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: Pre-Soak Dried Beans in a Brine Solution
It's not absolutely crucial to pre-soak beans before cooking them. But there are compelling advantages worth considering.
- Pre-soaking dried beans shortens the cook time.
- Contrary to old tales, pre-soaking in a brine solution results in a much better texture in a cooked bean. The beans will be more creamy and smooth, not mushy.
- 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.
Overnight Brining Instructions
Cover the beans with 2 inches of water, and add 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt for every cup of dried beans (or 3/4 teaspoon table salt for every cup of dried beans). Cover and sit overnight.
Drain and rinse well the following morning before cooking them in the pressure cooker.
Quick Brining Instructions
Cover the beans with 2 inches of water, and add 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt for every cup of dried beans (or 3/4 teaspoon table 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 30 minutes. Rinse well before cooking in the pressure cooker.
Tip #2: Infuse the Dried 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, add chopped garlic and onions. Or add dried peppers to give the cooked beans a touch of smoke and heat.
Best Ways to Add Flavor to Dried Beans
There are generally 2 ways to add flavor to dried beans during pressure cooking.
- Combine the 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 takes a few more minutes, but dramatically heightens the flavors. It's by far my favorite – as seen in the below recipe.
Note: Whichever method you use, always add salt to the cooking water. Even if you first brined the dried beans. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt) for every 1 cup of dried beans you started with before pre-soaking.
Tip #3: Dial in the Correct Cooking Time
Pressure cooking times vary with (1) the age of the dried beans, (2) the altitude where you cook, and (3) whether you pre-soaked the beans. Let's take these variables one at a time.
Adjusting for the Age of Your Beans
- If you're not sure of the age of your dried beans, I recommend 30 minutes when cooking at sea level for 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.
Adjusting for Pre-Soaking the Beans
The cooking time is also dependent upon whether you pre-soak the beans. Pre-soaking reduces the cooking time to 10 minutes in a pressure cooker plus a 5 minute natural release.
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 #2 1/2: Instant Pot Chickpea Beans Cooking Time
Most beans can be cooked the same length of time as black beans, but I find that chickpeas are best cooked for another 5 minutes.
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.