A simple no-fail recipe for Instant Pot white beans that can be used for meal prep and easy dinner recipes. Use this recipe to cook all varieties of dried white beans, including Instant Pot Navy beans, Cannellini and Great Northern.
I'm not the only person who will tell you that cooking beans is one of the things that a pressure cooker does best. It's not because Instant Pot white beans cook with miraculous speed - from start to finish it still takes about an hour - but the Instant Pot really does make cooking beans easier.
I always found cooking dried beans to be a little bit intimidating, until I started using my Instant Pot. I love not having to babysit a simmering pot on the stove! I also love that the beans are tender, creamy and flavorful.
White Bean Cheat Sheet
- Types: Varieties include Navy, Great Northern, Cannellini and small white.
- Instant Pot Ratio of Water: 4:1 (water:beans)
- Instant Pot Cooking Time: 25 to 40 minutes, high pressure. Exact cooking time depends on the variety. See the recipe for details.
- How Much Should I Cook? One cup dried makes about 3 cups cooked
Ingredients & step-by-step instructions
- Rinse dried beans under running water. Pick out any that are shriveled or cracked.
2. Combine beans, water and salt in the pressure cooker. Optional, but flavorful, ingredients include olive oil, garlic, bay leaf and fresh herbs.
3. Cook the beans on high pressure for 25 to 40 minutes, with a natural release (which takes about 20 more minutes). See the recipe card for exact cooking times for each variety.
If the beans aren't soft enough after the cooking time you've chosen, seal the lid again and cook for 5 more minutes. Repeat as necessary until the white beans have the texture you want.
Instant Pot water to bean ratio
When I cook beans in my Instant Pot, the ratio is 4:1, meaning 4 cups water for every 1 cup/8 ounces dried beans.
Some recipes call for slightly less water but I like adding enough water to create a flavorful broth. You can serve the beans in the broth, or drain it off and use it later for a soup recipe.
Do I have to soak beans?
No, you don't have to soak beans in water before cooking them. This is great news for those of us who don't have time (or always forget) to soak beans before cooking them!
Soaking is optional and a personal preference. Epicurious put soaking to the test with their myth-busting guide for soaking beans.
However, there are reasons you might want to soak beans in water before cooking them. The main reason for pre-soaking is a faster cooking time. Some people also feel that soaked beans are easier to digest. Soaked beans also tend to hold together better and you'll have fewer that break apart.
Personally, I don't usually soak dried beans when I'm cooking them in the Instant Pot. However, when I'm using my slow cooker I usually do to speed up the cooking time.
To soak beans, put them in a large bowl that allows for expansion, or the water will overflow. Beans can double in volume while soaking. Use enough water to cover them by several inches. Add at least 1 teaspoon salt for every 8 ounces beans. Soak overnight, up to 12 hours.
Note: Lentils and split peas don't benefit from soaking
How to soak in a pressure cooker
You can also soak beans directly in the pressure cooker. Just combine the dried beans, water and salt from the recipe below in your Instant Pot.
Program the correct cooking time, THEN use the "Timer" function to delay the cooking time. Use the "+" and "-" buttons to set the delay time for 10 hours. The beans will soak in the water for 10 hours, then the Instant Pot will start cooking the beans.
Cooking times for all varieties
There is a range of cooking times for Instant Pot white beans, depending on the variety. The good news is that you can add more cooking time if the beans aren't soft enough after the initial cooking time and natural release is complete. Just program the Instant Pot to cook for 5 more minutes, then check the beans again.
25 minutes: This is the starting point for all varieties of un-soaked white beans. Sometimes Navy beans are ready in slightly less time (20-23 minutes) but I find that 25 minutes usually works best for tender Navy beans.
30 minutes: If cooking Great Northern beans, you're likely to get tender beans that still have a little firmness to them.
35 minutes: Great Northern beans should be very tender at this point. Cannellini might be ready, but might also need 5 more minutes.
Soaked white beans will cook in less than half the amount of time. Instantpot.com has a handy bean cooking chart, with the cooking time for all types of beans. It lists the cooking time for both soaked and un-soaked beans.
*Note: Instantpot.com recommends a range of 6 to 9 minutes for soaked white beans, but I usually cook them for closer to 10 minutes.
Why are the cooked beans still hard?
Stale/Old: Even dried beans need to be "fresh" if you want them to be tender and flavorful. Dried beans that are more than a year old can stay hard and chewy, no matter how long you cook them.
Liquid Level: Beans should always be covered with liquid while cooking. Not enough liquid means they won't cook evenly.
Acidic Ingredients: Cooking dried beans with acidic ingredients - like tomatoes, wine, vinegar or lemon - can prevent beans from getting soft and tender.
Hard Water: If your tap water is really hard, the minerals in the water can prevent foods like beans from becoming soft while cooking. Try cooking them in filtered or bottle water.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, absolutely. It's my favorite way to cook beans. Just keep in mind that dried beans double in volume and weight after cooking. To avoid overflow, do not fill the inner pot much above the ½ mark with beans and water to allow for this expansion.
Yes, if you want. I don't find that it's necessary to use broth because the combination of salt, garlic, bay leaf and optional herbs add lots of flavor to the beans. Also, the water turns into a flavorful broth while the beans cook.
It's optional, although it adds some flavor and richness to the beans. Keep in mind that oil helps reduce the amount of starch that might spew out of the steam release valve if you choose a quick release. However, that doesn't really apply to this recipe, which uses a slow, natural release.
Pressure cooked white beans will stay fresh for about 5 days in the refrigerator.
Yes. Freeze the cooked beans with or without the liquid they cooked in (your choice). If kept in an airtight freezer-safe container, the beans will keep for up to 6 months in a freezer. I often use either a Ziploc freezer bag or glass jar.
About 1 ½ cups cooked beans equals a 15-oz can of beans
On my Instant Pot, Bean/Chili Mode automatically cooks for 30 minutes at high pressure. If this cooking time works for you, great! Use the Bean/Chili mode.
If you want to program more or less cooking time, use the Manual button to program in an exact cooking time.
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