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How to Make Beans in a Slow Cooker

If you aren’t using your slow cooker at least once a week, you may want to take a step back and evaluate the choices you’ve made in your life.

Seriously, slow cookers are a lifesaver. They are one of the easiest ways to create super-delicious, healthy, “one ingredient” meals with almost no work. Soups, stews, sauces, dips, even desserts (slow-cooker molten chocolate cake, anyone?) come together better in a slow cooker than through any other cooking method.

Perhaps the best use for a slow cooker, however, is to cook your own beans. Canned black and pinto beans taste fine… until you make them yourself in a slow cooker. I first tried this about a month ago and the difference is so shocking, I can hardly eat the canned beans anymore. Not to mention, slow-cooking your own beans is more economical and less processed. It’s a win-win-win. The way the garlic and onions mingle with the starchy beans, it almost taste like a delicious stew that is good enough to be eaten all by itself. Add them to a corn tortilla with some lettuce and it is the perfect meal.

Slow Cooker Beans Tortilla

Makes about 5 cups of beans

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz dried pinto or black beans
  • water
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt, to taste

Slow Cooker Beans

Step One

Loosely dice the onion and garlic and add them to your slow cooker with the dried beans and enough water to cover the beans by about 3 inches. It seems like a lot of water now, but the beans absorb tons of water as they cook. If this is your first time, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on the water level to make sure the beans haven’t run dry (not a good thing).

Step Two

Go take an 8-hour break. These beans start to come together after about 5 hours and really hit their stride between the 7-8 hour mark. At this point, the onions & garlic are completely broken down and the beans become starchy and magical and delicious.

As I mentioned, these beans are good enough to be eaten all by themselves, but one of my favorite ways to serve them is, like pictured, on corn tortillas with lettuce.

NOTE: As a reader mentioned in the comments on this post, it may be dangerous to use a slow cooker with kidney beans. These particular beans (but not pinto or black) need to reach high temperatures to deactivate a toxin that is naturally present. See this article on Wikipedia for more, and please take care when cooking kidney beans!

Slow Cooker Beans

52 Comments

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  1. I read this to my significant other (we cook most of beans from dry) and it started a debate about which is better:

    Pressure cooker beans vs. Slow cooker beans

    Thoughts?

      • Don’t pass on the pressure cooker just because granny exploded hers. Modern pressure cookers have so many redundant safety features built in that the likelihood of an explosion the way great-grandma had is very low. I cook in mine at least 3/5 of meals and have had only one issue (the safety did indeed work but the result was a mess of bean goo all over my stove. The end result of walking away and forgetting it was making beans.) You can’t beat the pressure cooker for speed – just don’t leave it cooking all alone.

        My opinion on the debate, a year late to the party, from one who cooks beans daily and uses three different methods. It’s not a matter of “better” – it’s a matter of “different.” The more ingredients in my bean dish, the more likely I am to let it cook low-and-slow in the slow cooker or the oven. When it’s just the beans and nothing else, straight to the pressure cooker and done in minutes versus hours. The difference in flavor and texture when the recipe is simply beans and water is negligible no matter which way you cook them.

        But, when adding flavors to the beans such as meats, veggies, and aromatics – not much beats the low-and-slow methods to get a solid mingling of flavors. I find that recipes that include a lot of sugars (Boston Baked Beans) or in which I’ve included a lot of tomato will cook up better in clay/stoneware in the oven. Recipes that include meats and onion/garlic will cook up better in the slow cooker (on low, 6-8 hours).

        Since I’m fortunate to not be restricted to an either/or scenario and can have pressure cookers, slow cookers, clay bean pots, stew pots, etc… I get to have my beans whichever way I’d like. I like them lots of ways…

      • Several – 3 or 4? I am actually making these right now with some black beans; super excited to try them! I did leave it on high for 4 hours, now I am turning it to low. I have one of the black “Crockpot” slowcookers so I guess we will see how they turn out!

        • Hey Ruby, it just depends. After 4 hours, they beans should be pretty much cooked. Then it’s all about getting the right texture and consistency. The longer you leave them, the more they become like a stew. Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hello, Andrew! I was drawn to your blog through something you said on detoxinista.com. (I can’t remember what it was now.) So, I’ve been enjoying your site for 2 or 3 weeks and am really glad to see this recipe :0). I’ve tried to make dried beans maybe only 2 times over the years and couldn’t get their texture right. This recipe sounds perfect. Thank you!

    • Hey, thanks! I’m so glad you found my site and enjoy it. I think you’ll love these beans. If you have problems with getting the texture right, I’ve found that more time (if they’re too runny) or more water (if they’e too firm) can fix most problems ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I have had great difficulty cooking beans in a crockpot. Even split soup! I had a nice crockpot, but am unsure if it was faulty! It would burn around the edges. I have contemplated buying another crockpot. U sure if I would use it.

  4. Do you think I could use lentils in place of beans? Mainly because I don’t have any dry beans and I’m trying to find a yummy way to use up these lentils that’s not a soup.

  5. Can you add other beans in with the pinto beans..say some black beans and some red beans or will the beans not cook at the same time so you will have some hard beans?

    • That’s a great question, Gibran. I haven’t tried mixing multiple types of beans but I assume they would cook fairly evenly together. After 6+ hours, I can’t imagine you’d have any undercooked beans.

  6. I cook adzuki beans almost every week. I always add some hot peppers to my broth to add a little kick to them. Had not thought of doing them in the crock pot. do you think your method would work with them?

    • Hi Warren, I have honestly never cooked adzuki beans in my life. I just did some research on them though and they look delicious (especially with your preparation)! I’m sure they would work great in a crock pot – give it a shot! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I tried adzuki beans in my slow cooker. 3 cups beans, six cups chicken broth, half onion, two cloves garlic, a smoked turkey leg for added flavor and about 7 hours later I had great beans.

  8. If you are going to post a recipe about cooking beans in a slow cooker, please implore your readers not to try this with red and white kidney beans! Red kidney beans cooked in a slow cooker without being boiled at any point can cause food poisoning, and in fact, slow cooker temperatures may be more dangerous than eating them raw.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaseolus_vulgaris#Toxicity

    http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/CausesOfIllnessBadBugBook/ucm071092.htm

    • Thanks for that information, Lauren! I hadn’t heard of toxicity in kidney beans, and that looks like it could be a real issue. I may add a note on this post after reading that. Although, I will say that I specifically suggested pinto or black beans in my post, which aren’t toxic in that way. Also, I don’t know about other slow cookers, but I leave mine on high for several hours and it absolutely reaches a boil for much of that time.

    • Hi Orly, that sounds like an awesome idea! The only thing I would take into consideration is the moisture content. Typically these beans have more liquid which could affect the consistency of the burrito filling. I would drain them thoroughly before adding to the burritos.

  9. Hi Andrew,
    I’m cooking the beans at the moment ๐Ÿ™‚ going on 4 hours now.
    I have just realised that there is no salt or flavouring in this recipe.
    Did I miss something? or is it supposed to be like this? seems a little odd…

    • Wow, I’m sorry. I can’t believe I left salt off this recipe. I’ll definitely update it ASAP to include salt (to taste) because, yes! They do need a little. Thank you for pointing this out!

  10. Hello well I cooked pinto beans for 8 hrs and they are kind of watery is there a way to make it thicker? First time I don’t really like them but there cooked.

    • Ah, I’m sorry about that, Sue. ๐Ÿ™ It sounds like there was simply too much water, which can happen sometimes. If I notice that the beans are drowning in water early on, I’ll often remove a little and add extra later on if needed. But if the beans are okay, you can use a slotted-spoon to remove the excess water as you serve them.

  11. I was given a stovetop to slow cooker crockpot. With this, I can soak and drain the beans, boil them the short ten minute time needed to take care of the toxin, and then slow cook them without any other pots and pans needed (except maybe a colander to keep from spilling the beans). It’s also handy for braised dishes. Not sure how many brands make them, but I was told my model wasn’t pricey.

    Favas are even worse than kidney, please don’t skip that boil!

  12. Wow, what a great recipe! I’ve been looking for an easy way to cook beans and this fit the bill. I added a splash of maple syrup (is my Canadian showing?) and the result was completely delicious. Any chance of additional slow cooker recipes appearing in the near future?

  13. I love making my beans in the crock pot but my way of seasoning’s a bit different.
    I add salt, broth, bay leaves (and spinach for added nutrients but scoop them out before serving-don’t know that this changes flavor) to the water in the pot. Then, while they’re still hot but done cooking, I stir in sautรจd garlic and onions (and more salt to taste if needed).
    In my opinion, it adds more flavor than cooking the garlic/onions with the beans…

  14. Hi,

    Lovely looking recipes.

    I’m just trying to work out a menu and wanted to check the levels of protein, carbs, fat, sugar, sodium, calories etc…

    Have you done this for your set menu at all?

    Many thanks,

    Lisa

  15. I like to soak my beans before cooking. ONE, it helps get rid of gas causing elements, TWO, it cuts down on Phytic Acid, and most importantly THREE – My beans never dry out.

    SO I soak over night (in the slow cooker pot, turned off). Then I dump the water (I water my plants with it). And since I like to slow cooker to hurry up, I heat water in my coffee maker and then pour it over my beans. It’s about 5 cups of water (I cook 900 grams of dry beans per batch, which is about 2 pounds). In About 3 hours, I have nice soft creamy beans. Since the beans are pre-soaked, you could add the salt at the beginning of the cooking process.

    Then I let my beans cool and fill glass jars about 3/4 of the way up and freeze, so they don’t go bad if we don’t eat them within the week (but we usually do).

  16. Oh, one more thing, you don’t mention cleaning and sorting the beans. REALLY important step, unless you want to chip a tooth with a rock.

  17. I have been using crock pots for years and I think I screwed up my 15 bean soup. I threw everything in the pot and turned it on. Tomatoes with green chilies were added in the beginning as well. Do you think they are gonna be tough and rubbery?

  18. I pre soaked my yellow beans then added diced garlic to Crock-Pot (out if onion boo) not sure if I should salt during or after cooking. I heard during makes beans tough? Is that even possible after cooking on low for 8 hours? Please advise

    • I’ve always added salt during the cooking process and a little more at the end if needed. It has never made them tough for me, so I’d try adding salt during the cooking.

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