When I buy dried beans, it's with the best of intentions. Typically, it goes something like this:
I'm in a grocery store. I pass by the wall of bulk bins and think to myself, Hm, wish I could grab a malted milk ball and just eat it, right here, without going through the whole rigamarole of bagging and labeling a single piece of candy.
I start to wander away, usually toward the cheese section (hi, Manchego samples, so nice to see you again). But just as I do, something catches my eye—the black beans bin. Hundreds and hundreds of dried black beans, just lying there, serene and matte as tiny river stones. So well-priced, compared to the pre-bagged dried ones, or the canned versions. I start to flip through all of my favorite bean-centric recipes in my head: black bean dip. Black bean soup. Chili in all shapes and sizes.
I could be one of those dried bean people, I think, and before I know it, I'm lugging home a giant sack. I get back to my kitchen, and display them ostentatiously on a countertop—just in case anyone comes over and isn't sure whether I'm one of those dried bean people (masterful with legumes, and organized enough to remember to soak).
And then, just like that, I cross "soak beans" off of my neatly maintained to-do list, pop them into a bowl with water 24 hours before use, and make the best bean soups of all-time with ease, grace, and fresh, not-at-all-wilting herbs I totally keep on hand.
Not. That last part's completely false—it's a bean fantasy I can't let go of. In real life, the sack of dried black beans sits on my countertop for months, absorbing my emphatic sighs as I make eye contact with it and realize I forgot to pre-plan and soak yet again, until finally, I dragoon its contents into use as pie weights. Weeks later, the episode repeats itself.
At least, that's how things used to go before I got an Instant Pot. The electric multi-cooker has changed my dinner game in so manyways, not least of which: no-soak bean soups. Yes, you read that correctly. The Instant Pot is able to turn dried legumes—completely sans soak—into tender, creamy bites floating in a thick, flavorful broth, through utter magic (pressure cooking). Which means next time you come home with a bag of dried black beans, the only thing you need to remember to do is press a button.
Here's my go-to method—it's rife for riffing, and don't you dare skimp on toppings!—along with four other cozy-as-heck soups and stews I've been making in my Instant Pot lately:
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.