TART! Pressure cooking beans with acidic ingredients (plus recipe)

Easy Pressure Cooker Black Beans

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

Easy Pressure Cooker Black Beans
Nutritional Information
(per serving)
  • 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
Recipe type: Pressure Cooker
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Make a veggie version of this recipe by omitting the bacon and just starting with the sauteing onion. Crumble two dried porcini mushroom slices and continue with the recipe as written. Pressure cook for just 6 minutes at high pressure with natural release.
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. For stove top pressure cookers, turn the heat up to high and when the cooker reaches pressure, lower to the heat to the minimum required by the cooker to maintain pressure. Cook for 25-30 minutes at high pressure.
  3. When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Natural release method - move the cooker off the burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own (about 10 minutes). For electric pressure cookers, disengage the “keep warm” mode or unplug the cooker and open when the pressure indicator has gone down (20 to 30 minutes).
  4. 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.


InstantPot or Instant Pot recipe

Slice bacon into lardons

Slice bacon into lardons

Easy Pressure Cooker Black Beansip-smart recipe script (what’s this?)