchup!
Use Less Water for Thicker Beans
Using less water might seem like an obvious point, and once your beans are already cooked and too watery, this probably won’t be helpful.
However, if you want to prevent your beans from getting runny from the get-go, then avoid adding too much water. It is easier to add more later the try and reduce it. Start by using half the amount of water your recipe requires and add more as you need.
Add Pureed Veggies to Thicken Beans
You can add pureed veggies to any liquid or sauce to thicken it. Carrots, celery, and potatoes make good neutral flavor purees. Keep in mind that this method may change the taste of your beans.
You can puree one medium-sized carrot or potato and then add it to your beans. Stir it well to combine, and then simmer for a few minutes to blend with the flavor. The sauce will thicken almost immediately.
Add Chopped Veggies to Thicken Beans
Another fantastic way to thicken your beans without pureeing your veggies but still get some veggies in your meal is to add chopped vegetables to your dish. That way, you get more than beans; you get a hearty, healthy meal.
Chop up a few vegetables that you prefer, such as carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. The veggies will cook with the beans and absorb any excess liquid. You might even have to add some water to ensure the food doesn’t dry out and burn.
Next time your beans turn out too watery, you can use one of the above foolproof methods to thicken them. Choose the method most convenient and economical to you while also taking note of the flavor and texture.