January is fast becoming painfully long and palpably devoid of wages, with extra thanks to some large and unexpected bills a couple of weeks ago. I am seriously ready for February already! Cash restraints mean I have simply got to get inventive in the kitchen so at least we can eat like kings despite the emptiness of my purse! Luckily, spices are both cheap and good quality when bought from independent international food shops and likewise with bags of dried beans. As an extra bonus, the Instant Pot is efficient to run energy wise so dinner time doesn’t have to remind us how little there is in the bank right now! My Instant Pot Mixed Bean Chilli is so good, it will even satisfy the most ardent of carnivores (shhh, without the optional cheese on top, it is in fact vegan!).
Pressure cookers really do perform brilliantly when cooking cheaper cuts of meat as the pressure causes greater rendering of fat and the meat simply falls apart, beautifully tender, in a fraction of the time it would take in the oven. But pressure cookers certainly aren’t just for carnivores. There are plenty of keen vegan pressure cooker users out there who have long known the benefits of pressure cooking dried beans for a multitude of uses. I do have two tips which I think are worth bearing in mind though, to help you get the best of cooking pulses in your pressure cooker:
- First is, do check the use by dates on the pack before you buy – whether I buy them from my local international food shop or the supermarket, I’ve occasionally picked up a bag of dried beans that are about to expire. As you can imagine, these dried up old beans never truly soften up and yield disappointing results. Buy small bags and try to get at least 6 months on the use by date.
- Secondly, my personal preference is still to soak the beans before pressure cooking them. Yes, it requires up to 24 hours foresight but soaked beans just seem to cook better than trying to do them from dried. They cook more reliably to tender perfection with just enough bite, in my hands at least. Plus it reduces the cooking time by pretty much half.
My Mixed Bean Chilli took me some time to perfect as I had long been wedded to my more traditional Whole Spice Chilli, made with minced beef. As with baking gluten- or dairy-free, when cooking without meat I think the most success is seen with celebrating the differences, not trying to replicate the same dish, without meat. The spice mix I use is therefore different to compliment the beans, although I do still add sweetcorn and for Hungry Hubby, a good sprinkling of grated cheese. It may be more usual to serve a chilli on top of some steamed rice but when I can get my hands on a perfectly ripe avocado, like this one which I found hugely reduced the other day, then I simply slice up some sourdough or French bread and top a bowlful of mixed bean chilli with half a sliced avo, seasoned with lime juice and sea salt.
I have used my favourite beans for this chilli but you can of course use a mix of whichever you prefer. I love haricot beans, black (sometimes called turtle) beans, dried chickpeas and kidney beans. I’m about to contradict myself having just touted the virtues of pre-soaking your beans before cooking them but to make this recipe as simple as possible, I use the black beans straight from the packet as if I pre-soaked them, they’d be well overcooked. From dry, they take 20 mins to cook, the same time as for the other three, which have sat in cold water overnight. For 50g worth, I’ve not had any problems doing it this way.
In case you are worried about the toxins which dried beans can leach out, please be reassured as pressure cooking exceeds the minimum temperature needed to denature them, as long as you rinse and drain them well, it’s actually safer than doing it on the hob, strictly speaking.
This chilli is rich and smokey thanks to the chipotle chilli paste or powder and of course, the smoked paprika. Please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients as it’s a simple task of spooning out a few spices and fetching a couple of cans from the cupboard. It ticks the thrifty box as cooking your own beans saves quite a bit compared to buying cans of them (plus there’s no tin can to be recycled or, perish the thought, sent to landfill!) plus you can cook them to your own preference – all too often canned beans are far too soft and gloopy for my liking. How do you eat your chilli? What’s your favourite toppings and accompaniments, I’d love to hear from you how you’d enjoy this Mixed Bean Chilli!
A smokey and richly sauce mixed bean chilli, made in a jiffy thanks to the Instant Pot! No more hours of boiling dried beans on your stove for you!
- 50 g dried haricot beans
- 50 g dried chickpeas
- 50 g dried kidney beans
- 50 g dried black beans
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp chipotle chilli powder or paste adjust to heat preference
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika dulce or hot as preferred
- 1 can chopped tomatoes about 400g
- 1 can sweetcorn about 200g
Start the day before by washing well then soaking the haricot beans, chickpeas and kidney beans in a large jug of fresh cold water. Don't pre-soak the black beans as they will be completely overcooked - simply wash them in a sieve just before use.
Up to 24 hours later, drain the beans well and add all four types of beans into the inner pot and completely cover with cold water. Put the lid on, set vent to Sealing then press Manual and adjust to 20 mins (High pressure). Do a QPR when alarm sounds. Drain and rinse your beans thoroughly and set aside whilst you cook the sauce. Wash and dry the inner pot too.
Replace the Inner Pot in the base and select Sauté mode, adding the oil at the same time. Cook the onion until softened and browning around the edges (stir frequently) then add the garlic and bay leaf, cooking for a minute to release the aromas.
Stir in all the remaining spices, adding more chilli if you like it extra hot and once well mixed with the onion, add in the can of tomatoes. Add a third of the volume of the can of water, swirl to pick up the tomato remaining and add to the pot along with the sweetcorn and the small amount of water than that they are usually packed in.
Add back the beans, give another big stir and hit Cancel. Put the lid back on, set vent to Sealing and press Manual, adjusting to 8 minutes (High Pressure). This is just enough time to finish cooking the beans to tenderness with some bite remaining - adjust this time if you want the more or less cooked to suit your own personal preference.
After a QPR, stir well and if you want to reduce the sauce, do so using Sauté but usually, I find there is just the right amount of liquid to produce a rich sauce as it is. Normally, I am really stingy with salt but here, I think the beans really do need it - start with a cautious half a teaspoon of sea salt for the whole batch and taste to see if you think it needs more.
Tip - I measure out all the spices into a little pot before I start so I can add them quickly to the pot when cooking the sauce. You could measure out two lots to be extra speedy the next time you want to make this chilli - just store in a small glass jar or other small airtight container until needed. Just don't add the chipotle paste until ready to cook!
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Useful guide for cooking times for dried and soaked pulses here.