Instant Pot Kuromame 黒豆 (圧力鍋)

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  • These jewel-like, sweet black soybeans called Kuromame, are a classic Osechi dish enjoyed during Oshogatsu – Japanese New Year. You want to eat them for good health for the new year!

    Sweet black soybeans garnished with a gold leaf in a Japanese blue and white bowl.

    One of the easiest dishes you can make for the Japanese New Years (Oshogatsu) is Kuromame (黒豆) or sweet black soybeans.  The soybeans are typically simmered on low heat over a long period of time in a syrup. To shorten the cooking process, today we’ll cook the soybeans using a pressure cooker.  This Instant Pot Kuromame will save you hours in the kitchen, so you can make one more dish for Osechi!

    Watch How to Make Instant Pot Kuromame

    These jewel-like, sweet black soybeans called Kuromame, are a classic Osechi dish enjoyed during Oshogatsu – Japanese New Year. You want to eat them for good health for the new year!

     

    What is Kuromame?

    Kuromame (黒豆) is literary black (黒) soybeans (豆) in Japanese.  The soybeans are simmered in a sauce made of water, sugar, soy sauce, and salt, and then let soak for another day to yield a strikingly glossy and black appearance. They are delightfully sweet with just a tinge of savory flavor. It’s one of the “sweet” side dishes served along with other savory Osechi foods during the Japanese New Year.

    Sweet black soybeans garnished with a gold leaf in Japanese red and gold dishes.

    Everyone’s focus when making Kuromame is how black the black soybeans turn out.  The shinier and more intensely black they are, the higher the praise.  In addition to the color, it is also important that the bean skin is not wrinkled.  Shiny, pearl-like black soybeans are a subtle yet important piece of Osechi, Japanese New Year Food.

    The Secret to Enhancing the Color of Black Soybeans

    Dried beans need to be soaked before cooking.  When you soak black soybeans in water, the water turns dark purplish and the beans lose their color and become brown or reddish.  Once you simmer the beans in the same water, they will regain their black/black-ish color.

    You may wonder how to make the black soybeans even MORE black.  The answer is rusty iron nails. I know, I’m about to get some raised eyebrows…

    Dubious it may sound, this technique has been passed down since generations. Why rusty nail? Well, the rust (iron oxide) from nails has a chemical reaction with anthocyanins (chemicals that are located in the skin of black beans), which makes the beans dark.  What people do is to clean the nails and wrap in a cheesecloth to soak with the beans.

    Are there any cleaner and better “food-safety” alternative? Absolutely!

    • Use a cast iron deep pot. A cast iron skillet is a bit too shallow.
    • Buy this Lucky Iron Fish® (not sponsored), which would cost about $30 on Amazon.

    Lucky Iron Fish

    The Lucky Iron Fish is a small iron cooking tool that infuses your meals with a healthy amount of natural iron to help prevent iron deficiency and anemia. It’s especially perfect for athletes, vegetarians, vegans, women, and Kuromame makers like us!

    All you need to do is to soak the Lucky Iron Fish in the water along with the black soybeans.

    Lucky fish used for Kuromame

    And after 4 hours of soaking, you remove the lucky fish.  Check out the color of the water. It turns completely black! Now you can proceed to cook the black soybeans.

    Instant Pot Kuromame 4

    After pressure cooking, here is the final result of the Kuromame. Left: 1 day after with the iron fish. Right: 3 days after without the iron fish.

    Kuromame Color Comparison

    The result is pretty obvious. How about the taste? Whether you use the Lucky Iron Fish or not, they taste the same. What if you add the Lucky Iron Fish after cooking, does it become darker?  No, it doesn’t become darker. It’s too late to rectify the color.

    Now is it worth $30 for buying the lucky fish?  It might be good for you if you…

    • Need to impress your mother, mother-in-law, or Japanese guests who appreciate the beautiful black Kuromame.
    • Have someone who lacks iron in their diet and takes a supplement. You can cook other food with the iron fish.

    Sweet black soybeans garnished with a gold leaf in Japanese red and gold dishes.

    Don’t Own an Instant Pot?

    Don’t worry!  I have the recipe for cooking kuromame in a pot on the stovetop.  If you use the Lucky Iron Fish, remove after soaking the beans (the Lucky Iron Fish instructions say to cook for 10 minutes, but since we soak for a long time, I don’t think you need to cook with it).  If you use rusted iron nails, remove them after cooking.

    Sweet black soybeans garnished with a gold leaf in a Japanese blue and white bowl.

    I hope you will include Kuromame into your Osechi menu. Here’s to good health and happiness!

    Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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    Sweet black soybeans garnished with a gold leaf in Japanese red and gold dishes.
    Instant Pot Kuromame
    Prep Time
    10 mins
    Cook Time
    45 mins
    Soaking Time
    4 hrs
    Total Time
    55 mins
     

    These jewel-like, sweet black soybeans called Kuromame, are a classic Osechi dish enjoyed during Oshogatsu - Japanese New Year. You want to eat them for good health for the new year!

    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: Japanese
    Keyword: Japanese New Year, kuromame, osechi
    Servings: 6 (as a side dish)
    Author: Nami
    Ingredients
    Seasonings
    • 1 cup sugar (200 g)
    • 2 ½ tsp soy sauce
    • ½ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt)
    Instructions
    1. Gather all the ingredients.
      Instant Pot Kuromame Ingredients
    To Prepare the Black Soybeans
    1. Gently rinse the black soybeans (kuromame) under cold water a few times. The skin is very fragile, so try not to damage. Discard any beans that are damaged. Drain well.
      Instant Pot Kuromame 1
    2. Put the beans in the inner pot of Instant Pot. Add 4 cups water in the pot and let them soak for 4 hours*. *Please read Note 1 and Note 2 below.

      Instant Pot Kuromame 2
    3. NOTE 1: Follow package instructions. Some may say "soak overnight". My package directions say to soak 4-5 hours, so I soaked for 4 hours. For testing, I tried soaking the same brand of soybeans overnight, and the beans came out a bit too soft. So you may need to test to see how long you want to soak your beans.
    4. Note 2: To make the black soybeans even darker, we cook the black soybeans with rusty iron nails in Japan (Read more in the blog post). If you use rusty iron nails, clean 2-3 nails, wrap in a cheesecloth, and add in the pot. Optionally, you can purchase “Lucky Iron Fish” on Amazon and place it in the water.
      Instant Pot Kuromame 3
    To Cook the Black Soybeans in Instant Pot
    1. After 4 hours of soaking, remove the rusty nails or iron fish. The color of the water will turn purple/blackish, whether you put the iron fish or not, but the color will be more intense if you add it (see how black the water is?).

      Instant Pot Kuromame 4
    2. Put the inner pot back to the Instant Pot. Add 1 cup sugar, 2 ½ tsp soy sauce, and ½ tsp kosher salt. Mix well.

      Instant Pot Kuromame 5
    3. Close the lid and set HIGH pressure for 15 minutes. Make sure the steam release handle points at “sealing” and not “venting”. The float valve goes up when pressurized.
      Instant Pot Kuromame 6
    Once Pressure Cooking Is Done...
    1. When it’s finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to the “Keep Warm” mode. Let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid and take out the inner pot.
      Instant Pot Kuromame 7
    2. Pour the beans and sauce into a large airtight container. Let cool uncovered.
      Instant Pot Kuromame 8
    To Store
    1. Kuromame are ready to eat, but to yield a more striking black color, let the beans soak in the sauce for at least a day. Cover and refrigerate. You can keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, or 1 month in the freezer.
      Instant Pot Kuromame 9
    To Serve
    1. Drain the liquid and serve the kuromame. If you like to make it more festive, you can put gold leaf on top.
      Instant Pot Kuromame 10
    Recipe Notes

    Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

     

    Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

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