I’ve been told I make the best slow cooker black beans ever, but I can’t take all the credit.
When we were still dating, my husband taught me how his family made Brazilian-style black beans when he was growing up. His aunt showed me how to make beans in the slow cooker. Before that, I thought people had to cook them in a pressure cooker to get them soft like the canned beans we usually bought. (I still remember trying to chew on the crunchy beans we’d try to cook at my house when I was growing up.)
Over the past 10 years, I’ve perfected it. (High five!) It’s not too difficult, but because I make slow cooker black beans about once a week or so, it was important for me to get it right and I had ample opportunity for practice. We eat them throughout the week either as a side on top of rice, in soup, or one of my favorite ways, mixed with quinoa and salsa for breakfast.
There are a few secrets to making awesome beans, and it applies to other types of beans and legumes too.
Let’s get started!
The difference between the beans I make and other recipes is that I rely heavily on aromatics to flavor the beans as they cook. It truly does make all the difference.
Aromatics: diced (or halved) onion, whole garlic cloves and bay leaves. Salt is added at the end only.
It’s VERY important to sort the dried beans and give them a good rinse before before cooking them.
Sort out any small stones, broken, wrinkled, or otherwise misshapen beans. I find that black beans are more notorious for stones than other varieties of beans; probably because they are smaller.
Everything goes into the slow cooker and covered with water. My slow cooker is large, so I can make 2 lbs or more at a time. I usually use around 6 cups of water for each pound of beans. That is more than enough water, but you don’t want to use too little water or the beans might absorb what water there is and burn. (This may or may not have happened to me a few times.) You can always drain them later. We like to ladle a bit of the cooking liquid with the beans onto rice–it’s very flavorful. If I make black bean soup, I will also reserve some of the cooking liquid.
I typically cook beans on high for 3 hours, or low for 6+ hours. It varies a little if the beans are older or if I am cooking more than one pound at a time. I’m guessing different slow cookers might vary slightly by brand or size.
About 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the lid of the slow cooker and remove a few beans with a spoon and blow on them. If the skins peel back, the beans are done. They may still be a little firm. Add the salt, about 1 Tbsp. per pound of beans, and replace the lid and let them continue cooking for a little longer. If they cooked more quickly, I will remove the insert, add the salt and put the lid back and let the beans absorb the salt off the heat.
From there I let the beans cool quite a bit before transferring to containers or resealable freezer bags for storage. The beans freeze very well separated into quart or gallon-sized bags and frozen flat in layers. The beans will keep for about a week. One pound of dry beans makes about 5 cups of beans, which is the equivalent of about 3 cans of beans, give or take.
|Cilantro Citrus Chicken|
I really, really love my All-Clad 6.5 quart slow cooker. I previously used one with a non-stick metal insert, but have recently (as of 2016) switched back to the ceramic insert. I highly recommend getting a larger slow cooker because you can cook larger batches of beans at a time.
Recipes using black beans:
- Black Bean and Chorizo Chili
- Jicama Black Bean Salad
- Smoky Black Bean Soup
- Sweet Potato Enchiladas with Sweet Corn Crema from Sweet Basil
- Baked Mexican Eggs with Black Beans from Kalyn’s Kitchen
- Spiced Black Bean, Grilled Avocado and Goat Cheese Tacos from Naturally Ella
- Black Bean Patties with Avocado and Tomato Salsa from Cookin’ Canuck
- Chicken and Black Bean Burritos with Avocado Pineapple Salsa from Taste and Tell
- 1 lb. black beans, picked over to remove broken or wrinkled beans or small stones
- 6 cups water
- 1 onion, halved or diced
- 2-3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon salt (this seems like a lot, but is fine with this much water, you can use less)
- Place the beans in a big bowl, cover with water, agitate the beans a few times to remove any dirt, drain in a colander and rinse again.
- Place black beans, onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaf in a slow cooker. Add water.
- Cook on high for about 3-4 hours, testing after 3 hours. To test doneness, spoon out a few beans and blow on them. If the skins peel back, they beans are ready. Taste just to make sure. If all of the water has been absorbed, add more. Beans must stay completely covered to prevent them from burning. If cooking on low for 6-8 hours, test the beans at the 6 hour point.
- Add the salt and let cook, or sit with heat off for another 20-30 minutes, to absorb the salt. Remove the bay leaf, garlic cloves, and onion before using, if desired.
- Use immediately, or allow to cool before transferring beans and some of the cooking liquid to a zipper-lock freezer bag or airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze up to 3 months. If freezing, flatten bag in freezer--it makes for easier defrosting. Defrost in warm water.
White beans (Great Northern, Cannelini, navy, black eyed peas)
-add to the slow cooker: chopped vegetables (carrots, fennel, celery), rosemary, sage, thyme, garlic, onion.
-use in salads, soups, purees, braised (side dish)
-add to the slow cooker: a few sprigs fresh cilantro, dried oregano, a diced chile (serrano, jalapeno, etc), ground cumin, onion, garlic, bay leaf.
-use in chili and soups, salads, refried, etc.
-cook the same way for pinto or black beans
-for use in Italian soups--proceed as for the white beans
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