How to Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker Crockpot
I have been making beans for years trying to come up with a recipe that would result in a flavorful satisfying dish. I think I have found it! These are full of flavor! The long, slow cooking method imparts a deep flavorful essence into the beans.
And being a dietitian, I am a huge fan of beans for their wealth of nutrients, antioxidants and value in a weight loss program since they are so filling.
And this method is the easiest I have ever tried. When beans are cooked in the slow cooker, pre-soaking them overnight is not important, so this method saves a step. The long, slow cooking process will soften them without the need to presoak.
The first time or two that you cook beans in the slow cooker, it’s best if you can be around to check on them toward the end of cooking. Some slow cookers and some beans will cook more quickly or slowly than others. Until you’re familiar with how long beans typically take in your slow cooker, start checking them around 4 and a half hours and then every 15 minutes or so after that until they’re done.
Flavor Secret: Aromatics
You may be wondering when you read the recipe what I mean by “aromatics”. Aromatics are ingredients like herbs, spices and vegetables (and sometimes meat) that are a base for the flavor of a dish. Cooking the aromatics slowly helps to release their flavors and aromas, creating a deep flavor foundation for dishes such as soups, stews, sauces, meat fillings, etc. Ever sautéed garlic in olive oil? That’s an example of using aromatics.
Different countries’ regional cuisines have a traditional combination of aromatics. In French cooking, the combination is the classic mirepoix: onions, carrots and celery and supplemented with the herbs parsley, thyme, bay leaves, herbes de provence. In Spain: onions, bell peppers and tomatoes, garlic, chilies, bay leaves, cumin, paprika, cilantro, ham or chorizo. For additional smoky flavor add some smoked paprika. Meanwhile, Cajun uses onion, celery, green peppers, garlic, parsley, shallots and paprika. And Indian regions use onion, garlic, chilies, ginger, tomatoes and various Indian spices.
Knowing the regional variations, after you get proficient with making beans in the slow cooker, you can experiment with different aromatic ingredients to flavor your beans.
To make, read through the general directions and then see my sample recipe for exact measurements.
General Detailed Instructions
Ingredients: Any amount of dried beans (other than lentils) 1 ¼ teaspoons salt (divided 3/4 tsp at the start and 1/2 tsp at the end) per pound of beans, aromatics. (See above) OPTIONAL: Smoked meat, like ham hock, sausage, ham, chorizo, smoked turkey leg
Equipment: 5-6 quart or larger slow cooker
Pick through the beans: pour them onto a cookie sheet and pick through them looking for stones, and any dried, withered and discolored beans, then discard. Now rinse the beans in a colander.
Transfer the beans to the slow cooker.
Add smoked meat if using.
Cover with water: Pour enough water over the beans to cover them by about 4 inches. Add ¾ teaspoon of salt for one pound of beans and stir.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 7 hours. When the beans are soft but still a little more firm than you’d like, add a half teaspoon of salt for one pound and continue cooking until done.
NOTE: The first time or two that you cook beans in the slow cooker, it’s best if you can be around to check on them toward the end of cooking. Some slow cookers and some beans will cook more quickly or slowly than others. Until you’re familiar with how long beans typically take in your slow cooker, start checking them around 4 hours and then every 15 minutes or so after that until they’re done.
Cool and store: Cool the beans and then store them in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Smoky Pinto Beans
Here is exactly what I did so that perhaps your first time cooking beans in the slow-cooker you can copy mine.
I followed the above instructions and I used 1 pound of pinto beans, 6 cups water, 2 bay leaves, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt total, 1 chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp smoked paprika and 2 slices of raw bacon chopped.
My pinto beans were soft in 4 hours 45 minutes.
**See above for full detailed instructions.
Pinto Beans and Ham Hock
1 pound pinto beans. 1 cup diced onion. 1 cup carrot cut into 1/2 inch rounds. 1 cup celery cut into 1/2 inch pieces. 1.5 pound ham hock. 6 cups water. 1 bay leaf. 4 minced garlic cloves. 3/4 tsp salt at the beginning and 1/4 tsp at the end of cooking. I reduced the salt because of the salty ham hock to only. These cooked in four hours 15 minutes.
Great Northern Beans
When I used Great White Northern Beans they cooked in about 3.5 hours.
Small Lima Beans
When I used small lima beans they took 5 hours to cook.