Intimidated by the neglected pressure cooker in your kitchen cabinet? Don’t be – a vegetarian chili recipe is a great way to take all the mystery out of pressure cooking.
In just an hour, you’ll have a deeply flavorful pot of vegetarian chili made from dried beans, bell peppers, simple spices and a dash of unsweetened cocoa powder.
A pressure cooker is the complete opposite of a slow cooker and much faster than regular stove top cooking. You can cook pretty much anything in a pressure cooker – meat, grains, vegetables and beans. A pressure cooker is especially handy for dried beans, cutting the cooking time down from hours to minutes. In addition to vegetarian chili, a pressure cooker can be used to cook bean soup, stew or just a simple pot of beans.
The Basics of Cooking Beans in a Pressure Cooker
Have no fear! Modern pressure cookers have foolproof locking systems, so it’s virtually impossible to open the pressure cooker before it’s safe. Nevertheless, read the instruction manual for your pressure cooker to make sure you properly seal the lid, which usually involves simply clicking and locking it into place. The middle of a pressure cooker lid has a steam vent with a pressure regulator on top to maintain the pressure level in the pot. The lid also has a pressure indicator pin that will pop up when cooking pressure is reached and pop down when the pressure has released and it’s safe to open the lid.
Amounts – Use at least a 6-quart pressure cooker to cook a pound of dried beans. The pot should be no more than half full of ingredients and liquid. And keep in mind that a pound of dried beans makes a lot of cooked beans, about 6 to 8 cups worth.
Presoak – Optional, but beans soaked in water for 6 to 8 hours will cook faster, hold their shape better (instead of splitting) and are easier to digest.
Use salt – Adding salt to beans before or during the cooking process won’t prevent them from cooking and will give the beans more flavor. Other seasonings, such as onion, garlic, herbs and spices can be added before cooking too.
Use oil – A tablespoon or two of oil added to the beans will prevent foam and loose bean skins from clogging the steam escape valve.
Always add liquid – Add 6 to 8 cups of water to the pressure cooker per pound of beans before cooking.
Avoid acidic ingredients – Adding an acidic ingredient like tomatoes, citrus or vinegar can prevent beans from cooking, so it’s better not to add acidic ingredients until after the beans have been cooked in the pressure cooker.
Cooking time – This varies depending on the type of bean. Presoaked beans generally take between 5 to 20 minutes. Hippressure cooking.com has a helpful guide. The timing begins when the pressure indicator pin on the lid pops up.
Release – Always allow the pot to depressurize completely (the pressure indicator pin will have gone down) before opening the lid. Then, open the lid slowly and away from you to avoid steam and drops of hot water. When the cooking time is up, there are three ways to release the pressure and open the lid: natural pressure release (let the pot set until the pressure comes down on its own), quick release (some pressure cookers have a button to press that releases pressure) and water release (setting the pot in the sink and running cold water over the closed lid until the pressure drops). For cooking beans, a natural release is best.
Vegetarian Chili Recipe
1/4 pound (2/3 cup) dried black beans, soaked in lightly salted water overnight
1/4 pound (2/3 cup) dried pinto beans, soaked in lightly salted water overnight
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups water
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
28 ounces canned or boxed diced tomatoes
After the beans have soaked overnight (6 to 8 hours), drain.
In a stove top pressure cooker (use at least a 6-quart pressure cooker, or larger), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne. Saute a minute or two then add the beans, salt, cocoa powder and water.
Secure the lid on the pressure cooker. Once the pressure cooker is quietly hissing (after about 2 minutes) and the pressure indicator pin has popped up, set a timer for 10 minutes. When the valve really starts to hiss a minute or two later, turn the heat down to medium. When the 10 minute timer goes off, turn off the heat and leave the pressure cooker on the stove, letting the valve release naturally (this will take 10 to 12 minutes).
Open the lid away from you, being aware of hot steam and water that may drip off the lid.
Add the bell peppers and tomatoes. Simmer without the lid over medium-high heat for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Serve with garnishes such as grated cheese, sour cream, raw bell peppers, green onions, cilantro or avocado.
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Images: Jennifer Meier