I’m always focused on pantry items I can have on hand for quick meals. And now, with all the rules changing in our lives, my pantry items are even more critical. What’s at the top of my must-have list? Instant Pot black beans and chickpeas. If I turn back the clock a few years, I cooked all my beans on the stove top. Then I switched to the slow cooker. But now, cooking dried beans is the most frequent way I use my electric pressure cooker. Every week, I make a fresh batch of either chickpeas or black beans. Or both. Here are my best tips from years of cooking beans this way to ensure you have the results you want.
Tip #1: Why Pre-Soak Beans Before Cooking in the Pressure Cooker?
It’s not absolutely crucial to pre-soak beans before cooking them. But there are some advantages worth considering.
- Pre-soaking or brining the beans will shorten the cook time to 10 minutes when using an electric pressure cooker – depending on your altitude (see the below box). I allow for a 5-minute natural release following cooking.
- If you have any digestive sensitivities with beans, and many people do, pre-soaking can greatly alleviate this.
- Roughly 5% of my black beans split during pressure cooking if I skip the pre-soaking or brining step. Although this is not a large amount, pre-soaking eliminates splitting even further.
When I pre-soak, I actually brine the beans in salted water. There are two methods I recommend:
- Cover the beans with 2 inches of water, and add 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt for every cup of dried beans. Cover and sit overnight. Rinse well the following morning before following the below directions.
- Cover the beans with 2 inches of water, and add 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt for every cup of dried beans. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and cool to room temperature. This typically takes about an hour. Rinse well and proceed with the below cooking directions.
Tip #2: Instant Pot Black Beans Cooking Time
The cooking time will vary with your elevation and the age of the dried beans.
- If you’re not sure of the age of your dried beans, I recommend 30 minutes when cooking at sea level, if you like a firmer texture. Finish with a 15-minutes natural release.
- For a softer cooked bean, add an additional 5 minutes to the cook time, with a 15-minute natural release.
At 7000 feet, where I live, I cook my beans for 40 minutes for a firm bean, with a 15-minute natural release. See the below chart for Instant Pot cook-time rules at altitudes above sea level.
Adjusting the Cook Times for High Altitudes
If you live above sea level, follow these recommendations from the New High Altitude Cookbook for the amount of additional cook-time required with your electric pressure cooker. Note: I cannot personally attest to whether all of these are correct, but the recommendation was spot on for my altitude of 7100 feet.
Pressure Cooking at High Altitude
3000 feet (900 meters): Add 5% cooking time
4000 feet (1200 meters): Add 10% cooking time
5000 feet (1500 meters): Add 15% cooking time
6000 feet (1800 meters): Add 20% cooking time
7000 feet (2000 meters): Add 25% cooking time
8000 feet (2400 meters): Add 30% cooking time
9000 feet (2700 meters): Add 35% cooking time
10,000 feet (3000 meters): Add 40% cooking time
11,000 feet (3300 meters): Add 45% cooking time
12,000 feet (3600 meters): Add 50% cooking time
Tip #3: Infuse Instant Pot Black Beans With Flavor
If you’re not sure how you’ll use the beans, keep the flavors neutral, using only ingredients that you use often in other recipes. For example, garlic and or onions. I almost always add dried peppers to give them a touch of smoke and heat.
Always add salt to the water before cooking your beans. It’s not true that it makes beans tough.
There are generally 2 ways to add flavor to the beans during pressure cooking.
- Combine the dried beans, water and spices / herbs together, seal the pressure cooker and cook the prescribed time, OR
- Sauté the spices / herbs in a little olive oil for a few minutes before adding the beans to coat. Add water, seal the pressure cooker, and cook.
The second method dramatically heightens the flavors, and is by far my favorite – as seen in the below recipe.
Instant Pot Black Beans For the Budget Minded
Cooking beans from a dried form isn’t just a healthier option, it’s also way less expensive. And if you’re counting your pennies, and who isn’t right now, this makes a difference.
The math as of March 2020:
1-pound bag of dried black beans (Raley’s brand): $1.69
15-ounce can of S&W brand cooked black beans: $1.25
A 1-pound bag of dried black beans yields 6 cups of cooked beans. If 1 serving equals 1/2 cup, then there are 12 servings from one bag of dried beans. This equates to $0.14 per serving.
Using the same serving size, 1 can of cooked beans yields just under two 1/2-cup servings. This equates to $0.625 per serving.
This means 1 serving of canned cooked beans is 4 1/2 times more expensive than 1 serving of cooked beans from a dried form. That’s worth thinking about.
If you want to move to a more vegetarian diet, but not sure the best steps to take, join the Monthly Vegetarian Meals Challenge. Each month I’ll post some tips – great plant protein sources, must-haves for the vegetarian pantry, ways to build flavor, and more. Additionally, we tackle 1 – 3 seasonal recipes tied to the theme that month. Subscribe to Monthly Vegetarian Meals Challenge here.
Perfect Instant Pot Black Beans
- 4 cups water, or enough to cover the beans by 2 inches
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoons garlic paste, or 2 large cloves finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, or other Mexican spices
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
- 2 cups water
- 1 dried California Chile, or dried 2 chiles de arbol
- Add the water to a pot and stir in the kosher salt to dilute it. Add the beans, ensuring they're covered by at least 2 inches of the water. Cover the pot, and let sit overnight, or at least 8 hours. Alternatively, bring the beans in the salted water to a simmer for 5 minutes, allow to cool.
- Rinse well the following morning before continuing with the recipe.
- Select SAUTE on your electric pressure cooker, LOW HEAT. Heat the olive oil in the inner pot for your cooker.
- Add the garlic, oregano (or other Mexican spices), and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon and sauté for 3 - 4 minutes, or until fragrant. Turn the pressure cooker off.
- Add the beans, dried pepper and water to the pot. Place the lid on the pressure cooker and seal. To do this, turn the lid until it locks in place, and make sure the venting on the lid is set to sealed or sealing. Select MANUAL, HIGH PRESSURE and set the time for 40 minutes (or the correct time for your altitude) if you didn't pre-soak. If you pre-soaked, set the time for 10 minutes. See the Notes for cook time guidance.
- Allow for a natural release, about 15 minutes.
- Drain the beans. Either use the beans immediately, or store in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days. Alternatively, freeze the beans in freezer for up to 6 months. PRO TIP: Make sure the beans are as dry as possible before freezing to minimize ice crystals.
Want some new black bean recipes?
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