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Using an Instant Pot is the easiest way to cook inexpensive dried beans—transforming them into a creamy, tasty building block for many different meals. With a mild, subtly sweet flavor they can be made into salads or sides, are excellent additions to soups and stews, add substance to pasta dishes or can be pureed into silky-smooth dips.
"Don't season too aggressively with salt and pepper after draining at the end," says chef Chris Kimball, cookbook author, magazine editor and founder of 177milkstreet.com. "The beans likely will be seasoned with additional salt and pepper in whatever dish they are used in"—like this White Bean Salad with Avocado + Herbs from Milk Street recipe developer Phoebe Maglathlin.
Pro Tip: Cannellini beans are used here, but small white beans such as navy and great northern work, too. Smaller beans require the same soaking, but if pressure-cooking, set the cooking time for 12 minutes, or if slow-cooking, set the cooking time for 6 to 6½ hours.
In a 6-quart Instant Pot, stir together the beans, 2 teaspoons salt, the baking soda and 6 cups water, then distribute in an even layer. Lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing.
Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 5 minutes.
When pressure cooking is complete, quick-release the steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
Using potholders, carefully remove the insert from the housing and drain the beans in a colander; return the insert to the housing. Rinse the beans under cool water, set aside.
Select More/High Sauté on the Instant Pot. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, bay, sage and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Return the beans to the pot and add 6 cups water; stir, then distribute in an even layer.
For the FAST method, press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 16 minutes.
When pressure cooking is complete, allow the pressure to reduce naturally for 20 minutes, then release the remaining steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
For the SLOW method, with the pot still on More/High Sauté, bring the mixture to a simmer. Press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Venting.
Select Slow Cook and set the temperature to More/High. Set the cooking time for 6½ to 7 hours; the beans are done when they are fully tender but still hold their shape. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.