Beans are perfect for slow-cooking. The old-fashioned bean pot worked on the same principle as today’s slow cooker: long, slow cooking at low heat with plenty of moisture. When slow cooking beans, follow these guidelines:
- Softening beans: Beans should be softened before you cook them in a slow cooker. To soften beans, cover them with cold water in a large bowl and soak them overnight. Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.
- Liquid ratio: One cup of prepared dried beans requires approximately four cups of water or broth for slow cooking. When cooking larger amounts, the ratio changes; three cups of beans requires nine cups of liquid. The beans should remain completely covered with liquid for the entire cooking time. If the liquid falls below the top of the beans, add a little boiling water.
- Temperature: Beans cook more evenly when the slow cooker is on the high setting. Cook on high unless a recipe says to do otherwise.
- Salt and acid: Salt and acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes and lemon, toughen beans if they are cooked together. Add these ingredients near the end of the cooking time of any bean dish.
- Amounts: One cup of dried beans produces about three cups after slow cooking.
Sample Slow Cooker Bean Recipes
Classic Baked Beans (serves 8)
- 1 pound navy beans
- 8 oz salt pork
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- Salt and pepper
- 1 onion, peeled
- 6 cups boiling water
Soften the beans (see above). Simmer the salt pork in boiling water for 10 minutes to remove some of the salt, then rinse under cold running water and pat dry. Dice the salt pork. In the crock, combine the beans, salt pork, molasses, brown sugar, and dry mustard, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly. Press the whole peeled onion into the center of the beans. Add enough boiling water to cover the bean mixture by a half inch.
Cover and cook on high until the mixture boils, then switch to low heat and cook for 10–12 hours, until the beans are soft and thick. Add boiling water if the water level drops below that of the beans. Remove the onion and serve.
Frijoles and Refritos (serves 10)
Pinto beans prepared in a slow cooker can be mashed to make frijoles, or mashed, cooled, and fried to make refritos.
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- 9 cups water
- 2 dried chiles
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 onion, chopped
- Salt to taste
Soak the beans in cold water for 6–12 hours, then drain and rinse. Place the beans, water, chiles, garlic, and onion in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for about 4 hours. Remove the chiles. Stir in salt if desired.