Technique Thursday: Peeling Beans

I spent the better part of a day peeling beans for our Benin Global Table. This is partially because it takes an eternity to peel beans and partially because my husband became incapacitated by kidney stones. All day we ran around to the doctor, the lab, and the prescription house. I didn’t take my beans with me which, of course, set me back several hours – but prevented me from looking like a crazy woman.

Here’s how to peel beans:

First things first. Soak 2 cups of beans overnight. 2 cups seems like a small, petty, insignificant amount of beans. Think to yourself, “Surely this paltry pile of beans will take no time at all to peel.”

The next day wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to tackle the job.

Stare in disbelief as you realize 2 cups of beans is now 6 cups of beans. Otherwise known as 1,000,000 beans that need peeling.

Grab 2 bowls, 1 for the discarded skins, 1 for the clean beans.

Begin the work of peeling the beans. Some beans will pop out of their skins eagerly. M0st of the beans will stick in their skins and will require a little effort from your fingernails. Your thumb and forefinger will become red and inflamed from repeated pressure on beans.

If you get tired of stubborn beans that won’t release their skins, soak them in hot water for a few minutes.

Now, if you work as fast as I do, you’ll probably do a handful in 5-10 minutes. This slow pace is pretty discouraging. I would recommend watching several movies and enlisting the help of friends, neighbors, cats, dogs, and goldfish.

You can also grab handfuls of beans and rub them between your palms. This might get a few more skins loose. I had mixed luck with this approach.

Next time, invest in a food mill.

Food mills are designed to “peel” beans for you. Although I have a food mill, she is old and crochety. I really dislike using the dang thing and am considering buying a shiny new one that does not fight me with every turn. Hence why I peeled my beans by hand this week.

And now, for your winner.

The real question is who finished first? Me, with the beans, or Keith, with the kidney stone?

Apparently peeling beans isn’t as bad as kidney stones, because I won. He’s still in agony. My thumb and forefinger, on the otherhand, are healing up quite nicely.


  1. Tina says

    What exactly is the purpose of peeling them? Do locals really do that? What would have given them the idea to do this in the first place? Does this decrease their nutritive value? I’ve never heard of anything so crazy – probably a good idea not to have taken them everywhere yesterday! I hope Keith is feeling better?

    • Oh, right. Leave it to me to not explain that the purpose ha ha. Well, for the recipe I’m making it is to ensure a super creamy, smooth bean puree. If you leave the skins on it becomes rather gritty.

  2. Collette Lemons says

    Hope Keith is feeling better.

    I am wondering the same thing Tina is – what is the purpose of peeling them? I have heard of doing that just never saw the point.

    If it makes beans less gassy I think I would make the effort,lol.

  3. elisa says

    wow, thats some serious effort..considering that peeling corn and picking cotton is way more intense but much larger maybe not to drive you a little wacky…LOL Great Job Sasha, the beans look like they are home!

  4. We made akara a few weeks ago in our West African virtual travels, and indeed I was quite surprised to see how many beans we really had to peel once soaked! This post made me smile, because I can relate – though I put two kids to work, and did not have a husband in dire pain!

    • Sasha Martin says

      Oh my goodness – you’re awesome to have persevered! And great to have the kiddos help 🙂

  5. Hi!!!! Can you recommend a food mill yo peel the black eyed pea?!?!?
    Thank you

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