Raw Kidney Beans Are Toxic!

Kidney beans are toxic!! If eaten raw that is. Don’t fully cook them and it could end you up in the hospital. Crazy isn’t it? Just four or five raw beans are toxic enough to send you into extreme nausea, followed by vomiting. I suppose since kidney beans are not usually eaten by themselves, one would think they had a bad case of food poisoning, which you do, just not the usual variety. This might cause you to blame the tomatoes in your chili when it isn’t.

Kidney bean’s toxic agent is Phaseolus vulgaris. I bet you’ve never heard that one on a murder mystery. How come no one has done a movie where the toxin is Phaseolus vulgaris. Okay probably because the food industry would take a hit and maybe it doesn’t have the drama of a puffer fish venom, tetrodotoxin, which to humans is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. Or theBruno’s casque-headed frog who’s venom is 25 times more poisonous by weight than that of Brazilian pit-vipers. Okay, maybe kidney beans would not be OO7’s choice of a deadly weapon but what if he was looking for something no one would suspect to simply put someone out of action for a while to protect them. Who would suspect the grocery store to carry such a nasty poison out in the open on its shelves. Maybe that was stretching things just a bit but you could time it.

The onset of the symptoms is usually between 1 to 3 hours after consumption. Recovery is rapid. Usually, 3 to 4 hours after symptoms begin. That could put someone out of the picture just long enough to….. to…. what?

The unit of toxin measures in Hemagglutinating units or (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, Canneli, have about one-third the amount of the toxin compared to red kidney beans. Let the bright red be a danger sign to you. Broad beans contain 5 to 10% of the amount that kidney beans have. In fact all the other bean varieties I looked at had a low hau count. Why kidney beans are such bad guys I don’t know. I do love the texture and taste though in chili and taco salad. Since I can’t get a decent crop of kidney beans anyway most of the time I substitute Jacob’s Cattle or Vermont Cranberry instead.

So there you have it, cook your kidney beans thoroughly unless you are an Agent Man.

IMG_4187.JPGAnd if you are buying them dry from the store a hint to how old they are is the vibrancy of their color. The ones above are a couple years old and from my garden. The ones down below are fresh. As beans age they change color and loose flavor.


I no longer grow kidney beans in my garden as production was very poor but occasionally I buy a can or a dried bag of them from the store. The store has such a poor selection. I’m finding that the seed catalogues are becoming the same way. Apparently few grow them. But as a staple for your food storage, they are a must if you like them. They take no energy to process or store and take up only a small amount of space. They are high in protein and can be used in everything from desert, breads, salads, and savory main dishes or even an occasional side dish.

There are others in this legume family that can make you sick. Some of them we will talk about soon along with why it is important to know what family your plants are from.

6 thoughts on “Raw Kidney Beans Are Toxic!

  1. I gather runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) seeds are also quite poisonous unless well cooked. They make quite a good, rather large, substitute for kidney beans, as well as eating the whole pods (which if eaten green are not significantly poisonous).


      1. Thank you. I’m enjoying your posts too. The internet can be a wonderful place. We can all learn so much from each other! I do like pushing the boundaries.


  2. um . . . Why would anyone eat them raw?
    The hyacinth bean that has become somewhat trendy here is more toxic. It must be cooked and drained and cooked and drained again. Some say that it is less toxic if not dried. Dang! There are less dangerous beans to eat!


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