This how to cook dry beans guide will walk you through everything you need to know about cooking beans from scratch in the instant pot. Read through to get all the info from preparing, cooking and seasoning, to storing and freezing cooked beans. With all these deets, you’ll be able to come up with your own perfect beans recipe. But, if you need more inspo, grab my best ever, super delicious dry bean recipe links at the end of the article!
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Beans from scratch – Seriously, why bother?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, cooking beans from scratch can seem like a daunting, intimidating, and pointless task considering you can just grab a can of beans at the store and call it a day. But, knowing how to cook dry beans is one of those kitchen skills everyone should master. Not only it’s easy, but also, being able to cook a large pot of beans like it’s no biggie (and I swear to you, it really is no biggie) has tons of advantages as well!
- It’s convenient – one batch of cooked beans goes a loooong way and can be just as convenient as the canned stuff. You can freeze cooked beans for later, or keep it refrigerated. Then, instead of grabbing a can, just grab your own magical container of homemade beans, out of the freezer or the fridge, to add to any recipe.
- It’s cheap – 1lb of dry beans makes approximately 5 cups of cooked beans, or more if you include the delicious and nutritious cooking liquid. That’s the equivalent of approximately 3-4 cans! The difference? Your batch of beans is significantly more delicious than any can of beans sitting on a shelf out there!
- It’s delicious – homemade beans will always taste way better than the canned stuff. You can season and flavor them just as you want, while canned beans are typically only seasoned with salt. Some brands also add sugar, and some other unpronounceable stuff. The texture of homemade beans is also incomparably better!
- It’s versatile – being that homemade beans are so much more delicious, they are more versatile as well. They’re great as a side dish like in rice and beans, refried and dips. Beans are also a delicious addition to bowls, wraps, salads, and more!
- It’s nutritious – beans nutritional value is awesome! They’re low in calorie, nutrient-dense and protein-packed.
How to cook beans fast
One of the questions people always ask me the most, is how to cook dry beans fast. My answer has been the same since I was like 14 years old making my first pot of beans. Use a pressure cooker, meus amigos!
Pressure cookers are so convenient and fast for cooking just about anything. I grew up with a stove top pressure cooker, which is what I used up until recently, but I have converted to the instant pot and the results are pretty much the same. The only difference I found, is that we need more cooking liquid when cooking with stove top pressure cookers because they constantly release steam during the cooking process. Electric pressure cookers, like the instant pot, trap it all inside the pan, so there’s little “loss” of liquid via steam, during the cooking process.
Another thing that helps reduce the cooking time of beans is soaking them. But “time” is not the only reason why you should soak beans!
The “why soak beans” argument must go back a million years, but I promise you, while yes, technically you’ll be fine if you’re cooking beans without soaking, you really should just take the time to soak them, at least 30 mins.
There are 3 reasons why you definitely should soak beans:
- Degasing beans – soaking beans in cold water for at least 30 minutes is essential for getting rid of the enzymes that cause discomfort (ahem, make you fart!).
- Even cooking – through the soaking process, each little bean begins to hydrate itself, all the way through to the middle of the bean. Hydrated beans stay whole, giving them a better texture, and they cook evenly, especially in “aggressive” cooking methods such as pressure cooking.
- Reduce cooking time – another benefit of hydration! The more hydrated the beans are, the faster they’ll be cooked through.
Now that you know why you should soak beans, let’s have look at how to do it. I’m using black beans today, but this soaking method works for pretty much all other beans you’ll be cooking in the pressure cooker.
How to soak beans
Before you do anything, sort the beans picking out any little bean that is significantly discolored, cracked, broken or… too weird looking. You also want to keep an eye out for the occasional rock or two you may find in there!
After you pick through the beans, give’em a nice rinse to remove all the dirt it comes with.
- The 1st soak
Cover the pre-washed beans with cold water, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. This first soak is key for getting rid of the enzymes that cause digestive discomfort. Throughout this first soak, you’ll notice some beans may float to the top, if that happens, pick and discard’em!
- Drain and Rinse
After 30 minutes, using a colander, drain and discard all the soaking water. Rinse the beans well again and off to the 2nd soak we go!
- The 2nd soak
Soak again in new cold water. The second soak should be at least 30 minutes, if you’ll be using a pressure cooker/IP. If you’ll be using a different cooking method, soak longer (approximately 8 hours to overnight – some people even soak’em for 24hrs!)
- Drain and Rinse
After the second soak, drain and discard all that soaking water (or use it to water your plants!) then rinse well one last time.
After soaking, you’re pretty much halfway through. So far, most of the process has been “wait time”, meaning you haven’t really done any actual work yet! See? I told you it was easy!
How to season beans
After the beans are soaked it’s time to cook’em. But, before we get to do that, we need to make our seasoning choices to figure out what goes in the pot, at what time.
It’s really important to understand that, when we use a pressure cooker, a pretty aggressive way of cooking, we need to layer in the flavors strategically so they develop properly. The biggest secret to cooking delicious beans (or really anything!) in the instant pot is not just about what seasonings you add to your recipe, but when and how to add them.
Keep the following 7 components in mind when cooking beans. And to take your pot of beans to the next level, I recommend always using at least one of each of them:
- Herbs – My absolute favorite herb to use in beans are bay leaves, especially in black and pinto beans. Thyme and oregano do wonderful things to white beans. Herbs add such delicate herbal flavor and aroma to beans, creating necessary depth and balance to the dish.
- When to add: Herbs are ok to add at the beginning of the cooking process, or the end, after the beans are cooked. As a general rule, dry herbs work best when cooked along with the beans, directly infusing flavor. Fresh herbs do better at the end of the cooking process, to compliment your already cooked beans.
- Fat – Another thing to always add to your beans is some kind of fat. Sausages, bacon, pancetta, ham hock, smoked ribs are all amazing additions. And if you’re vegan, a good spoonful of olive oil in the end will add a bright and fragrant layer of fat to your beans as well.
- When to add: Add smoked meats at the beginning so they cook along with the beans. This will infuse the beans with all that smoky, meaty flavor. Meats like bacon and pancetta are better rendered with the aromatics and dumped into the beans after they’re cooked. This is insanely delicious!
- Spices – Cumin is my favorite spice to add to beans. It adds richness, earthiness and depth. Black pepper and other types of pepper are also great!
- When to add: Almost always after the beans are cooked!
- Aromatics – Garlic and onions are a must!
- When to add: If added raw at the beginning so they cook along with the beans, the aromatics will infuse the beans with soft and delicate flavor. Sautéing and adding them after the beans are cooked, gives the beans a massive punch of flavor! The latter is my favorite method!
- Acid – My favorite acid to use in beans is vinegar, but lemon juice works as well. Acid breaks through proteins and helps not only your digestion, but also, makes the liquid get nice and creamy. As for flavor, the vinegar helps brighten the flavor of the beans, helping your taste buds feel that umami you deserve.
- When to add: Always, always, always after the beans are cooked. Adding acid before they the beans are done, will cause them to get tough because the acid seals the bean, making it difficult for them to absorb liquid and cook evenly.
- Heat (optional) – If you like spicy food, go on and add a layer of heat as well. Things like dry, smoked peppers, or chipotle in adobo sauce work great with beans.
- When to add: Similar to dry herbs, smoked dry peppers are best added at the beginning of the process, while chipotle in adobo are better added after the beans are cooked. If you want to use fresh pepper, like jalapeños or habanero, for example, try sautéing them with the aromatics!
- Salt – Perhaps the most important ingredient. You can add spices all day long, but if your pot of beans is poorly salted they’ll still taste blend. The secret is, taste as you go and add salt as needed according to your taste.
- When to add: Always, always, always add salt after the beans are cooked.
Instant pot beans cooking time
Every pressure cooker will have slightly different cooking times, and just like in baking, elevation can sometimes interfere as well. With that in mind, here are some approximate cooking times to consider:
- Pinto Beans – 25 Minutes
- Black Beans – 30 Minutes
- Kidney Beans – 35 Minutes
- Great Northern Beans– 35 Minutes
- Chickpeas – 40 Minutes
Storing cooked beans is just as easy as cooking them! Just follow these 3 little steps and you’ll have fresh homemade beans when you need it:
- Portion – Add the cooked beans to freezer safe containers, remembering that 1.5 cups of cooked beans is the equivalent of a 15oz can if you need to easily substitute them in recipes later.
- Cool – Let the cooked beans cool to room temperature before closing your freezer safe containers.
- Store – After cooling, refrigerate or freeze for later. Cooked beans should last about 5 days to a week in the refrigerator, and about 3 to 6 months in the freezer.
Now that you have all the deets on how to cook dry beans in the instant pot, time to get cooking!
Try these delicious dry bean recipes
Vegan Black Beans (this is the recipe I use as replacement for canned beans)
Brazilian Black Beans Recipe (this sausage and bacon bean recipe is a hearty and delicious side dish)
Other Instant pot recipes
How to Cook Dry Beans
- 16 oz dry beans
- Smoked animal product of choice (Smoked Sausage, ham hock, smoked ribs, etc) (optional)
- 1-2 bay leaves, other dry herbs
- 1-2 Heat of choice (smoked peppers, chipotle in adobo, jalapenos etc) (optional)
- 1/2 tsp spices, such as cumin etc
- 4 strips other animal fat such as pancetta, bacon etc
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tbsp Brazilian Sofrito or 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp acid, such as vinegar
- black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp salt *start with 1 tsp, taste then add more as needed. The quantity of salt will always vary according to other ingredients you're adding that already contain salt – bacon, sausage etc, for example.
- Follow the instructions above to pick, wash, then soak the beans in cold water for 30 mins.
- Change the water, and soak in cold water for another 30 mins.
- Drain beans, then add them to a pressure cooker or instant pot. Add the desired dry herbs, dry/smoked pepper, and/or smoked animal producst such as smoked sausage, smoked ribs, smoked ham hock… at this time – cover with 5 to 5 1/2 cups of water.
- Close the instant pot, and cook on manual for 30 mins**
- After 30 mins, safely release the pressure and open the pan.
- Change the now open/uncovered instant pot settings to sauté mode, and let the beans simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Season with salt and pepper, add the spices, and the acid. Stir and continue to simmer.
- Meanwhile, add fat of choice (bacon, pancetta, olive oil…) to a large skillet over medium to high heat. (If using animal fat, render the fat, and cook until browned. You may need a little olive oil as well before you add the aromatics)
- Add the aromatics (such as onions, shallots…) to the skillet and sautée until the transparent and soft, 2-3 mins.
- Add the garlic to the skillet, stir and sautée until fragrant and lightly golden.
- Pour the contents of the skillet into the beans, stir and let it simmer until desired thickness is reached.
- If freezing, portion the beans into freeer safe containers, and let them cool to room temperature before closing and putting away. Read Freezing Beans section above for more detail.