When it comes to cooking a quick and simple meal during the week, our family often turns to a favorite staple: rice and beans. My father-in-law grew up in South America, and many of our favorite recipes are inspired by dishes he grew up eating, and fed to his own children. Beans are easy, versatile and very inexpensive, but I was shocked to learn how much sodium is in a can of beans. Just half a cup has 400 mg of sodium (according to the can of black beans in my pantry). I couldn’t believe it, and switched to dried beans.
Dried beans are very easy to make, but require lots of time and patience. First, soak beans overnight, then simmer for one hour until cooked (yup, a whole hour). Not exactly convenient, or useful for a last minute dinner. That is until I discovered I could cook beans in my crockpot! Cooking beans in the crockpot is very simple- just rinse, add water, and let the crockpot do the work. A few hours later, you have a perfectly cooked batch of beans. I like to make large batches (2 or 3 pounds of beans) and keep them in the freezer so they are ready to use whenever I need them.
Cooking Dried Beans in the Crockpot
- Any type or amount of dried beans (PSA- lentils are not beans- please do not cook them with this method)
- A crockpot or slow cooker
- A colander
- In a colander, rinse dried beans in water, discarding any shriveled beans.
- (Optional) Soak beans overnight. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with several inches of water. Soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain before cooking. This will help the beans cook faster. More times than not, I forget to soak my dry beans overnight, and I’ve never had an issue.
- If cooking kidney beans, fill a large pot with water and boil beans for 10 minutes. This kills a toxin called phytohemagglutinin, which is found in kidney beans. Drain and rinse beans before adding to crockpot (the water may still contain some of the toxin, and you don’t want to cook your beans in it for a few hours).
- Drain beans and add to crockpot. Cover beans with several inches of water.
- Cook beans for 6-8 hours on low. You can also cook for 2-3 hours on high, but there’s a greater chance of overcooking the beans.
- Enjoy! I usually divide beans into 2 cup portions and freeze them for later use.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Don’t see your question? Ask in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!
Why don’t I salt my beans?
Because I’m trying to cut back on sodium, and even a small amount of salt has a lot of sodium. Also, we don’t eat beans plain, and I know that they will mix into recipes with plenty of seasoning. We’ve never had an issue with bland beans, but if you are concerned, you may season to your taste. On the same note, I don’t add any spices because beans in the same batch will be used for different recipes. If you’re planning to use your beans to the same recipe (for example, chili), feel free to add your favorite spices!
Does phytohaemagglutinin occur in other beans besides kidney beans?
Yes, it does. According to the FDA*, kidney beans have a much higher concentration than other beans. I’ve never had an issue with other beans, but use your own judgement and boil other beans if you see fit. The concern is that crockpots do not get hot enough to kill the toxin (must be 175 degrees Fahrenheit or 80 degrees Celsius to kill the toxin). Personally, I think my crockpot gets hot enough to kill the small amount of toxins in other beans, but I’m not going to risk it when cooking with kidney beans.
*A note for readers outside the United States- FDA stands for Food and Drug Administration and is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
How do you reheat frozen beans?
I usually thaw frozen beans overnight in the refrigerator, and add to a recipe as you would canned beans. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until warm. You can also thaw frozen beans in the microwave. Frozen beans may be kept for up to 3 months.