How to Cook Dried Beans in the Slow Cooker

Update: Please note that dried beans cooked in the slow cooker have a potential toxicity, as explained here. To be safe, you need to boil beans for 10 minutes. Thanks to a commenter for pointing this out, as I wasn’t aware of this potential risk!

I have been wanting to cook more of my own beans lately. Mark Bittman’s book Food Matters inspired me, with his descriptions of how nutritious and tasty beans can be when you cook them yourself. Dried beans are supposed to have a better flavor and texture than canned beans, and you can control the salt content. They’re much more economical, too. In his book, Bittman describes how to freeze cooked beans, and with the little freezer out in the garage, I have no excuses.

Well, I have one. It just seemed so time-consuming to cook dried beans, between soaking them and then boiling them for several hours. I never seemed to get around to it.

So I started researching how to use my slow cooker to cook the beans. With the slow cooker, I figured I could either let them cook overnight or during the day even if I had to leave the house. It turns out that it is not at all difficult to cook dried beans in the slow cooker. In fact, it’s not that much different than cooking them on the stovetop, except you don’t have to monitor them as much.

Here’s the method:

  1. Rinse the beans and pick over them for stones.
  2. Soak the beans in a good amount of cold water in the refrigerator for several hours. I let them soak all day, with the intention of cooking them overnight.
  3. Drain the beans and rinse again. The water was fairly dirty, so I do think the soaking step is necessary.
  4. Put the beans in the slow cooker with plenty of fresh, cold water to cover by at least an inch.
  5. Cook on low for 8 hours. I let mine cook while I slept. I didn’t add any seasoning because I figured I would season them when I used them in the final dish. The beans turned out tender but not mushy, and even without seasoning, they were very tasty, so I think it is true that dried beans taste better than canned.

Some notes: 1 cup of dried beans results in approximately 2-3 cups of cooked beans, depending on the type of bean.

I used cannellini beans, which are my favorite type of bean and very versatile. They are often used in Italian cooking, and they go well in soups, salads, dips, pasta dishes and with sausage, so I figured I would get a lot of mileage out of a batch. Different kinds of beans may require different cooking times, and you also have to take into consideration the dish that the beans are destined for. For instance, you may want to stop the cooking after about 5-6 hours if the beans are then going into a long-cooking soup or chili, where they will get the chance to cook more. Tougher beans may need up to 12 hours to cook. I found that 8 hours resulted in a very tender bean, so I may shorten the cooking time to 7 hours for a firmer result. Ideally, I should start tasting the beans every half-hour or so after 5-6 hours and keep notes on the best cooking times for different kinds of beans. Of course, this strategy doesn’t work when cooking the beans overnight, but 8 hours seems like a safe cooking time in most cases.

Store the beans in their own liquid in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I found that the cooked beans actually kept longer than leftover canned beans in the fridge. To freeze, divide into portions, such as 1 or 2 cups. Freeze in freezer bags with their cooking liquid, pressing out as much air as possible.

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26 thoughts on “How to Cook Dried Beans in the Slow Cooker

  1. [...] is the original post:  How to Cook Dried Beans in the Slow Cooker You May Link To Us Using The Code BelowLinking to our pages with daily updated pages and newly [...]

  2. pam 13 June 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve been doing this too. I’m trying to store up a bunch of cooked beans so I can stop buying canned.

  3. Nirmala 30 June 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I agree. I cooked dried navy beans and they were fabulous! I don’t think I will go back to canned ever.

  4. Shannon 1 July 2009 at 9:20 am

    Pam and Nirmala – I agree, once you start cooking your own, you won’t go back to canned.

  5. deborah 26 August 2010 at 4:20 pm

    thank you spo much for the detailed discription, i have been wanting to make my own beans and use my slow cooker for awhile now as well….your information has helped me so much thanks again:)

  6. [...] the pan with water whenever it gets a little low. You could also very easily add all this into a slow cooker, just increasing the water.  Just before serving, add a nice handful of almonds, a large handful [...]

  7. morva 13 August 2011 at 8:58 pm

    thanks for the detailed method, its amazing how you can just type in a question on google and come up with such great answers.

  8. Jen 26 August 2011 at 3:18 am

    Thanks so much for this. Exactly what I was looking for. xx

  9. Jen 28 August 2011 at 5:47 am

    I soaked the beans for around 8 hours and then added them to my slow cooker with other veggies on low for 5 hours. Everything was cooked except the green lentils from the soup mix which were still crunchy. 8 hours later they were still crunchy! So I left it overnight on low, and the whole thing was ruined! Mushy and had a burned flavour. :(

    Any advice you have will be greatly appreciated. Thank you! xx

  10. Shannon 30 August 2011 at 6:12 pm

    We don’t eat a lot of lentils around here so I don’t know much about cooking them. My advice would be to cook like legumes together, i.e., don’t mix lentils and beans.

  11. Don’t buy it, cook it! | Blog, by Shannon 11 October 2011 at 3:21 pm

    [...] Dried beans [...]

  12. Lynn 20 November 2011 at 4:39 pm

    @ Jen
    I eat lentils fairly often. They do not require soaking (just rinsing), and they cook up in about 40 minutes in a regular soup pot. That’s really odd that they were still crunchy, and I’m sorry your soup was ruined. Was it possibly an old soup mix? I’ve heard that dried beans, when they are too old, never cook up, and I know my mother has some dry soup mixes that are probably a decade old.

    Thank you, Shannon! I can never remember how long beans take in the slow cooker.

  13. Not A Freakin Onion 21 November 2011 at 12:18 am

    Thank you Lynn. I bought from a store with a high turnover, but goodness knows where they got them from. I’ll try a different source. Have a great week! xx

  14. OhioBuckeyeGal 8 January 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Thanks for this! Can’t wait to try it. I’m trying to get away from canned beans due to the BPA content in the canned goods. When you freeze the beans after you’ve cooked them, just in airtight containers, any special advice? My husband doesn’t eat beans except in disguise, so a batch of them might last me awhile! :)

  15. Shannon 8 January 2012 at 7:26 pm

    If you freeze the beans in their liquid, they should be fine.

  16. OhioBuckeyeGal 10 January 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks!

  17. The Magical Fruit | realisticchef 30 April 2012 at 10:38 pm

    [...] beans). You can also make your own. That would be ideal. (Find recipes for stove top, oven, or slow cooker beans here.) Or you can just know what you are getting yourself into and move forward: I would [...]

  18. Robin 27 May 2012 at 4:30 pm

    This advice is potentially dangerous. Many varieties of dry beans need to be cooked at boiling point for at least ten minutes in order to deactivate a toxic chemical in the beans. Cooking the beans in the slow cooker is not sufficient to do this as the beans will not reach the required temperature. The beans must be cooked separately, boiling them for at least 10 minutes. See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannellini_beans#Toxicity

  19. Shannon 27 May 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Robin, That’s the first I’ve ever heard of a bean toxicity, and none of my cookbooks mention it. I will have to do more research.

  20. amoeba15 6 July 2012 at 9:59 pm

    The toxicity only applies to a certain type of beans but not all beans. For most beans and peas, like pinto beans, black beans, lentils, etc. you’re fine. You should take care with kidney beans, broad beans, and white beans. If you’re just doing black beans and pintos, however, which most people do, then slow cooking is fine.

  21. Shannon 7 July 2012 at 6:41 am

    Thanks for the clarification.

  22. Dale B 29 December 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I have been making pinto beans in the slow cooker for many years. Minced onion, lightly salted, pepper, touch of liquid smoke an kitchen bouquet, dash or few of hot sauce, and worchestershire. A ham hock works well, too.

  23. Nikki 17 March 2013 at 3:46 pm

    If you cook beans or lentils with tomatoes it can prevent them from softening, which may have been the case with the crunchy lentils? If recipe includes tomatoes, add them once the legumes are soft :)

  24. Shannon 17 March 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Thanks, Nikki, I didn’t know that.

  25. […] frugal slow cooker use is cooking beans from dried instead of buying tinned ones at four times the price. With a few exceptions like red kidney beans, […]

  26. Rob Hogenmiller 11 December 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Do you have to change the water after boiling them for ten minutes? Wondering if the toxins get released into the water?

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