How to Cook Beans in the Instant Pot
I have cooked beans on the stovetop once. I did not enjoy the process. Mandatory soaking, babysitting the pan to make sure the beans don’t burn or the water doesn’t overflow, periodically piercing the beans for doneness…it was not fun.
Luckily, it could not be easier to cook beans in the Instant Pot! Just toss the beans in the Instant Pot with some liquid and seasonings and walk away!
I hope you find this guide on How to Cook Beans in the Instant Pot useful! Along with this handy guide, you’ll two incredibly easy, no-cook recipes for beans in the Instant Pot (scroll to the bottom of this post for my Spicy Mexican Kidney Beans and Mediterranean Chickpea Salad recipes). For video step-by-step instructions, be sure to check out my Youtube video.
And if you didn’t already know, my cookbook The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook will be available on June 18! You can pre-order it now, and yes there are lots of delicious bean-based recipes in there!
1. To Soak or Not to Soak?
Unlike cooking beans on the stove, cooking beans in the Instant Pot does not require soaking. That’s right, you can simply give your beans a quick rinse and then add them to the Instant Pot with your cooking liquid (water or vegetable broth) and start pressure cooking.
However, I want to mention a few caveats that might make you want to soak your beans even though it’s not necessary.
Do beans make you toot?
Yes: If beans make you toot (totes natural), you might want to consider soaking them. Soaking beans helps remove the oligosaccharides, which are a type of fiber found in beans that some people have trouble digesting.
No: If you have no problem digesting beans, you can skip soaking.
To soak beans, you have a few options.
Traditional Soak Method
Cover the beans with enough cold water and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Leave the beans on your counter. If it is very warm in your kitchen, you can refrigerate them. Strain, rinse, and drain the beans.
Quick Soak Instant Pot Method
Place the beans in the Instant Pot and cover with plenty of cold water (6-8 cups for 1 pound of beans). Select the Pressure Cook (or Manual) setting for 2 minutes. When the timer is done, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes before switching the valve from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam. Strain, rinse, and drain the beans.
Do you want perfect beans that are evenly cooked?
Yes: Okay, that is kind of a leading question, but one reason you might want to soak your beans is that it yields beans with a more even, smoother texture than unsoaked beans. In my experience, unsoaked beans sometimes have an uneven texture: some end up soft, some stay firm, and some have split skins.
Certain bean varieties are particularly bad offenders when it comes to uneven cooking (I’m looking at you, kidney beans), but with other beans, such as chickpeas, you won’t notice a big difference. Also, if you are cooking a simple pot of just beans (beans + water + salt), the even texture of the beans will be more important than if you are cooking a full dish (e.g., a chili, stew, saucy beans, etc.), where it’s okay if some of the beans are firm and some are mushy.
Even if you don’t do a full overnight soak, even a quick soak of beans (15-30 minutes on the counter) can yield a better texture.
No: Does anyone say no to this question?? In all seriousness, if you are cooking beans for a chili, soup, stew, etc., the even texture of the beans is not as important.
Do you want to reduce the cook time?
Yes: When you soak beans, you dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to pressure cook them (i.e., unsoaked chickpeas take 35-40 minutes to cook, but soaked chickpeas take just 10 minutes to cook).
No: I don’t think anyone says no to this question per se, but there is a bit of a tradeoff: If you don’t want to worry about remembering to soak the beans, you have to be okay with a longer cook time (or use the Instant Pot quick soak method listed above). But if you do take the time to soak the chickpeas (really, this should take no more than 1 minute), you'll be rewarded with a much shorter cook time.
2. Use the Instant Pot to Soak Beans
If after reading Tip #1, you’ve decided to soak your beans, the Instant Pot’s nifty “Delay Start” function (the “Timer” function on older models) will make this easier.
Simply fill up the Instant Pot with the amount of beans you want to cook, along with the appropriate amount of water and salt. Select the Pressure Cook (or Manual) setting and select the appropriate cook time for soaked beans. Then press the Delay Start button. Use the +/- buttons to adjust how many hours you want to soak the beans (e.g., 8 hours), and then press the Delay Start button again to adjust to how many minutes you want to soak the beans (e.g., 0 minutes).
If you select 8 hours, your beans will soak in the salted water for 8 hours, and when that 8 hours is over, the Instant Pot will automatically start pressure cooking the beans.
I find this function to be incredibly useful. I set the timer before I leave for work in the morning, and then I come home to a pot of cooked beans in the evening. Alternatively, I set the timer before bed, and in the morning, I wake up to a cooked beans.
Another caveat (because I like to be really thorough): if you beans really make you toot (i.e., you have a really hard time digesting beans), this method may not be the best option for you. That’s because the beans will automatically start cooking in the water in which they’ve soaked. And when beans are soaking, they release those oligosaccharides (i.e., starches), so if you’re very sensitive to beans, the oligosaccharides won’t be drained out. I am somewhat sensitive to beans, but I find that I can digest beans just fine using this method (and it’s much easier for me to digest beans prepared this way than to digest unsoaked beans).
3. It’s All About the Ratios
One way to make cooking beans in the Instant Pot even easier is to memorize this bean:water:salt ratio for cooking basic beans:
1 pound beans + 5-6 cups of water + 2 to 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
Don’t use kosher salt? That’s the equivalent to 1 ¼ - 1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt or table salt.
Regarding the cook time for specific bean varieties, I have a few things to say. First, in my upcoming cookbook The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook, I include a chart with my tested cook times for both soaked and unsoaked beans for the most popular types of beans. If that’s not reason enough to buy my book, I don’t know what is!
Since I can’t just give away the whole cook time chart (my cookbook contract requires that the vast majority of the content in the book be brand spankin’ new!), here are a few general guidelines for cook times:
Unsoaked Beans: 30-40 minutes
Soaked Beans: 8-12 minutes
4. Add Flair and Flavor
If simple cooked beans in water is your jam, I am not going to hate on your game. But, if you are feeling just a little bit creative and have 30 extra seconds, may I suggest you jazz up your beans in the following ways?
Cook beans in vegetable broth instead of water. This adds some more savory flavor. You can even use half broth-half water.
Add flavoring agents: I almost always add whole peppercorns and bay leaves. And depending on the cuisine or flavor profile I want to achieve, I will add some combination of cumin seeds and coriander seeds; fresh garlic cloves or ginger; whole stalks of herbs such as thyme, oregano, and rosemary; vegetable bouillon cubes; or even chopped vegetables such as onions, carrots, and celery.
Don’t skip the salt! Salting the beans while they cook infuses each bean from within with flavor. In contrast, waiting until the end to salt the beans results in beans that are either over salty or lacking in flavor.
5. Exercise Caution when Supersizing Beans
If you are cooking a large pot of beans, you should keep a few things in mind.
1 pound of beans doesn’t sound like much but, once cooked, you’ll end up with roughly 7 cups of beans. If you’re feeding just 1 or 2 people, you might want to start with a smaller quantity.
If you have a lot of leftovers, I recommend storing them in 1 1/2 - 2 cup increments in the freezer. That’s approximately the amount of beans you’ll find in a 15 ounce can of beans, so you can easily swap in one container of your defrosted beans for canned beans when a recipe calls for canned beans. Beans will stay good in the freezer for 6-8 months.
If you’re keen on making a large pot of beans, try not to fill the Instant Pot more than halfway with the water and beans. Otherwise, you might end up with a lot of foaming. If you do cross that halfway line mark, never fill your pot up past the Instant Pot’s maximum capacity line.
Especially when you are making a large pot of beans, never use a Quick Release Method. This will result in bean foam being sprayed all of your kitchen and face. Instead, allow the Instant Pot to naturally release pressure for at least 10 minutes (or 15-20 minutes) before switching the valve from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam.
I hope you found this guide on How to Cook Beans in the Instant Pot useful! If you did, please leave a comment below or on my Youtube video, and if you found it really useful, then go ahead and pre-order my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook!
Spicy Mexican Kidney Beans
A spicy version of Frijoles that requires absolutely no cooking! I soak the beans for the most even texture, but if you don’t soak the beans, increase the cook time from 8 minutes to 30 minutes. And if you don’t have kidney beans, feel free to substitute pinto beans and follow the instructions as written.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
8 ounces dried kidney beans, preferably soaked for 8 hours or overnight (or use the Quick Soak method outlined in Tip #1)
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (omit the seeds and membranes for a mild heat; for a spicier heat, use a serrano pepper)
1 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
1 4-ounce can green chiles (I recommend a “mild” version” unless you like very spicy food)
1 1/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 (16-ounce) jar of salsa (I used this green salsa)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Soak the beans in plenty of cold water to cover for 8 hours (or overnight). Drain and rinse the beans.
Add the beans to the Instant Pot and top them with the remaining ingredients except for hte cilantro (onion, garlic, jalapeño, salt, chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, cayenne, bay leaf, canned chiles, vegetable broth, and salsa). Stir to combine
Select the Pressure Cook (Manual) setting at high pressure and set the cook time to 8 minutes. If you did not soak your beans, set the cook time to 30 minutes.
Once the timer has elapsed, allow a natural pressure release for at least 10 minutes before switching the valve from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam. If the beans are too liquidy for your taste, drain some of the liquid off, or transfer the beans to a serving dish using a slotted spoon, leaving behind excess liquid.
Stir in the cilantro and serve warm.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
This is the easiest and most delicious chickpea salad ever! I typically don’t soak chickpeas because they cook evenly even when unsoaked (and don’t give me tummy troubles), but if you want to soak them, reduce the cook time from 35 minutes to 10 minutes. Be sure to use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil at the end to impart a rich flavor to the beans.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
8 ounces dried chickpeas (a/k/a garbanzo beans)
3 cups water (or low-sodium vegetable broth)
1 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
A small handful of fresh thyme stalks
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (use 1/2 teaspoon for a more subtle flavor)
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
Add all the ingredients (except the parsley) to the Instant Pot and stir to combine.
Select the Pressure Cook (Manual) setting at high pressure and set the cook time to 35 minutes. If you soaked your beans, set the cook time to 10 minutes.
Once the timer has elapsed, allow a natural pressure release for at least 10 minutes before switching the valve from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam.
Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, and taste for seasonings, adding additional olive oil for more richness, lemon juice for acidity, or more salt and pepper.