How to Cook Beans In a Pressure Cooker

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” — Noam Chomsky

I think the quote above fits well with a post about my second-hand pressure cooker because…

  1. Buying used items reduces consumption.
  2. Cooking, like other small acts of rebellion (mending, sewing, gardening, making) as my friend Meg calls them, can transform us from passive consumers to active, self-reliant conservers.
pressure cooker and tea kettle
Second-hand All-Clad tea kettle ($10) and pressure cooker ($15)

I probably shouldn’t love a gadget as much as I love my new-to-me pressure cooker. My boyfriend and I found it on a recent trip to one of our favorite stores—Savers, a thrift shop. It was part of my mother’s day present. The pressure cooker—stainless steel, not aluminum like all the others I had come across in my search for one—cost $15. The All-Clad tea kettle, which Chandra also snagged for me that day, cost $10. (They go for $100 new).

Safety

I had once worried that I would blow up my kitchen or myself if I used a pressure cooker. Now that I know how to cook with one, I will sit at my kitchen table while my pressure cooker makes my food, rather than hide out upstairs far from the action. However I do still worry a little that my pressure cooker will land me on an FBI watch list

To avoid accidents, use a pressure cooker that has a couple of simple safety mechanisms. If the pressure builds up too high in mine, a little black stopper will fly out of the lid, revealing a hole for pressure to escape through.

stopper down
The small black stopper rests flush against the lid before pressure builds in the pot
stopper up
Pressure has forced the stopper to pop up; if pressure becomes too much, the stopper will shoot out, releasing pressure

After the food starts cooking and pressure builds, a little silver widget in the handle pops up, locking the lid in place and making it impossible for me to slide the lid open. This little gizmo drops back down once the pressure has subsided. At that point, I can safely open my cooker without burning myself.

widget down
At the beginning of cooking, the silver colored gizmo in the handle has not yet popped up
widget up
The gizmo has popped up, locking my lid in place and making it impossible to open while the pressure is on

If you buy canned beans, you may want to consider buying them dry and cooking them in a pressure cooker. They taste fantastic. Taste aside though, cans are lined with plastic that often contains BPA, which according to the Environmental Working Group, “is a synthetic estrogen that scientists have linked to breast cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, heart disease and other illnesses.” Some cans emblazoned with the claim “BPA-Free” across them contain BPS instead, which is no better.

So far, I have cooked piles of chickpeas in my pressure cooker and also beets. The beets cooked in less than 15 minutes! Do you know how long beets usually take to cook! Life-changing.

How to cook chickpeas in a pressure cooker

I don’t soak these in advance and they cook to perfection in about 45 minutes. For this post, I did a little research and found out that if I do soak these overnight, apparently they will cook in a few minutes! I’ll try that next time.

UPDATE 6/08/16: I started soaking the beans the night before. OMG, they cook to perfection in a mere 12 minutes or so! Soak and then follow my original instructions below…

1. Place chickpeas in the pot and fill about half way.

chickpeas in pot

2. Fill with water. I pour in water until it reaches the top gauge line inside the pot. I like to heat up water first in my new-to-me All-Clad kettle to speed up the cooking process.

add water

3. Slide the lid on and turn the burner to high.

4. Soon, the little black stopper in the lid will pop up (not fly out) and the safety mechanism in the handle will kick in. The heavy round thing that rests on the valve in the middle of the lid is the regulator. That will start to gently rock once the pressure inside has built sufficiently. At this point, set the timer for 45 minutes (12 if you soaked the beans in advance). Turn the heat down a little but not so much that the regulator stops rocking.

5. Remove from heat after the timer goes off. After the little safety widget drops back down, remove the lid. If some chickpeas remain hard, add more water and cook them for a few more minutes or until done.

cooked chickpeas

That’s it! I used to cook chickpeas in my slow cooker, which tasted better than canned but they didn’t taste nearly as good as these! These have a nutty flavor and a creamy texture. So so good. I am shoveling them in right now as I type. Only in a post-apocalyptic world would I ever shovel canned chickpeas into my mouth. I’ll never cook beans any other way.

I’ve made lots of hummus and will make channa masala once tomatoes appear once again at the farmer’s market.

“Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?…

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure” — Freddie Mercury, Queen

hummus
Hummus with sourdough crackers

15 Comment

  1. Half a teaspoon of baking soda in the soak water softens the skins and reduces the cook time further. Soaked beans need much less cooking water so pressure is achieved quicker. If you cook the chickpeas for 15 mins under pressure, you can then switch off the heat and let them finish with the retained heat and pressure – its free! Love your site, thanks for all the great info.

    1. I’m going to try this, Katy. I have added baking soda in my slow cooker when cooking chickpeas and that worked well, but I wasn’t sure how it would work in the pressure cooker. Thanks for letting me know 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  2. You can hardly find an Indian household which does not have a pressure cooker. Moreover, even if they do move/live abroad they make sure to carry one with them. I moved to Germany last year from India and it was a natural to-do thing for me before I left India to buy one and pack in the suitcase. I feel a bit surprised actually that such an important kitchen gadget is so foreign to other parts of the world. Probably it has to do something with the fact that Indians consume a lot of pulses and hence their need for something that reduces the cooking time significantly. The concept of canned foods doesn’t really exist for us! You will almost find all sorts of dried legumes at all times in our kitchens. 🙂 Soaking chickpeas, dried peas etc is kinda a daily routine.

    We are so accustomed to using a pressure cooker at home that to make Indian cuisine we need it almost on daily basis. So much so that, many of us have discovered few tricks to do some unconventional cooking with it (example: I boil eggs in my pressure cooker — it only takes one ‘whistle’). For hardy varieties of rice (like brown rice), a pressure cooker makes the life so much easier.

    Most of our curries are gravy based including the meats based ones. So as soon as the initial part of frying and marination etc. are done, we swiftly switch to pressure cooker to do the rest of the cooking. Also, typically all the pressure cookers we buy are of aluminium and I’ve never seen anyone having a concern about any occurrence of pitting. I’m not really sure what else can be a problem.

    1. Wow, thanks for all these tips! I think canned food is too much of a concept here 🙁 I will have to try rice next. I have some wild rice that takes forever. Curry in the pressure cooker sounds delicious too. An Indian friend kept telling me to get one. I’m glad I finally did 🙂

  3. michellersantos says: Reply

    As usual, awesome post! 🙂

  4. BPA lined cans, while not ideal, only affect acidic foods. So it does not leach into canned beans, which are not acidic enough to disturb the BPA. Tomatoes however, are an entirely different story.

    One can use a pressure canner to can dried beans. I’ve long meant to do it, but after reading this, I think I’ll bump it to the top of my list and let you know how it goes.

    1. Well still, I don’t like the idea of BPA in contact with my food. And canned food doesn’t taste so great anyway. I will look up canning dried beans. That would be life changing! Yes, please let me know how it goes 🙂

  5. This is awesome! I am glad you are using a pressure cooker now. Once you start cooking with it, you can’t go back! I usually add a tsp. of salt to the garbanzo beans when I cook them, and I love that they are soft but remain whole so I can use them in salads. Pressure cookers are also great for cooking squash – I throw squash and all other veggies in my fridge that are not as fresh-looking (and a lot of cilantro!), and then I turn them into soup.

    I am curious to learn what else you will use your pressure cooker for. I know they are used in other countries very often to cook a lot of things.

    1. I will try adding salt Lina. Thanks for the tip. I am really looking forward to cooking squash in this. I’ve tried beets and was amazed at how quickly they cooked. I’ll always make them in the pressure cooker. This fall, I’ll cook pumpkin in it too for pie. I had been roasting pumpkin for pie filling but it does take a while. I’ll have to write a future post on what I’ve been cooking in this. I’m so glad I finally got one 🙂

  6. Always, always, always soak your beans to break down the phytic acid and enhance digestibility.

    “soak dry beans . . . Add 1 tablespoon of . . . [ raw apple or coconut vinegar ] (navy beans, black beans, or fava beans, or lentils) or 2 tablespoons of . . . [ raw apple or coconut vinegar ] per cup of chickpeas (garbanzo beans).

    There are other steps before draining and cooking with fresh liquid to prepare them for cooking.

    Adapted from Wardeh’s Course instructions.

    Fact Sheet: How to Soak and Cook Dry Beans

    GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse

    CVS

    1. I totally agree about the soaking! I always had soaked them but in my zeal to try my new pressure cooker out I didn’t do it. And I’m pretty OCD about soaking grains… Thanks for this excerpt.

  7. That is the best homage to Freddie Mercury ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thanks Annie. My boyfriend’s idea 😀

  8. I like your friend’s comment about “small acts of rebellion”. It reminds me of a picture I once saw of a white t-shirt hanging off a laundry line; the shirt read “Radical, civilly-disobedient, solar-powered laundry drying apparatus”. Made me chuckle 🙂

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