On those days when I just didn’t plan…or I planned dinner but pulled a Mommy-brain moment or everything just went wrong and the meal was derailed…I might not have properly soaked dry beans around. What’s better in that moment – compromise and spend more money on canned beans, give up and get fast food, or pressure cook unsoaked beans in spite of the possibility of having more phytic acid?
Instant Pot and better research for the win! (This works of course with any electric pressure cooker or stovetop cooker.) Be a better steward of so many resources with this knowledge.
I’ve actually known how to cook beans in a pressure cooker without soaking for a long time, since before I came around to real, traditional foods. For years though, I wouldn’t do it.
I had read in Nourishing Traditions that quick soak or pressure cooked beans (or both!) were really unhealthy, and I believed it 100%.
That all changed with new information and people I trust emphasizing that pressure cooking really can be just as healthy, even for vegetables. It turns out it may even reduce the anti-nutrients lectin and phytic acid in beans more than long-cooking.
Considering the Instant Pot saved my beans and dinner just this week when I forgot to soak the dry beans, I am glad it’s back!
How to Pressure Cook Dry Beans – Soaked or Unsoaked
- about 1 pound dry beans (more if your cooker is over 6qt)
- 1 Tbs oil
- about 8 cups water
- salt to taste, optional
- Pour a one-pound bag or about 3 cups dry beans into a colander. (more if your pressure cooker is over 6qt)
- Pick through for rocks and debris.
- Rinse under running water.
- Pour into pot.
- Cover with twice as much water as beans, whether you're soaking or cooking. If cooking, you could measure 4 cups water per cup dry beans.
- (Optional: Let soak at room temperature overnight or for 12 hours. Drain off water in a colander and rinse beans. Put back into pot and cover with double the amount of water as beans. Proceed with cooking.)
- Add a Tbs. of oil to the beans (I just use olive oil - the purpose is to reduce foaming.)
- Optional: Add up to a teaspoon of salt - this will infuse your beans with great flavor and won't harm the cooking process at all.
- Check the sealing ring, lock the lid in place, and close the vent (to "Sealing" on an Instant Pot).
- On the stovetop, bring your cooker to high pressure and then keep it there for the time recommended in the chart below.
- For an Instant Pot, press "MANUAL" or "BEANS/CHILI" and adjust the time manually to fit the chart below. Note that soaked beans cook faster.
- When the time is up, allow 15-20 minutes for a natural pressure release. (That means that the pin will drop on a stovetop cooker and no steam will spray out when the valve is opened on any kind of pressure cooker.)
- Check the beans. When done, they should be soft and pleasant to eat.
- If they are still a little too firm or crunchy, cook a little longer using one of the methods below in the troubleshooting section.
Where to find a Pressure Cooker
If you really want an old school pressure cooker for the stovetop, you can browse them at Amazon – this is the set that I got for our wedding so very long ago. Mine is actually a 7L size (which is over 7 qts) and the one included here is only a 6-quart.
The best thing about these is that they have a glass lid for normal cooking, and they are the two pots we use MOST of all in the last 14 years! So if you have no extra space, just replace a big pot with a pressure cooker and you only need to store the lid additionally. I admit I’m not sure I ever used the pressure function with the smaller pot, but I love both sizes for normal cooking.
If I had to do it over, I’d get this set because it has an 8-quart pot and a larger steamer basket that could also do pasta or potatoes. The members of our Kids Cook Real Food eCourse often ask about how to help kids heft a heavy pot of water to the sink to drain, and this is the best solution – pulling out a basket insert rather than lifting boiling liquids around.
This is the 6-quart Instant Pot I have. They sell an 8-quart pot as well, but most people say it’s better to get a deal on the 6-quart and just have 2 rather than go big, because the 8-quart doesn’t seem to have good sales as often (or ever).
Add More Flavor: Aromatic Bean Broth (pressure cooker recipe)
This recipe from Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass will give you more flavorful beans that you can still use in any recipe, and if you like veggie broth instead of bone broth, you can use that too. Some people find that they get too much gas from bean broth, even with a soak/drain/rinse before cooking, so watch for that and discontinue if it applies to you.
- 1 lb. (about 2 ½ cups) dried beans, picked over and rinsed
- 9 c. water
- ¾ tsp. salt (add right at the start – enhances flavor and helps beans hold onto delicate skins and keep their shape)
- 1 Tbs. oil (needed to control foaming)
- 2-4 unpeeled cloves garlic
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1 large carrot, halved
- 1 celery rib, halved
- In a 6-qt or larger cooker, combine the beans, water, salt and oil.
- Add the garlic, bay leaves, carrot, celery and leek greens.
- Lock lid in place. Over high heat bring to high pressure (or use appropriate timing according to chart below in an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker).
- on the stovetop: Reduce heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for the length of time indicated on Bean Timing Chart (below). Turn off heat.
- Allow pressure to come down naturally, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape. Test the beans for doneness.
- If time permits, allow the beans to cool in the cooking liquid, uncovered. (During this time, beans will firm up and any slightly underdone beans will complete cooking.)
- Drain in batches in a large colander, preferably stainless steel (found on Amazon) because of the hot water.
- Reserve the broth for making soup (like this three bean soup) or stew (like this Tuscan beef and bean). Discard bay leaves and veggies.
- 1 ½ cups cooked beans will equal a 15-oz can in recipes.
Note: if using a 4-qt cooker, divide recipe in half but use a full tablespoon of oil.
Bean Timing Chart for Pressure Cookers (Soaked and Unsoaked)
How long does it take to cook beans in a pressure cooker? NOT all day! Score! Each type of bean has a different length for cooking time, so be sure to check the time chart for your dry bean:
- For firm beans, to be served on their own or in salads, cook for the minimum suggested time.
- Allow 15-20 minutes for the natural pressure release,
- Allow extra time for any additional cooking that may be needed.
- Always add 1 Tbs oil to control foaming; 2 Tbs oil for limas and soybeans.
- Do not fill the cooker more than halfway when cooking beans. That includes the water! About 3 cups dried beans is the max for the 6-quart Instant Pot Duo that I have because they expand so much. A one-pound bag is fine but two pounds is too much. I have done 4 cups beans but under-measured the water a little so it didn’t go past the half-full line.
- If soaking beans: Subtract minutes as follows for the Instant Pot: 20 minutes on the chart = 10 minutes needed, 25 minutes = 20 minutes needed, 35 minutes = 20 minutes needed. All times refer to the first, or shortest, time listed in the chart for the Instant Pot. For a stovetop cooker, I’m going to refer you to Hip Pressure Cooking’s time chart because the minutes are exceptionally low!
1 cup dried beans, UNSOAKED
Stovetop Cooker: Minutes at High Pressure w/ natural release
Instant Pot: Minutes at High Pressure w/natural release
Yield in Cups
|Black-Eyed Peas||6-8||20-25||2 ¼|
|Chickpeas (Garbanzos)||32-35||35-40||2 ½|
|Cranberry (Borlotti)||28-34||35-40||2 ¼|
|Great Northern||25-30||25-30||2 ¼|
|Lentils (brown or French green)||1 to 5 (after 1 minute high pressure, allow pressure to release naturally for 8 mins, then quick release any remaining.)||15-20||2|
|Lentils (red)||5 (red lentils do not hold their shape, so you can use quick-release method)||15-18 (don’t soak)||2|
|Lima beans||13-15||20-25||2 ½|
|Peas (split, green or yellow)||10-12||15-20||2|
|Small Red Beans||26-30||25-30||2|
|Soybeans (beige)*||28-35||25-30||2 ¼|
|Soybeans (black)*||32-37||?||2 ½|
*Use 2 Tbs oil per 1 cup beans to control foaming.
What if the Beans Aren’t Done at First?
Although I love that Instant Pot, it does bug me that I can’t check doneness until it’s all done! And sometimes they’re not done. Know what I mean?
If you wait the 15-20 minutes for a natural pressure release, then check the beans and they’re too firm, you can still save dinner within 20 minutes or so, typically. You have a few options:
Manually Boil the Beans
If you like to feel more in charge and the beans are just slightly underdone:
- Add a pinch of baking soda to the water, hit the CANCEL button (on an Instant Pot)
- Then hit SAUTE. The beans will start bubbling away fairly quickly (make sure there’s enough water so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the insert pot).
- On the stove top, just turn the burner to HIGH and then simmer on medium low once a boil is reached, which will be quick.
- Try to keep some bubbles going.
- Stir and check every 5-10 minutes until you’re satisfied with the texture. I tend to run some cold water over a bean and simply eat it, or press one under a spoon to make sure it flattens.
Bring the Beans Back to Pressure
If the beans are quite crunchy or you don’t have 30-60 minutes, don’t despair. You can pressure cook them a few more minutes:
- On an Instant Pot, press CANCEL.
- On either kind of pressure cooker, check the lid for foam blocking the valve.
- Check the water level to make sure it’s fully covering the beans.
- Turn the valve to SEALING (or closed on a stovetop pressure cooker).
- Lock the lid in place.
- Bring back to pressure over the stovetop for 1-5 minutes or set the Instant Pot to MANUAL for 3-5 minutes. (It won’t take as long to get up to pressure because everything should still be pretty hot.) Choose the number of minutes depending on how crunchy the beans were.
- Release the pressure quickly if you’re in a hurry and hope you succeeded! If you have the time and aren’t worried about the shape of the beans, let the pressure release naturally.
Why Should You Still Soak the Beans Before Pressure Cooking?
Even though you can cook unsoaked beans in your pressure cooker, it may be best to plan ahead and save that info for when you’re in a pinch. Here’s why:
- Soaking may make the beans more digestible (but honestly, that’s up for discussion as some research shows that pressure cooking is better!).
- Pre-soaked beans should produce less flatulence! (gas)
- Soaking helps to avoid split beans, which can be important if you’re using them for a cold bean salad (although not as much if you’re mashing them into refried beans or hummus anyway).
- The presoak will still speed up your cook time, even with a pressure cooker, usually by at least 10 minutes.
Storing Cooked Beans
Your home-cooked beans will be much more frugal than cans, and it saves a ton of time to make extra and freeze for later. They’re very quick to thaw by plopping into some soup or covering with warm water in the sink.
Cooked beans will last 5-7 days in the fridge (you’ll KNOW when they turn!) or at least a year in the freezer, although as with anything the quality goes down if they get freezer burned.
To freeze, measure 2 or 4-cup portions, which will be like 1 or 2 “cans” worth as you’re following recipes.
If you have the space, I find that reusing old cottage cheese and sour cream containers is great and about 2 cups fits in the 16-ounce size without measuring.
To conserve space, measure into a quart zippered bag. These will also thaw faster. Be sure to LABEL the outside with the type of bean and date, and if you’re smart, you’ll keep a list on the outside of your freezer so you know what’s in there.
Other Instant Pot Tutorials:
- Pros and Cons of the Instant Pot
- How to Use the Instant Pot in a Hotel Room
- 10 Basic Techniques for your Instant Pot
- How to Make Squash in the Instant Pot
- How to Cook Frozen Ground Beef in the Instant Pot FAST
- Can You Make Slow Cooker Recipes in the Instant Pot?
Other Pressure Cooker Bean Recipes:
- Pressure Cooker Mexican Lentils and Rice (chicken or vegetarian)
- Homemade Refried Beans
- Italian Lentil One-pot Dinner