Whenever I pressure cooked beans with bacon or smoked pancetta I noticed that after the appropriate cooking time, they still weren’t fully cooked. A little research and I found out that cured meats have a low pH, which ranges from slightly to highly acidic, to keep bacteria down and the meat preserved. We’ve all been told not to add any acidic ingredients (tomatoes, lemon, vinegar, wine, cured meats, etc.) until after the beans are cooked and I was breaking this “law”.
Until a couple of years ago, I pressure cooked every recipe with an acidic ingredient twice. First, I pressure cooked the beans and then I added the “offending” ingredients and pressure cooked everything again to infuse the flavors. But, when I was writing and testing recipes for the cookbook, it seemed like these recipes were too cumbersome to propose. If I -a pressure cooker expert who works at home and can spend an infinite amount of time looking after her pressure cookers- think it’s a pain you definitely will.
Cooking beans with acidic ingredients
It seemed to me that the old wives’ tale and chemistry behind not cooking beans in acid were waiting to be challenged. After all, if soaked beans only need 10-15 minutes at pressure.. how much longer could it possibly take with a tomato!?? After many trials (did I mention my whole family loves beans, now?) I came up with a rule of thumb:
I found that soaked beans pressure cooked with an acidic ingredient will need cooked 3 to 4 times the bean’s recommended pressure cooking time to be fully cooked.
You’ll see this rule of thumb in action in the Hip Pressure Cooking book in at least two recipes – one adds tomatoes at the beginning of the bean recipe because it would take the same amount of time to wait, open and add them later and pressure cook again; and the other uses BBQ sauce to delay the cooking of the beans (8 minutes) so it can match with the ribs (20 minutes) that are in the same pot. I did something similar on this site, too, last year with the Chickpea Curry & Brown Rice one-pot to keep the chickpeas from falling apart before the brown rice was ready. and today as I share the recipe that originally perplexed me with under-cooked beans and sparked my inquisitive journey.
Conclusion: Adding acidic ingredients when pressure cooking soaked beans can be used to the cook’s advantage and the additional pressure cooking time is never extended more than an hour (usually it’s less than 30min)!
|Pressure Cooker||Accessories||Pr. Cook Time||Pr. Level||Open|
|5 L or larger||none||25 min.||High(2)||Natural|
- Serves: 4-6
- Serving size: ⅙th
- Calories: 158.5
- TOTAL Fat: 7.3g
- TOTAL Carbs: 14.4g
- Sugar Carbs: 1.7g
- Sodium: 711.2mg
- Fiber Carbs: 4.4g
- Protein: 7.9g
- Cholesterol: 11.7mg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3.5 oz (100g) pancetta or bacon
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium green or yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram (or Mexican Oregano), crumbled
- 1 cup (190g) dried black beans, soaked and drained
- 1½ cups (375ml) water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- In the pre-heated pressure cooker on medium heat add the oil and pancetta and saute’ until the pancetta becomes crispy (about 5 minutes). Then, add onion, bell pepper, and marjoram and sauté the onion until it becomes translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the beans and water.
- Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
- Electric pressure cookers: Cook for 30 minutes at high pressure.
Stovetop pressure cookers: Lock the lid and cook for 25 minutes at high pressure.
- When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Natural pressure release.
Electric pressure cookers: Disengage the “keep warm” mode, or unplug the cooker, and open the lid when the pressure indicator/lid-lock has gone down (about 20 to 30 minutes).
Stovetop pressure cookers: Move the cooker off the burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own (about 10 minutes).
- Mix in the salt and cumin and either reduce the cooking liquid to the desired consistency or strain the beans with a slotted spoon and serve in quesadillas, burritos, or tacos.
Interesting. I never batted an eye at pressure cooking beans twice to avoid the acid issue because that’s still faster than cooking in a regular pot on a stove or in an oven, but I also am usually at home most days.
Do you ever notice a difference in beans of the same type but from different sources? I’ve stopped buying dry beans from most of the supermarkets near me, even one store known for its large bulk food department. Too many stores sell dry beans that might be two years old already when they arrive at the store, with lots of cracked/split beans, spots or pale, loose skins, and many “floaters” that indicate spoilage or mold contamination prior to drying.
Old beans take longer to cook than “fresh” dry beans, sometimes never fully becoming tender. I now only buy recent crop beans from sellers with rapid bean turnover – from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, identity-preserved farms like Palouze, or heirloom bean businesses like Rancho Gordo. Anyone else have a good source for high quality FRESH dry beans?
Yes, I noticed the difference between bean brands while I was in the US this summer. I usually buy all of the beans for the demos at Whole Foods but we hadn’t located the local WF in Brooklyn (where we were staying) so I bought Goya brand beans at the local market. I found stones right away while washing the beans (first time I’ve actually found a pebble in years of pressure cooking), and they were really “dusty”. When I soaked them they re-hydrated very unevenly.
I was surprised to see such low quality beans come out of Spain. Meanwhile, in Italy, most of the beans are imported from Canada but they are beautifully cleaned, shiny, I’ve never found a rock and they plump-up wonderfully. What a difference!!!
Thanks for the recipe – I’m adding them to my menu plan for the week!
I noticed you are adding the salt to the recipe at the end. Was salt used in the presoaking? I believe brining the beans results in a much creamier and more flavorful bean. I not only brine, but I add the salt for the final cooking as well.
Yes, I’ve done some experiments with brining beans and they cook AWFULLY quickly! I have not tested it thoroughly enough times with enough kinds of beans to make an official rule of thumb on the cooking time for brined beans – but it’s on my list!! : )
Every week I cook beans in a pressure cooker. My recipe is very similar to Laura’s…my secret is an spoon of sugar( take out the little bitter flavor), and an spoon of simple vinager ( no balsamic..). Always I check the beans for pebbles and dirt and wash them at list once before soaking them for hours…usually 8-10-12 hours. No salt for soaking…just water and cook them in this same water…to keep the color. I like my “potagge” creamy , if the beans are not to fresh, or not to soft…I take some, and smash as a pure and put back with the rest cooking few more minutes slowly…no pressure. If they are really bad quality and no become creamy…I put in a blender or my blender stick in the pot…and every body will enjoy it as a puree….in my family it is “the African Cream” .garnish with cilantro… If you find a sweet bonnet pepper in your store…will be exquisite. Be carefully with the hot bonnet pepper from the Caribbean it is really hot.
Great tip, thanks for sharing!
African cream sounds delicious. Are there any other spices besides the sugar and vinegar used when soaking?
Laura, thanks for another informative and friendly article. And thanks to your family for eating all those beans while you were developing your recipes.
This looks interesting. I have a very basic black bean chilli recipe, essentially cooked black beans in a spicy tomato sauce. So, cooking the sauce and beans together (beans soaked for 36 hours – didn’t get to cook them last night) would take around 24 minutes (four x six minutes).
I notice in this recipe that you suggest a bit longer though, 25 to 30 minutes. Is there a particular reason for this? Are black beans a bit slower than most pulses with acidic ingredients? I ask because we eat loads of chickpeas and lentils, and anything that means quicker cooking or less faff is a great help.
The timing suggestion includes the longer cooking time for non-standard electric pressure cookers which cook at a slightly lower temperature/pressure and need a little more time to get the same results as a stovetop pressure cooker.
As with any bean cooking, pressure cook longer for creamier results!
Thanks for the info.
I cook dried (pinto) beans, unsoaked, in my 8 quart electric pressure cooker, on high pressure, for 40 minutes. I add 1 Tablespoon oil to minimize the foaming, as suggested. They come out nice and creamy. Will try the vinegar option next time. Use primarily apple cider vinegar. Will that work? And how much do I use?
John, This article refers to pressure cooking soaked or quick-soaked beans with acid. I have not tested the effect of adding acid to dried beans because I don’t recommend cooking them this way (they keep their gas-causing sugars and tend to break-apart).
What are you trying to achieve with your beans? Do you want to keep them whole?
This recipe calls for one cup of soaked black beans. I have a new 6 Qt Instant Pot. Could I double this recipe for my large family if making it in this particular cooker?
Thank you for your help!
Absolutely, you can double it. You can just double everything in the recipe except for the time (it still takes the same amount of time for the beans to pressure cook).
This recipe looks very good! But I don’t see anything acidic in the ingredients. Should I see something like tomatoes in the ingredient list?
Please read the first paragraph of the introduction.
Cured meats are acidic! Well that explains it! I made the beans yesterday and they were delicious! My first use of my new Instant Pot! I am curious if you have ever added a can of diced tomatoes using this approach. Or maybe a jar of salsa?
Yes, I’ve done black beans with a can of chopped tomatoes – not jarred salsa. As you now figured out, any of these ingredients will lengthen the cooking time, so this technique will apply in all of those cases. Hold the vinegar ’til the end, though.
P.S. I was really surprised to discover that cured meats were acidic, too! ; )
My pinto bean recipe (I did it on the fly) must have been a fluke. I put overnight soaked beans, rinsed and then freshened with more water into a pint jar with one garlic clove, some salt, and a good splash of white vinegar and then topped it off with hot water. One inch below rim of jar. They were the best pinto beans I have ever had! They had this little undercurrent of tartness, along with a sweet creamy taste. The longer they sat in the one jar I opened, though, they got dry. I would put less beans next time (fill them two thirds full) and then add the other ingredients. I think I used about a tsp of vinegar – maybe a tad more. Really really great flavor!
Oh – I processed them for 60 mins in stove top pressure cooker at 15psi
Well, this sounds a little bit different. I understand that you canned the beans and not cooked them directly in the pressure cooker. Also, assuming you were only cooking them in jars- 60 minutes is 6 to 7 times longer then they would ordinarily need to be just-cooked.