Simple Slow Cooker Beans
Cooking dried beans in a slow cooker produces richly flavorful, tender beans that will save you money and taste better than anything you'll ever find in a can.
Don't get me wrong. Canned beans are great in a pinch. I use them often. But, with just a bit of foresight and about 5 minutes of prep work, you can have a pot full of slow simmered beans, flavored with whatever spices you like.
Beans really are a wonder food
Slowly cooking dried beans makes them creamy, flavorful, and delicious. Plus, they're inexpensive, incredibly versatile, and super good for you. Beans are high in fiber and protein, low in sugar, fat, and sodium, and full of slow-burning complex carbohydrates.
Foods containing complex carbs do a couple of really good things for us. They helps us feel full sooner and for longer than eating a bunch of simple carbs. And, for those concerned with blood sugar, complex carbs take longer to impact blood sugar. In other words, as beans digest, they cause blood sugar to rise slowly, providing steady energy without the highs and lows of foods that cause blood sugar to spike quickly then fall.
Do you really need to soak beans before cooking them?
Cooking dried beans is a highly underrated endeavor. Canned beans are a fabulous luxury of the modern age and I almost always have a few cans in the pantry. BUT – cooking dried beans only takes about 5 minutes of prep work, costs a fraction as much as canned, and taste markedly more delicious.
The best thing about cooking dried beans is that you have the opportunity to add herbs, spices, garlic and onions to them while they cook, infusing the beans will all that flavor. Also, the texture of cooked dried beans is much, much better than anything that ever comes out of a can.
The only drawback to cooking dried beans is that the require a bit of forethought. Most recipes, this one included, call for soaking the beans in water overnight. While there’s nothing difficult or time consuming about dumping some beans into a bowl and covering them with water, it does require you to remember to soak them.
But, is soaking the beans necessary? And what do you do if you forget to soak them?
Soaking beans before cooking them does three things:
- It reduces the cooking time
- Creates a better texture for the cooked beans, with fewer split-open and burst beans
- It makes them a bit more digestible
If you don’t soak your beans ahead of time, they will still cook. But, you’ll need to extend the cooking time by about 2 hours. (Sometimes it can take even longer, especially if the beans are old.)
This recipe will work with most kinds of beans
This is a general recipe that works for pretty much any kind of dried bean except for split peas and lentils. Use all one type of bean or mix a few different ones together.
The recipe makes a lot of cooked beans - about 6-7 cups. You can certainly cut the recipe in half. But, I've found that it's not that difficult to use 6 or 7 cups of beans in different dishes throughout the week. If there's any leftover, they freeze beautifully and are great to have on hand.
Incorporate whatever flavors you like
Planning to make some chili, tostadas, nachos, or burritos this week? Add some chili power, cumin, and oregano.
Perhaps you're in the mood for Italian or Mediterranean flavors. Add some rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper.
Making some middle eastern or Indian dishes? Toss in some allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, and dried chilies.
No matter what, I like to add some garlic and onion powder. After that, anything goes.
Popular Recipes that use Slow Cooker Beans:
- Vegetarian Chili with Chimichurri Sauce and Pico de Gallo
- Creamy Chicken Chili with Chorizo and Roasted Corn
- Cuban Chicken and Rice
- White Chili and Chorizo Tamale Pie
- White Bean and Kale Soup with Wild Rice
- Black Bean Tostadas with Corn Salsa
- Black Bean and Tomato Soup
- Slow Cooker Green Chili Baked Burritos
- Veggie Black Bean Nachos
- Stuffed Poblano Peppers
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Scroll down to rate the recipe and leave a comment for me, or take a picture and tag it @alittleandalot on Instagram.
- 16 ounces (1 lb) dried beans, any variety
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
- 8 cups water, or chicken or vegetable broth
- Any other herbs and spices that you like (optional)
It's important to prepare dried beans by soaking them in water before cooking - see information in the post above for more about why this is important.
To soak beans in water overnight:
- Rinse beans in a colander set in the sink, then place in a large bowl and cover with water. Put the beans in the refrigerator to let soak for up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse the peas.
- Rinse beans in a colander set in the sink, then put them in a saucepan and cover with water. Set the pan over high heat, bring the water to a boil; let boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let the peas soak for 1 hour.
To cook the beans:
- Pour beans into a colander and rinse in the sink for a minute or so. Pour into your slow cooker.
- Add remaining ingredients plus 8 cups water, or chicken or vegetable broth. Stir to combine, put the lid on the slow cooker and let cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.
It's important that the liquid reaches the boiling point during cooking. Here's why:
One reader brought up the importance of cooking beans at a high enough temperature for the liquid to boil (see her comment below), and I thought her point was important enough to deserve some additional commentary.
All legumes and most grains have high amounts of a natural compound called lectins, which can be toxic in high doses and red kidney beans have the highest amount of it. In most cases, lectins are killed off during the soaking and cooking process. If you follow the method described in this recipe to soak the beans, discarding the soaking liquid and giving the beans a rinse, then cooking them all the way through, you should be good.
The one caveat is if your slow cooker, when set to “low”, doesn’t cook at a high enough temperature to bring the liquid to a boil. Most slow cookers will eventually bring the contents to a boil even when set on the lowest setting. However, I imagine there might be exceptions. If the low setting on your slow cooker does not bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer, turn the temperature up. The beans need to cook in liquid that has reached the boiling point in order to ensure that any lectins are killed off.
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Serving Size:½ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 293Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 1313mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 12gSugar: 23gProtein: 16g