Having trouble getting beans soft in your Instant Pot? You’re not alone. Many people find that even after cooking beans for a long time in the Instant Pot, they still come out not quite as soft as expected. Don’t worry – with a few simple tricks and tips, you can get tender, perfectly cooked beans every time using your Instant Pot.
Not Enough Liquid
One of the most common reasons beans don’t get soft enough in the Instant Pot is that there simply isn’t enough liquid in the pot. Dried beans expand significantly as they cook and absorb liquid, so there needs to be ample room for this expansion and absorption to occur. A good rule of thumb is to use at least 3 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of dried beans.
The liquid allows the beans to boil and absorb moisture evenly. Without sufficient liquid, the beans won’t get fully submerged and softened on all sides. Try adding more water or broth next time.
Not Enough Cooking Time
Another reason your Instant Pot beans aren’t getting soft is undercooking. Beans often take longer to cook than many people realize. While Instant Pots do significantly speed up cooking time for beans, they still typically need a minimum of 30-40 minutes under pressure. Larger beans like chickpeas and kidney beans may need upwards of 1 hour or more of cook time.
Be sure to use the correct programmed cook setting for beans on your model Instant Pot, and allow the full natural pressure release time after cooking. The longer the beans can soak in that hot cooking liquid, the softer they will get. Increase cook times in 15 minute increments if beans still seem too al dente.
Old or Improperly Stored Beans
The age and storage method of your dried beans can also impact their cooking time and softness. Older beans that have been sitting in your pantry for a year or longer will typically take longer to hydrate and soften when cooking. Improperly stored beans that were kept in hot, humid conditions can also become overly dry and stunted.
For best results, purchase beans from stores with good turnover to ensure you’re getting newly dried, high quality legumes. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place and use within 1 year. Discard any shriveled or discolored beans before cooking.
Not Enough Natural Pressure Release Time
Releasing pressure too quickly at the end of the cook time is another common mistake that can lead to harder beans. Allowing the pressure to fully release naturally keeps the contents of the Instant Pot hot for an extended time, allowing beans to soak and absorb liquid longer as they rest.
Let the Instant Pot sit undisturbed for at least 15-20 minutes after cooking, and longer for large beans and batches. Quick pressure release is convenient but can shock the beans and prevent this extended steaming time that results in ultra soft, creamy beans.
Water Quality and Composition
Believe it or not, the makeup of the water you use to cook your beans can also impact their texture. Hard water high in minerals like calcium and magnesium can prevent beans from softening properly. Using purified or softened water can help beans absorb more liquid and turn out softer.
You can also add a teaspoon of baking soda to the cooking liquid to soften the water and support tender beans. Avoid adding salt until after beans are cooked through, as this can inhibit softening during cooking.
Not Soaking the Beans
Dry beans have a tough outer shell that needs prolonged hydration to penetrate and soften the interior. While you can cook beans without soaking in the Instant Pot, soaking them first significantly reduces cooking time and improves softness.
Soak beans 6-8 hours or overnight prior to cooking in the Instant Pot. Make sure beans are fully immersed in water as they hydrate. Quick soak methods using hot water can also be used.
Proper venting is key for releasing steam, maintains pressure, and preventing too much liquid from escaping during the cook time. Close venting can lead to trapped air pockets and uneven cooking.
Make sure the vent is in the sealing position when pressure cooking. When done, allow full natural pressure release by waiting for the float valve to come down on its own. Open the vent afterward if needed to release any remaining steam before opening the lid.
Overfilling the Instant Pot
Cooking too many beans in one batch can also lead to uneven softness. The extra beans make it harder for the liquid to circulate and contact all the beans evenly.
Stick with no more than half full when cooking beans in an Instant Pot. This allows room for the beans to boil properly and absorb liquid. Cook beans in multiple smaller batches if needed to prevent overcrowding.
Natural Bean Variability
Finally, there can also be natural variability in cooking times for beans that leads to inconsistencies in softness. Bean age, growing conditions, plant variety, and storage after drying can all impact properties like size, shape, density, and texture.
Pay attention to bean packaging claims related to cook times and adjust recipes accordingly. Test doneness frequently, and allow for extra cooking time if beans seem to regularly take longer than expected to reach your desired tenderness.
Tips for Getting Soft Beans in the Instant Pot
Follow these tips for reliably tender, perfectly cooked beans every time:
- Use a 3:1 liquid to bean ratio or more
- Allow for at least 30-40 minutes cook time under pressure
- Use recently purchased and properly stored dried beans
- Let pressure fully release naturally for 15-20 minutes
- Soak beans before cooking
- Add baking soda if using hard water
- Don’t overfill the Instant Pot
- Adjust cook times as needed
Reasons for Hard Beans in the Instant Pot
|Not enough liquid||Use at least a 3:1 liquid to bean ratio|
|Not enough cook time||Cook at least 30-40 minutes under pressure|
|Old or improperly stored beans||Purchase beans recently and store properly|
|Quick pressure release||Allow full natural pressure release for 15-20 minutes|
|Hard water||Use purified/softened water or add baking soda|
|Not soaking beans||Soak beans before cooking|
|Incorrect venting||Proper vent sealing and release|
|Overfilled pot||Don’t overfill, cook beans in batches|
|Bean variability||Adjust cook times as needed|
Troubleshooting Hard Beans
If your Instant Pot beans still come out not quite as soft as you’d like after making the above adjustments, here are some additional troubleshooting tips:
Add Acidic Ingredients
A splash of lemon juice, vinegar, or other acidic ingredients can help break down the bean skins and contribute to softer beans.
Finish Cooking on the Stove
Transferring the cooked beans to simmer on the stovetop allows you to further hydrate and reduce them to your perfect consistency.
Use a Natural Release Time
If you’ve been quick releasing pressure, switch to allowing the pressure to come down naturally for at least 20 minutes before opening the lid.
Replace the Sealing Ring
An old, warped sealing ring won’t properly pressurize and can lead to undercooked beans. Replace for a tight seal.
Give it More Time
Try cooking beans for at least 45-60 minutes regardless of package times, adding more time if needed.
Add Softening Ingredients
Ingredients like baking soda, salt, or acidic liquids can help beans soften if water composition is a factor.
Use a Bean Soup Setting
Select a manual “bean/chili” or “stew” setting if your model offers one for extra hydration.
Cook at Lower Pressure
The lower “low” pressure setting may help beans cook more gently and evenly.
With some simple adjustments like increase water and cook time, soaking beans, and allowing a full natural release, you’ll be able to achieve soft and creamy beans from your Instant Pot every time. Pay attention to the age and variety of beans you purchase, and tweak the recommendations to suit your model. Happy Instant Pot bean cooking!