How to Cook Beans and Lentils in Your Instant Pot

Cook up dried beans and lentils faster than the traditional soak-and-cook method with these simple methods—plus our best tips for freezing and storing beans.

Pressure Cooker Ham and Mixed Bean Soup
Photo: Jason Donnelly

If you want to get a little more bang for your buck, skip the canned beans and opt for dried instead. A bag of dried beans will yield many more servings than a can of beans, and it usually only costs just a few cents more. For example, a one-pound bag of dried black beans will yield about 6 cups cooked beans, or the amount in four cans. The best part? Stored properly, dried beans and lentils will last years. Now that's a pantry staple you can count on! We'll admit, dried beans are a little more time-consuming to cook. But that's where your trusty electric multicooker can help you out. In just a couple of easy steps, you can cook dried beans and lentils in your Instant Pot and actually take advantage of that "Bean" button.

Step 1: Soak the Beans

Before you get cooking, start by soaking the dried beans to help them rehydrate (they won't be ready to eat right after they soak, but they will be soft enough to add to recipes or to cook). Sort through the beans and remove any pebbles or debris. Rinse the beans in a colander under cold running water to remove any surface sand or dirt. Then choose one of the following soaking methods:

  1. Overnight Soak: In a large bowl or cooking pot cover the beans with water (use about 3 cups water per 1 cup beans). Cover and let soak at least 8 hours or overnight; drain and rinse. If you're cooking lentils, no soaking is required. However, if you do choose to soak them, it'll cut the cooking time about in half.
  2. Quick-Soak: Place the beans in a large saucepan or Dutch oven; add enough water to cover. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat; let the beans stand in the hot water 1 hour. Drain and rinse.
  3. No-Soak: You can also choose to skip the soaking step. Just add an extra hour or so to the cooking time and cook until tender. Make sure to replenish the cooking liquid as needed.

Step 2: Pressure-Cook the Beans

Following the manufacturer's instructions, cook 1 cup of presoaked beans, 3 cups water, and 1 tablespoon cooking oil on high pressure about 25 minutes. If desired, you can season the cooking water with herbs and salt or use your favorite broth. Use the natural release method for depressurizing when the cooking time is up.

Test Kitchen Tip: Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the type of beans you're cooking and how old they are (for example, lentils will only need to cook about 15 minutes). The older your beans are, the drier they'll be, so you may want to soak older beans a little longer.

beans and lentils
Lentils, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and black beans are some of the most commonly-used dried beans. Peter Krumhardt

How Long Do Dried Beans Last?

One of the benefits of dried beans is that they don't require much special storage, and they'll keep for multiple years. Dried beans should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (your pantry would be perfect!). You can keep dried beans in your pantry up to 2 years beyond their purchase date, and maybe even longer, though they may lose nutrients over time. Don't combine new bags of beans with old, though. Beans dry out as they're stored and will take longer to cook the older they are, so if you mix new and old beans, you could end up with some that are undercooked and hard and some that are overcooked and mushy. Label each container with the date of purchase to keep them organized.

How to Store Cooked Beans

If you don't use up all of your cooked beans at one meal, don't toss the extras! You can cool them to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze them to use in another recipe. To store cooked beans in the fridge, transfer them to a storage container and refrigerate up to 5 days. For the freezer, place the beans in freezer-safe containers or bags in 1¾-cup portions (equal to one 15-ounce can). Label and freeze the beans up to 3 months (you can also freeze beans in their cooking liquid if you want to prep a big batch!).

If you're ready to eat the beans right away, skip take out and turn them into Indian chickpea curry or make refried beans to go with your taco night. Or cook a batch of dried black beans for chili or vegetarian burgers.

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