Beans in the Instant Pot

The internet is already full of Ultimate Instant Pot Beans recipes, but with any cooking that doesn't involve chemistry I rarely work off single recipes. Instead, I'll try to read & distill as many as possible into some set of principles and work off those.

This is my attempt to collect my own past experience in one place- I'll add more as I iterate. These aren't recipes so much as results. There will be no stories of cooking beans with my grandmother or even pictures of beans to scroll through, either. Just results.

Black beans

Since 2006 this has been my go-to base recipe for black beans.

October 6, 2019

  • 1/2 lb red kidney beans
  • 1/2 lb black kidney beans
  • Soaked together over night
  • Separated and cooked separately, 8 minutes + quick release

Result: Kidney beans were cooked but al dente. Black beans were well cooked.

May 5, 2019

  • Approx. 1-1/2 cups dry black beans
  • Unsoaked
  • Water: 4 cups (I think) -In a moment of hesitation looking at the math of my previous 2 recipes (2:1 for soaked, 4:1-ish for dry w/ rice) I did something like 4:1.5 (8:3 or 2.667:1)
  • The usual flavoring: Onion, garlic, cumin, oregano. Salt after.
  • 22 minutes at high pressure + 10 just sitting there before quick release

Result: A bit high in water, but good. The truth is I only made these because the thing was already pulled down from the cupboards. I didn't have a specific plan for these beans so i mashed them up and turned on the slow cook mode. They'll be fine as they thicken up, but I wonder if I could have gotten away with the same 2:1 ratio as on April 29 when I was using very soaked beans.

April 24 2019

  • Approx. 1-1/4 cups dry black beans (half of a 1-lb. bag?).
  • Beans were soaked for around 24 hours 😬
  • Water: 2-1/2 cups (so about 2:1 for the dry beans)
  • For flavoring I sautéed an onion and added 2 tsp. garlic powder (out of real garlic) and 1 tsp each cumin/oregano. Salted after cooking. Flavor was good.
  • Cooking time: 10 minutes on high pressure with quick release.

Result: The beans were cooked but watery. I wanted a saucier bean so I used a masher to mix them up a bit. In the future I'd probably cut the water or skip soaking.

April 7, 2019 - Beans & Brown Rice**

  • 1 cup black beans [unsoaked].
  • 1 cup brown rice.
  • 5 cups liquid (3/ broth, 2/rice)
    • This is a 4:1 ratio for the beans + 1:1 for the rice.
  • For flavoring I sautéed an onion, 4 garlic cloves, a chopped green pepper and and added 1/2 tsp. each cumin/oregano. Flavor was good but needed more later.
  • Cooking time:
    • 24 minutes on high pressure
    • 10 minutes 'natural release'

Result: Beans were well done. Very watery upon opening, but it thickened up later. The bell peppers added a nice flavor but were basically gone after cooking. Some people maintain that you can't skip soaking, but instant pot people don't seem to mind this. It's nice to be able to cook them together- convenient and you aren't left with some leftover rice. The main recipes I used to arrive at this ratio were here and here.

Small Red Beans

05-05-2019 - Red Beans & Brown Rice

This was a disaster. The recipe I used is here but I didn't follow it. The math part:

  • 1-1/2 cups small red beans [unsoaked]
  • 1-1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 (ish) cups onions and veggies that got sauteed beforehand
  • 5-1/2 cups brothy liquid The recipe said to cook for 30 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally. I did 26 minutes, with a natural release. The beans were still crunchy.

Result: A number of factors (which I can't synthesize into a a single mathematical explanation) led me to discard this cooking time: I was hungry and it was late, I was sitting mere feet from my kitchen on a video call, I of course had my previous experience from April 2019 with the black beans, and throughout my call I was idly comparing different bean cooking times across the internet, looking for a pattern. I became convinced that this was going to mean more overcooked, mushy beans.

When I opened the lid the beans were still crunchy- terrible. I tried to put them in for 10 more minutes but the instant pot said burn. I opened it back up, scraped the bottom, added water and started again- burn. Added water one more time, this time to the bottom of the pot- it got enough pressure to push the little button up but then it said burn. At this point I decided to just leave it with whatever pressure was left and turn off the heat. The beans improved enough to be edible, especially on reheating, but I learned my lesson.

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