Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial official start of summer has arrived. If you could go anyplace in the world right now, where would that be? Maybe it’s a place you’ve been before – a memory that you have deep in your heart. Maybe it’s a place you long to see, that too little time or money has delayed. Wherever that place may be, don’t wait another minute. You may not be able to go there in person, but the long weekend is a perfect time to do a little adventuring, even if you never leave your home. Recreate that pasta dish you loved so well, set up a family luau, go camping in your back yard, and let your imagination take you where you want to be. 

Whatever your plans are, knowing how to turn out a good pot of beans is something to cross off your to-do list. Sure, canned beans are speedy, but once you get the hang of making your own beans from scratch, you’ll be hooked. Dried beans can’t be beat when it comes to economical and nutritious food. Here’s how to use your Instant Pot to turn them into a delicious dish you can lean on all summer long. 

First, clean your beans. Dust, dirt and yes, the occasional rock, can end up in that bag. Spread your beans out on the counter so you can see them well, then sweep them into a colander to give them a good rinse. Next, presoak for beans that cook more evenly and don’t split. It also makes them easier to digest and cuts down on the cooking time. Finally, a small bit of bacon gives your beans great flavor. So do the leftover scraps from your holiday ham if you happen to have any in your freezer. To cook a whole pound of beans, you will need a 6- to 8-quart Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker. Use care not to overfill past the manufacturer’s recommendations. You can safely reduce the amount of cooking water as long as your beans are covered by about 2 inches of water. 

One of the greatest (and sometimes, the most challenging) things about the pandemic is the extra time we are getting with our families. We will most likely never have time like this again. Adventure together. Make the most of it. The limits of your imagination are all that’s holding you back. 

Instant Pot Beans

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 14 cups water, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tablespoon oil 
  • bacon or ham, about 1/4 cup, optional 

Sort beans, rinse, then add to Instant Pot with 6 cups of cold water. Press “sauté” and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, then cover beans with lid and press “off.” Let sit for 1 hour. 

Drain beans; return to pot and add 8 cups of water, being careful not to overfill. Add salt, bay leaf, garlic, oil (to help keep foaming at bay), and ham or bacon, if using. Secure lid and set steam release handle to sealing. Pressure cook on “high” setting for 25 minutes. Let pressure release naturally, then open lid.

Here’s a recipe for a flavorful batch of savory, not too sweet beans you can serve around the campfire this weekend. Prepare beans as above, then continue as below. 

Campfire Beans

  • 1 pound cooked pinto beans (see note)
  • 2-4 slices of cooked bacon, cut into small pieces, or 1/4-1/2 cup ham 
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Reduced Sodium Better Than Bouillon Beef Base
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt 

Press “sauté,” letting beans come to a rapid boil. Add bacon, bouillon base, and all spices. Stir well, scraping the sides and bottom as beans thicken and cook. Let continue to cook, at least 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beans reach desired thickness. 

Note: Can substitute 3 cans of pinto beans. Fully drain 2 cans, then use liquid from the remaining can. Add 1 1/2 cans water to beans before cooking.  

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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