16 Bean Soup
Beans,  Gluten-free,  Soups,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

16 Bean Soup in the Pressure Cooker

Creamy chickpeas. Glistening black beans. Buttery limas, nutty black-eyed peas, earthy lentils, and plenty more. They all swirl together into one big pot of delicious, hearty 16 bean soup. And it’s easy and lightning-fast in your pressure cooker or Instant Pot.

Just start with a bag of colorful 16 bean soup mix from the dried bean aisle at the supermarket. And what a bargain—it costs little more than any bag of dried beans. Then dress it up with a few extras to make a spectacular multibean soup.

Yes, a bag of 16 bean soup mix contains at least 16 different varieties of dried beans. The bean types can vary from brand to brand, bag to bag. Goya even slips in barley, which we love but you may want to avoid if you don’t want gluten. Bob’s Red Mill sells a 13 bean soup mix. But most brands—including lots of store brands—have standardized on 16.

But why the magic number 16?
In the 1980s, the N.K. Hurst Company created demand for multibean soup mixes when they introduced the HamBeens brand “15 Bean Soup” and trademarked the name. Sales went crazy, and the mix put the company on the map. So we suspect that by one-upping the popular Hurst’s mix, other brands can own a piece of the market without landing in a, well, legal soup.

Every brand of 16 bean soup mix comes with its own special recipe printed on the bag, often with a Southern, Mexican or Spanish flavor. Some bags include seasoning packets. Many recipes suggest ham, which is fine if you’re in the mood for a meaty soup.

Our favorite
Of the many recipes we’ve tried, our hands-down favorite comes from the bag of the obscure Health & Harvest brand. It calls for standard soup veggies, diced tomatoes and lively spices—including the secret ingredient, smoked paprika.

Beans are rich in protein, fiber, and all sorts of nutrients. But most of all, they make a tasty, cozy meal. All 16 of them.

16 Bean Soup in the Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot

  • 16-ounce package of 16 Bean Soup Mix dried beans, any brand
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh or frozen ginger*
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 4 1-cup bouillon cubes (vegetable or chicken), or to taste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
  • Grated cheese of your choice for garnish (optional)

* Tip: Use frozen ginger. To prepare fresh ginger for the freezer, scrape off the peel using the back of a teaspoon or a wad of crushed-up aluminum foil. Then freeze it in a zipper bag and carefully slice and mince it as needed. Frozen ginger tastes fresh and melts away in the soup.

  1. Overnight soaking/brining method. Rinse beans and soak overnight in 2 quarts water mixed with 1 ½ tablespoons salt. Brining tenderizes and seasons the beans. When ready to cook, drain.

    Quick-prep method. For same-day cooking, rinse beans and put in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Add 4 cups water and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Cover, bring to high heat, then turn off heat and let pressure reduce naturally. Drain. These parcooked beans are now ready to use.

    Quick-prep plus some soaking/brining. Rinse and soak dry beans in 2 quarts of water mixed with 1 ½ tablespoon salt for 4 hours. Drain. Then follow quick-prep method above.

  2. In a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, sauté onions, garlic, ginger, celery and carrots until tender.
  3. Stir in beans, water, bouillon and spices. Cover and bring to high heat. Reduce heat and cook 6 minutes. Quick-release the pressure.
  4. Check to see if they are done. If not, cook another 2 or so minutes under pressure and quick-release the pressure.
  5. Add tomatoes and simmer without the lid for a few minutes. (The acid in tomatoes can cause beans to toughen, so wait until the end to add them.) Adjust seasoning.

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