Cooking Beans in the Slow Cooker

One of the easiest and most economical ways to cook beans is in the slow cooker. Although actual cooking time is as long as six hours, hands-on preparation is just minutes. And the slow steady heat of the slow cooker produces beans that are tender and evenly cooked. It’s a good cook-ahead method, too. You can cook up generous batches of beans to use in different recipes throughout the week or to freeze.

A bonus of this cooking method: You don’t need to soak the beans beforehand. Just rinse them, add water and salt, and turn on the slow cooker. (Red kidney beans are the exception here. To make them more digestible, always soak first and then boil for 20 minutes before preparing in the slow cooker.)

To cook beans in the slow cooker, follow these steps:

  1. Rinse beans in a colander under cool, running water and remove any that look shriveled or discolored.
  2. Place them in the slow cooker with enough water to cover the beans plus two inches. Use a 3 ½ quart cooker for one pound of beans or less. A 5-quart cooker will hold two pounds of beans. Keep in mind that the beans will expand to twice their volume during cooking.
  3. Add two teaspoons of salt per pound of beans. If you like, you can add aromatic ingredients like quartered onions or whole garlic cloves. Just place them on top of the beans.
  4. Cook the beans on your slow cooker’s low setting until they are tender. Depending on the size of the beans, this will be between three and six hours.

Once the beans are cooked, they are ready to be used in your favorite recipes. If you don’t need them immediately, store them in the refrigerator for up to five days. Or freeze them in their cooking liquid for up to six months. If you’re using the beans immediately and don’t need the cooking liquid, be sure to save it. It makes a savory soup stock and can be frozen for up to six months.

Note: If beans give you gas, soak them overnight and then discard the water and add fresh water before cooking.