Cooking dried beans in a thermos is an easy way to prepare them to use in another recipe - do something else while they cook. Less sodium and easier to store than canned beans.

Dried Beans in a Thermos

Instead of taking along a bunch of canned kidney beans, black beans and so on — with the space and weight they take — use Thermos cooking to prepare dried beans for use in other recipes.  If you haven’t heard of Thermos cooking, you can read more about it here.  No need for you to spend hours watching a pot on the stove — or put all that heat into the boat.

UPDATE: For larger quantities, and for cooking main dishes, take a look at a thermal cooker (I love mine!).

This makes the equivalent of one typical can of beans, such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans – whatever.

Total Time:  About 6 hours (if desired, may sit longer)

This recipe is designed for use with a 16-ounce Thermos.  You can double or triple the recipe in a 34-ounce or 48 ounce Thermos, or if you only want one batch in a larger Thermos, you’ll still need to fill it with water (if you leave the Thermos only half full, it will not cook properly).

NOTE:  For this to work properly, you need a good Thermos.  Read about my comparative tests of three different bottles, and what I think are the best Thermos bottles.

3/4 cup dried beans

Preheat a 16-ounce Thermos by filling it with boiling water.  Cap it and let it sit for at least 3 minutes.

While the Thermos is preheating, measure the beans and check through the dried beans for stones or anything else that’s not a dried bean.  If the beans were purchased in bulk, rinse them.

Put the beans and 1 cup water into a covered saucepan.  Do NOT add salt or salty spices, as these will toughen the beans and increase the cooking time.  Bring beans to a boil over high heat and let boil 5 minutes.

Pour the hot water out of the Thermos and save it.  Put the boiling beans and water into the Thermos.  If the Thermos is not quite full, add some of the reserved water until the water is about 1/2” below where the stopper will be.  Let the beans sit in the Thermos for at least 2 hours – this is the equivalent of soaking overnight.

At the end of this time, drain the beans and discard the water.  Discarding the water considerably reduces the “gassiness” of the beans but if you’re really short on water, you can re-use it.  Be sure to re-stopper the Thermos as soon as you remove the beans to keep the heat in.

Place the beans in a covered pan and add 1 cup water (you can use more of the saved water from when you preheated the Thermos).  Still don’t add salt!  Boil for 10 minutes.

Pour the beans back into the Thermos, again adding additional boiling water if needed. Put the stopper back on the Thermos and let it sit for at least 3 hours.  You’re now “cooking” the beans.

At the end of the time, open the Thermos and try a bean.  It should not be hard, although it won’t be as “mushy” as canned beans.  Don’t be alarmed by the taste – remember that you haven’t added any salt yet.

If the beans weren’t done, replace the stopper and let them sit for another hour, then try again.  NOTE:  If you didn’t see steam when you first opened the Thermos, you need to re-heat the beans – and know for future recipes that your bottle doesn’t hold heat well and needs to be frequently reheated.

When done, add salt or spices as desired, then use in any recipe in place of one can (15 to 16 ounces) of beans.  If the recipe calls for draining the can of beans, discard the water; otherwise include it – or replace it with an equal amount of fresh water if you want to further reduce the beans’ gassiness.

Want more boat-friendly recipes? Check out The Boat Galley Cookbook with over 800 recipes or get a free PDF sample of it with 30 recipes:

Cooking dried beans in a thermos is an easy way to prepare them to use in another recipe  - do something else while they cook. Less sodium and easier to store than canned beans.

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  • vrkelley
    Posted at 28 February 2011 Reply

    I tried to make split-pea soup by soaking 24hrs, boiling 5 mins and putting them in an el-cheapo 16 oz stainless thermos. It bombed out.

    Considering your Nissan instead. When you made the beans did you have to keep reheating the Nissan thermos?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 01 March 2011 Reply

      With the Thermos Nissan, I don’t have to re-heat. With my old Stanley, I sometimes did — it depended on the temperature where I had the bottle sitting.

      An easy way to tell how well insulated a bottle is, is to feel how warm the outside of it is a minute or so after you fill it with boiling water. The warmer it feels, the less well-insulated it is. The difference is very noticeable between the various brands of bottles that I have!

      Sorry your soup bombed! A better bottle can make all the difference.


  • vrkelley
    Posted at 01 March 2011 Reply

    Yes the lid of the el-cheapo is almost too warm to touch for the first two hours or so.

    Thank you,

    Happy Boating

  • Caryn Canfield
    Posted at 30 August 2012 Reply

    Using the themos doesn’t seem like much of an improvement over pressure cooking. The hardest beans only take 18 min under pressure. Some varieties take even less. Have you worked with pressure cooker much?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 30 August 2012 Reply

      True, some prefer pressure cooking. This is another possibility . . .

  • Diane Fitser
    Posted at 06 September 2012 Reply

    I never tried using a thermos for beans, but did use a cheap, wide mouthed one for making yogurt. I found that if I preheated it, put the warm mix in, and quickly wrapped it in a heavy towel and secured it for the night, it really helped retain the heat. Of course, that was in the Caribbean, so it might be different in a cooler climate.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 06 September 2012 Reply

      I did a lot of yogurt in the Sea of Cortez, where it’s usually 90+ degrees. I discovered that a good Thermos is a lot more important when it’s only 70 degrees in the galley — and had to wrap my cheapie Thermos in a towel and also put the whole thing into a cooler bag.

      Here’s my recipe for yogurt: Make Your Own Yogurt

  • Patricia L. McMullen on Facebook
    Posted at 26 May 2013 Reply

    This is where a pressure cooker comes in handy

  • Melody s/v Vacilando
    Posted at 26 May 2013 Reply

    I’m so glad you posted this! I wanted so badly to get a bag of beans at the grocery store yesterday, but didn’t because it takes too long to cook. This is good for future reference…

  • Linda Rand on Facebook
    Posted at 26 May 2013 Reply

    and you wouldn’t even need to put the sails up 🙂

  • Judie Ashford
    Posted at 27 May 2013 Reply

    I did this today with ceci beans – garbanzos by any other name. I preheated my three-cup size Nissan-Thermos for about 30 minutes with boiling water, and then put in a cup of dried beans that I had thoroughly washed, and then filled the vacuum bottle again with boiling water. I did not boil the beans on the stove at all. After about ten hours, I put the beans with fresh boiling water into a 1.5-quart Rival Crock-Pot and let them cook in there for two hours.

    When I took them out, I drained almost all the water off and added olive oil, Montreal steak seasoning, and some Italian herbs. These will be wonderful tomorrow mixed in with my green salad for a lot of protein.

    This method works really well, too, with whole grains. Different grains require different timing, but quinoa comes out the very best of any!

  • Stephanie Kershaw-Marsh
    Posted at 27 May 2013 Reply

    I use my pressure cooker as a slow cooker for dried beans. Soak beans overnight as normal. Put in pressure cooker with water, bring to high pressure for 10 minutes, turn off heat and leave all day. Beans are ready for the evening meal!

  • Mary Roth
    Posted at 23 June 2014 Reply

    I have used your thermos bottle method for beans successfully several times. But I just purchased a Wonderbag and wondered if you knew about them. It is a quilted bag that works like a crock pot with no fuel, after your initial cooking as with the thermos. We have made pulled pork and navy beans with great results with both recipes. Their website is I think you should add it to your site as an additional cooking option.

  • Bill
    Posted at 25 June 2016 Reply

    Cooking in a thermos is a “thing”. It is a compliment to wonderbags and pressure cookers.


  • Cory Nickerson
    Posted at 26 June 2016 Reply

    This is excellent. My cruise budget is very bean heavy. Does this work for rice too? Lol

  • Patricia Leat
    Posted at 26 June 2016 Reply

    I love my thermal cooker!

  • Ward Schmidt
    Posted at 08 September 2017 Reply

    I use a pressure cooker in my land kitchen, but recently bought various sizes of Thermos bottles for cooking rice and oatmeal and now cooking beans too when at sea. Great post. I also have a Thermal Cooker (mine is a Tiger) which I use almost daily for our evening rice on land. I’ve been experimenting and like the convenient size of Thermos bottles. Thank you for TBG.

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