Cook Kidney Beans Safely

kidney-beans-2 In the comments section of the Vegetarian Potato Stew, commenter Mrs Belogski asks: “Aren’t you supposed to boil kidney beans rapidly for a few minutes to destroy a particular toxin which they contain?”

Mrs Belogski then found this explanation of toxins in kidney beans:


Red kidney beans: Incidents of food poisoning have been reported associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked red kidney beans. Symptoms may develop after eating only four raw beans and include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain followed by diarrhoea. A naturally occurring haemaglutin is responsible for the illness, but can be destroyed by high temperature cooking, making the beans completely safe to eat. For this reason, kidney beans must not be sprouted. Kidney beans should be soaked for at least 8 hours in enough cold water to keep them covered. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans, discarding the soaking water. Put them into a pan with cold water to cover and bring to the boil. The beans must now boil for 10 minutes to destroy the toxin. After this the beans should be simmered until cooked (approximately 45-60 minutes) and they should have an even creamy texture throughout – if the centre is still hard and white, they require longer cooking.

Here’s what the American Food and Drug Administration has to say:

Phytohaemagglutinin, the presumed toxic agent, is found in many species of beans, but it is in highest concentration in red kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). The unit of toxin measure is the hemagglutinating unit (hau). Raw kidney beans contain from 20,000 to 70,000 hau, while fully cooked beans contain from 200 to 400 hau. White kidney beans, another variety of Phaseolus vulgaris, contain about one-third the amount of toxin as the red variety; broad beans (Vicia faba) contain 5 to 10% the amount that red kidney beans contain.

The syndrome is usually caused by the ingestion of raw, soaked kidney beans, either alone or in salads or casseroles. As few as four or five raw beans can trigger symptoms. Several outbreaks have been associated with “slow cookers” or crock pots, or in casseroles which had not reached a high enough internal temperature to destroy the glycoprotein lectin. It has been shown that heating to 80°C may potentiate the toxicity five-fold, so that these beans are more toxic than if eaten raw. In studies of casseroles cooked in slow cookers, internal temperatures often did not exceed 75°C.

This family got sick from substituting raw cannellini beans in a recipe for felafel. In traditional felafel recipes, chickpeas are soaked and then fried without further cooking. But raw cannelini and butter beans also contain enough hemagglutinating agent to make you sick.


  1. Interesting; didn’t know that about kidney beans (or cannellini or butter beans). I only ever soak black beans, because they’re often not too fresh and get hard. And I don’t throw out the soak water because all the flavor goes out with it. But I do boil all my beans for at least 10 minutes and then simmer them for a couple of hours. Never had a bad reaction, nor has anyone else who’s eaten beans at my house.

    I was born and partly brought up in Latin America, where beans are served every day.


  1. […] butter beans, and cannellini beans must be boiled at a high temperature for ten minutes to remove a toxin that can cause illness. Conventional Method: Drain the soaked beans and cover with 3-4 times the amount of fresh water, of […]

  2. […] I do all of this at night, and then put the pot on low and forget about them until morning.~edit 3/11/13~ If you find they don’t get done overnight, your slow cooker may by cooler on “low” than mine. I’m finding there is quite a variation. Try doing it on high if they don’t turn out the first time. If your slow cooker was manufactured after 2007, it will cook at these higher temps. If it was manufactured before 2007, maybe you should buy one with all the money you’re saving not buying canned beans!~Also, as a commenter noted: if you are cooking Kidney Beans, be sure they do boil for at least 10 minutes to remove naturally occurring toxins. See this link for more information. […]

  3. What Is The Cooking Time For Kidney Beans says:

    […] Cook Kidney Beans Safely – Cooking Manager: Helping … – Interesting; didn’t know that about kidney beans (or cannellini or butter beans). I only ever soak black beans, because they’re often not too fresh and get hard…. […]