(Instant Pot) Dry Beans

Table of Contents


This post was published in 2021, with some later editing and further thoughts after more experience.

Cooked or Canned

Cooked dry beans are a staple ingredient. Some recipes provide directions for cooking dry beans as a step in a recipe, or by reference to another recipe for cooked beans in the recipe source/collection. Some recipes call for canned beans, rinsed. This is common in slow cooker recipes. Canned bean are dry beans cooked in the canning process. Dry beans may take twice the cooking time as other ingredients, or may not cook properly. Canned beans have cooking fluid in the can. This may contain sodium and other residual ingredients. It may be unpalatable. The extra fluid may affect the recipe. Most recipes recommend rinsing the beans and discarding the fluid.

Cooked beans can be substituted for canned beans in any recipe. The benefits are not paying for factory cooking and other supplier and seller costs built into in the price of canned goods, and avoidance of salt and additives. The cooking fluid can be used in the recipe or set aside and used as a vegetarian stock – it depends on how it tastes.

1/2 cup of dry beans makes 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans, the amount in one 14 fluid ounce can of canned cooked beans. Precision is generally not necessary:

For recipes requiring precise proportions, you should always cook … the dried beans before you measure them, using the average equivalents as a rough guide to estimate the amount of dried beans you need to prepare. Many bean recipes are fairly forgiving and adjustable.

The Spruce Eats – How to Measure and Use Dried Beans

Also, the Reluctant Gourmet – Bean Conversions


Soaking before cooking starts hydration. It reduces the cooking time and improves the result. This is true for every cooking method except the extremely slow simmering e.g. in a ceramic olla as Rick Bayliss describes in some of his books on Central American and Mexican cooking. Soaking for at least a few hours prepares dry beans. The common advice is to soak overnight. This may mean 12 hours but can mean over 20 hours. Cook’s Illustrated/American’s Test Kitchen explained its tests on soaking at pp. 256-258 of The Science of Good Cooking (2012).

Some phaseolus vulgaris (Central American beans) varietals take up more water than others. For instance cannellini (white kidney beans) absorb more than pinto peas or black turtle bean.

Cook’s Illustrated/American’s Test Kitchen discusses variations on soaking: soaking in water at ambient (room) temperature, quick-soaking cook dry beans for a short time in boiling water or in a pressure cooker. The “quick-soak” or parcooking methods use any appliance and vessel that can hold dry beans in boiling water. Anupy Singla’s slow cooker recipe (The Indian Slow Cooker) for red kidney beans says quick soak in boiling water, and 5 hours on high in an electric crock pot type slow cooker. Laura Pazzaglia discusses soaking methods and times in her article/lesson Long-soaking and Quick-soaking beans in the Pressure Cooker and soaking for pressure cookers (including Instant Pots) in her article/lesson Pressure Cooking DRY versus SOAKED Beans.

Cook’s Illustrated/American’s Test Kitchen also explains soaking in brine, and/or adding baking soda to the cooking water. These use sodium to some degree. I have not tried them, as I avoid sodium. Those publishing brands tend to aim at an audience of home cooks striving to cook like restaurants, most of which use salt heavily for the taste buds of modern consumers, sensitized to highly salted foods.

The claim that soaking dry beans removes “indigestable sugars” and helps to avoid intestinal gas is common but unverified. Beans contain sugars: stachyose, verbascose and raffinose which ferment in the digestive tract, producing gas. There is support for the claim that soaking removes some sugars in some medical and scientific literature. For instance see this Michigan State University extension publication. However, soaking cannot remove sugars without removing other nutrients and flavour ingredients, and probably does not remove much sugar.

Instant Pot options

The pressure cooker program can cook unsoaked dry beans. It can be used to “quick soak” dry beans.

The pressure cooker program or the slow cooker program can be used, of cousse to cook soaked beans.

Medium and Large Phaseolus & Chickpeas

Rick Bayless’s slow cooker recipes for black (turtle) beans and pinto beans in Mexican Everyday (2006) start with unsoaked dry beans, to emulate cooking in an olla, discussed in his Authentic Mexican (1987), and Mexico, One Plate at a Time (2000). In Mexico, One Plate at a Time (at p. 192) he reported cooking in an olla heated the beans and water to 205-210 degrees (F), with little evaporation. He says 6 hours on the high setting in a slow cooker. In an Instant Pot with the slow cooker program this is 6 hours on the high slow cooker using the the sealing lid, with the pressure valve set to vent. Other traditional slow cooker recipe propose 8-10 hours slow cooker low for unsoaked black, pinto, cranberry (i.e. medium Phaseolus). I cooked small recipes in a small round traditional slow cooker on low in lower times.

Chickpeas and the large dry beans such as red kidney, Borlotti, cannellini, cranberry can be slow cooked in an Instant Pot by a three stage process:

  1. a few hours by the natural method of soaking in water at room temperature – the beans will take up some water and swell;
  2. in the Instant Pot, with enough water to cover the beans by a centimeter, a pressure cooker program “quick soak” (two minutes at high pressure, and a manual release); and
  3. top up the water to cover the beans, and 2-4 hours at slow cooker program, high. If I have time, I keep the beans simmering at slow cooker program medium (which is equivalent to traditional crock pot low) for 3-6 hours. The beans can be kept warm as slow cooker program low, or the warming program.

This works in a six quart Instant Pot with one or two cups of dry beans in the bottom of the Instant Pot in less than a quart of water.

The larger phaseolus varieties are not necessarily the hardest. This method worked with seda beans, with extra time, but the beans were old.


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