Cooking up a Pot of Black Beans

Bowl of black beans with tortilla chips

 

The other day I read “Bacon is the gateway meat for vegetarians.” Well, beans could very well be my gateway food to going vegetarian; however, it would be hard to give up bacon! I do love beans and try to have at least one meal a week with beans of some kind – like bolita beans and pinto beans.

Black beans are one of my favorites.  Besides for just being downright tasty, they are also quite versatile. Along with Mexican and southwestern cuisine (which I absolutely love!), black beans can be used in salads, casseroles, soups, dips, and just by themselves. One of our favorite combinations is black beans and sweet potatoes. I love to bake a sweet potato and smother it in black bean chili! Black beans also lend themselves to a variety of seasoning options, not that they need much since they are delicious with just a little salt and pepper.


bowl of pressure-cooked black beans

As with most beans, I don’t use canned. I find most canned beans somewhat tasteless and mushy. So I pressure-cook my beans which yields the best tasting beans possible in a relatively short period of time.  With the pressure cooker, I can control the texture so that I get the beans perfectly cooked.  It’s very easy to overcook them in a pressure cooker but with experience, you get to the point that you can cook up a perfect pot of beans in less than an hour.  I say experience, because originally I was using the timing charts in the instruction manual for the pressure cooker and ended up with WAY overcooked beans. So the manual was tossed out the window.

Let’s talk about pressure cookers for a moment.  I’m not going to tell you how to use a pressure cooker because I don’t know anything about the pressure cookers that are sold today.  However, I know mine quite well. My pressure cooker is very simple, and some would say, antiquated. It was a wedding present, so…for a kitchen appliance…it’s pretty old.  I’ve had to replace the gasket (or sealing ring) and the rubber air vent a couple of times, but that’s it.  It just keeps cooking and cooking and cooking.

 

Black Beans - pressure cooked

Kitchen Notes

Looking at various recipes, I find a lot of different methods for cooking beans and the timing as to when to salt beans. Personally, I feel it depends on your personal preferences and how you like your beans. The following is based on how I like my beans cooked, so you’ll have to test it out for yourself.

The Brine – Soaking the beans in a brine before cooking was a process that I saw in Cook’s Illustrated (CI).  According to CI the brine results in softer skin beans, however, the beans don’t fall apart.  It made sense to me because I was already in the habit of adding salt either during the pressure cooking process or after, depending on the consistency that I wanted.  For example, I like my black beans and white beans with the skins intact; therefore, I salted during the cooking process.  Now I brine because it works even better! However, I like the skin of pintos to soften and burst, especially if I’m going to use them for refried beans or tostadas.  So if you want really soft beans, don’t brine and add the salt after they’ve cooked in the pressure cooker.  If you want intact beans with soft skins, then brining works perfect.

I guess you noticed that I don’t do the traditional soaking overnight.  First of all, I always forget and the few times that I have remembered, the outcome always resulted in beans with busted skins that overcook easily. And as far as the flatulence issue goes, the brine seems to take care of that because I’ve never noticed it to be an issue. So the brine is the way to go in my book.

The Seasoning – I use a minimum amount of seasoning during the initial cooking so I can use the beans for a variety of dishes.  However, if I’m going to make a pot of black bean chili or know that I’ll be using the beans strictly for southwestern cuisine, I’ll go ahead and add the basic southwestern seasoning which includes cumin, coriander, oregano, and yes – red chile powder OR I’ll throw in a cube or two of red chile paste. Because of the brine, I don’t add salt until later and only if needed.

The Cooking process – Just like every microwave is different, every pressure cooker is different.  So the timing in my instructions may not work for your cooker.  My suggestion would be to start with this recipe, then adjust for your specific equipment and texture preference.  Also, for some reason, each batch is a little different.  Most times the beans come out perfect after the 10 minutes pressure cooking and 10 minutes of rest. However, there are times that they need another 10 minutes of cooking on medium heat. This is usually the case with older beans (beans that have set on the shelf a long time). But that’s o.k. I’d rather the beans come out of the pressure cooker undercooked rather than overcooked.

You can always forgo the pressure cooker totally and simmer on the stovetop about 2 hours after brining until the beans are tender.

The Cost – Cooking a pot of dried beans saves money and cuts back on waste!  Two cups of dried beans yields 6 to 7 cups of cooked beans, depending on the bean.  I pay about $1.70 for two cups (~13.5 ounces) of dried organic black beans (or turtle beans).  Canned organic black beans can cost anywhere from $1.29 to $2.36 for a 15 ounces can which yields at most, 1.5 cups of cooked beans.  So with as many beans as we eat, it’s much more economical to use dried beans and cook them myself. If you buy them from the bulk aisle, you can also cut back a bit on waste by using your own container and eliminating the cans of ready-made canned beans.

The fear of pressure cookers – I’ve added this section after reading the many comments about one’s fear of the pressure cooker.  This fear is totally understandable because anytime I have to deal with something I don’t completely understand or that I don’t have reasonable control of the outcome, fear sets in. Since I grew up in a household where a pressure cooker was used weekly, I’ve been comfortable with it from the start.

The main thing to understand is that it isn’t something you can walk away from easily. Once the pressure builds up and the rocker starts to rock, you need to be around to make sure that it doesn’t “rock” too fast.  The second thing is to never remove the rocker or try to open the pressure cooker until you are sure that the pressure inside has reduced.  So as with any kitchen appliance, please read your manual and be comfortable with the tool before using.

The versatile black bean – For several recipes that use black beans visit the following posts:

Huevos Rancheros

Andouille and Black Bean Soup

Black Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Enchiladas

Southwestern Pile-up

Black Bean and Corn Quesadilla

Black bean recipes

 

Cooking up a pot of Black Beans” was featured  by Barbara at Pressure Cooking Today

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48 Responses to “Cooking up a Pot of Black Beans”

  1. Javelin Warrior May 1, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    So I haven’t used a pressure cooker since I lived with my parents, so it’s been like 15 years. And my dad was always responsible for cooking beans using the pressure cooker ;) But it really is an easy way to do it and I love how these turned out. Often the long and slow stovetop or slow-cooker approach does result in some busted beans ;) Thanks so much for sharing, MJ!

  2. Jenny October 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Wow! This is the best breakdown I’ve read yet on pressure cooking and beans! Thank you!

    • mj October 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      thanks Jenny! I hope you give it a try! It’s the only way I cook beans anymore.

  3. Diane Balch April 21, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    So funny, I was just doing a pantry inventory and saw some black beans and thought, “What can I do with them?” and then I saw your post… Thanks for sharing it on Foodie Friday see you next week.

  4. Janelle (Gluten Freely Frugal) March 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Thanks for sharing on Allergy-Free Wednesday. Hope you’ll join us again this week with another great recipe!

  5. Rita Henery February 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Just got a Fagor electric multi-cooker. Love it! No reason to fear this kind of pressure cooker because it’s electric and you can’t open lid until the pressure comes down. However, after following several websites directions for cooking dried black beans, I keep coming up with beans that have broken skins and mushy, despite cutting down the pressure time each time I try it. Now down to 6 minutes and they’re still mushy! Nothing like the beautiful beans pictured above. I soak them 4 hrs before cooking, according the directions. Help!

  6. Food Jaunts February 4, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I’ll admit it – I’m totally intimidated by pressure cookers, they freak me out with horror stories of explosions, etc. Next time I cook up a pot of beans though (I do them the slow way), I’m totally going to try the brine recommendation.

  7. Bibi @ Frugal Wannabe Cooks February 4, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    I love cooking with beans and luckily my kids love eating them. They are so versatile and I prefer to start with dried beans as well. I never made them in pressure cooker before and since I own (never use) pressure cooker I need to try it.

  8. Nami | Just One Cookbook February 4, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    I think I eat more “red” beans (azuki) in sweets than “black” bean in food! I know, and I live in the US! I like how your pressure cooker look. It’s nicely “used” by you. I like that look and we can tell you are good cook from the pot. My mom owns a pressure cooker and I see her cook food with it, but I always get intimidated with the noise no matter how many times I see it. I haven’t bought mine although I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years. I guess it’s nice to have… You can cook really delicious food in much less time. Thanks for very detail recipe. It was fun to read!

  9. easyfoodsmith February 2, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Black beans have been my favourite since childhood. Your post has brought back so many lovely memories!

  10. Sylvia@peaches and donuts February 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Love black beans as they are packed full of protein! I don’t own a pressure cooker and to tell you the truth, i’m a little afraid of them. I know I’m just being silly but I guess I should really have a look at how it’s used before making all sorts of assumptions! haha

  11. shaheen February 1, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    I have to say after chickpeas, black beans is my next favourite bean to munch on. I made some last night too.

  12. anh@anhsfoodblog.com January 31, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    initeresting! I love beans, and have tried to eat them more often. Will remember this method and recipe!

  13. Suzi January 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Oh MJ, I just made black beans today and had them with brown rice. I soak them over night and then cook them. The pressure cooker scares me which I know is silly and one day I am going to get over my phobia. Black beans are one of my favorites besides garbanzos. As a vegetarian I eat all beans and just tried a new one for me, cranberry beans. I have never put sweet potato with them but that does sound good. That may well be what I have for lunch tomorrow as I have left overs and a sweet potato waiting to be eaten, hehe.

  14. France @ Beyond The Peel January 31, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Great post mj. My mom had a pressure cooker when I was growing up and we used it ALL the time. I have yet to acquire one, but look forward to the day we make the investment. They last forever (with minor gasket changes) and make things much faster. Very thorough post. Love all the info you provided. Also so true that the black beans are the gateway to vegetarianism. Everyone loves a black bean!

  15. Tina (PinayInTexas) January 31, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    I’m not into canned beans too, MJ. I prefer cooking beans myself, but I never thought of using pressure cooker. Thanks for the idea! I love how perfectly cooked your beans look like!

  16. Sissi January 31, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I like beans, but I could live without them. I couldn’t without bacon though :-) Bacon and beans are a perfect paring (in general I find that any smoked meat or sausages go well with beans). Your black beans look terrific and I start regretting I have never used the second hand pressure cooker I was offered by someone who doesn’t use it to see if I like this way of cooking (it’s old and scares me a bit…). Thanks for the cooking tips!

  17. vianney January 31, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    love, love, beans. I could live off beans!! A sweet potato covered in beans in one of my go to lenten meals!! thanks for including the pressure cooker tips!

  18. Tes January 31, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    Ummm yummm I didn’t know a pot of bean can be this comforting :)

  19. Julia January 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Beans are so magical! I mean, they come in so many varieties. I don’t know what I would do without them. I am intrigued by your pressure cooker. I am interested in doing more cooking with one. It’s good to know they can contribute to the ample amount of bean cooking I do!

  20. Anne@FromMySweetHeart January 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    MJ…I really love black beans and this looks like a fabulous recipe! I’m not a vegetarian, but I can’t say I eat a ton of meat either. But I am inspired by your meatless Mondays and I also saw a segment about that on The Chew and I think I’d like to start doing that. You have a great tutorial here. And I look forward to seeing your other black bean recipes to come! (Any chance the black bean and sweet potato chili will make an appearance!) Oh…and love your bowls, and have a set in white! Lovely photos as always! : )

    • mj January 31, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks Anne! I borrowed those bowls from a friend. I do love them, but have to give them back. :( Unfortunately, my black bean chili recipe isn’t on the agenda right now. Too many recipes and no enough time! :)

  21. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles January 30, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Hee, hee… I’m smiling at Charles’ beans and bacon combo (and he’s right – oh, so good ;)). What a great tutorial MJ – and your photos are so lively particularly given that your subject, after all, is black beans – wonderfully vibrant! Love your Mexican inspired dishes…

  22. Katherine Martinelli January 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Oooh how I love black beans!! I must admit that for black beans I often turn to canned, but I have to agree that starting with dried beans is much more versatile. I do that with chickpeas and other things. I also am totally intimidated by pressure cooking, which is something I need to overcome!!

  23. Charles January 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    HI MJ – You know what makes an incredible combination though? Beans AND bacon!! I don’t know what that’s the gateway to, but it’s gotta be some form of delicious diet! :D

    Glad to find another bean fan! I cooked up a sack of black turtle beans the other day which were delicious. I’ve always wanted a pressure cooker, although they kind of scare me a little… you can do some fabulous stuff with them though! Beautiful bean dish :)

    • mj January 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      You’re right – bean and bacon! DUH! No reason to be scared of a pressure cooker as long as you actually read the instruction manual BEFORE using. :)

  24. Chaya January 30, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Somewhere in my house, there is a pressure cooker. I packed it away, years ago. It might be worth pulling out of the carton, if I can figure which carton, it is in.

  25. Giulietta | Alterkitchen January 30, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    MJ, I love beans very much, and black beans are delicious! :)

  26. kitchenriffs January 30, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    I love the combo of black beans and sweet potatoes too! They are terrific together, and I agree they’re a natural in chili. Good info about preparing the beans. I don’t have a pressure cooker, but cook beans so much I sometimes think I should get one. I usually forget to do the overnight soak thing too, but I find the quick soak method (bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then let sit for an hour) to work pretty well. I’ll have to try the brine method – I’d read about it, but completely forgotten about it. Very detailed info in this post – thanks.

  27. Ruth January 30, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    I love black beans, a lot! This is the first time I read about the brine, it is a wonderful idea. I don’t have a pressure cooker but my mom used to cook everything in hers, I will start looking into it :)

  28. Paula @ Spoons 'n' Spades January 29, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    I make a vegetarian black bean chilli quite frequently and absolutely love it! I must admit to using canned beans though, but I love your idea of cooking them in a pressure cooker. Another item to add to my looooong list ;-)

  29. Christy January 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Hehehe, when it comes to beans, it’s usually cooked in dessert soups; such as red bean and mung beans!:p That’s how I play around with the slow cooker ;)

  30. sally January 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Great post! I will have to try the brine method next time I make a pot of beans. I’m also hoping that your post will help me convince my husband that we need a pressure cooker. He thinks we already have too many kitchen gadgets, but a pressure cooker seems like a great addition to me.

    • mj January 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Oh Sally – one can never have enough kitchen gadgets! :) I love my pressure cooker!

  31. balvinder ( Neetu) January 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    I cook most of my lentils and beans in a pressure cooker. Love it in salads.

  32. ginny lee January 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    awesome! just made black beans the other day–wish I had a pressure cooker but they scare me a bit…They would argue that beans belong in chili here in Texas ;)

    • mj January 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      Yes – I know about the Texas controversy of beans in chili, but what about Texas vegetarian chili? Or is there such a thing? :)

    • Gayle April 21, 2013 at 9:55 am #

      Ginny, Don’t be afraid of a modern pressure cooker. They have so many safety features that it’s hard to mess up. Not impossible but very difficult. And don’t forget about electric/digital pressure cookers. That’s what I have and I love them — I have four of different sizes and shapes. One is oval and is great for roasts and whole chickens. My mother used one back in the 40s and 50s. I still have hers and I could easily get a new gasket for it but it has no safety features and besides, it’s a stovetop model, so I don’t be using it but the more recent models of stovetops and electrics are very safe if you use as directed.

      • mj April 22, 2013 at 7:42 am #

        Thanks for leaving this comment Gayle! Four pressure cookers??!?! My – you are serious about pressure cooking. :) I’ve never cooked with an electric/digital one, but I’m sure they are a lot safer. I’m guess I’m too old fashion in the way – if what I have works, then keep it. :) Thanks again!

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