You may have seen piles of colorful beans at your local farmers’ market. Or perhaps you’ve stopped to gawk at the natural-foods store’s rows of bulk bins filled with a mind—boggling array of beans. Go ahead and give them a try. You can cook any variety of bean with our basic cooking method (see Pot of Beans). Then you can use them in any recipe calling for cooked or canned beans.
The ease and speed of cooking dried beans in a pressure cooker is reason enough to invest in one. Dried beans cooked using a conventional stovetop method take 1 to 2 hours to cook, whereas dried beans cooked in a pressure cooker are typically done in less than 20 minutes. When you make beans from scratch, you also have the added benefit of controlling the amount of added salt. Here’s how to pressure cook dried beans:
1. Pick over and rinse 1 to 3 cups of dried beans. Use the smaller amount for smaller pressure cookers (4-quart capacity) and more if you have a large cooker (6-quart capacity or larger). Place the beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by 3 inches; let soak for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. (Alternatively, use the “quick soak” method: Place beans in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover them by with 3 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let stand for 1 hour.) Drain.
2. Place the beans in a 4-quart or larger pressure cooker. Add aromatics, such as 1 halved peeled onion, 1 peeled carrot, 1 stalk celery and/or 2 (or more) peeled garlic cloves, if desired. Add 3 cups water for each cup of beans. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil for each cup of beans. (It’s important to add the oil when cooking beans in a pressure cooker: it helps prevent foaming, which may clog the steam release valve.) For safety reasons, you should not fill the cooker more than half full. Refer to your manual for more specific safety precautions.
3. Secure the pressure cooker lid. Bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting that maintains high pressure. Cooking time depends on the type and freshness of the beans. The fresher the beans, the quicker the cooking time. Although it’s usually not possible to tell how fresh your beans are, in the EatingWell Test Kitchen we have found that beans found at farmers’ markets and in bulk bins at natural-foods stores are often more fresh than beans sold in plastic bags at large supermarkets. Our timing suggestions, below, are for conventionally packaged beans sold in large supermarkets. If you know you’re using fresher beans, reduce the cooking time by about 2 minutes:
4. Allow the pressure to release naturally. This will take 5 to 20 minutes. If your beans are not tender, secure the lid and return the cooker to high pressure. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting that maintains high pressure and cook for 2 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Repeat, if necessary, until the beans are tender. For more bean-cooking times, consult your pressure cooker manual.
5. Season the cooked beans with salt to taste. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, if desired. Discard the aromatics, if using. (The bean broth is the flavorful bonus—use it in soups and stews instead of chicken or vegetable broth.)