How To: Slow Cooker Black Beans

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 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 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 zipper-lock bags for storage.  The beans freeze very well separated into 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

Recipes using black beans:

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How To: Slow Cooker Black Beans
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The easiest way to cook black beans is in a slow cooker. It's easy and budget-friendly.
Author:
Recipe type: side dish
Cuisine: Brazilian, Mexican, American
Serves: 4-5 cups
Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. Place black beans, onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaf in a slow cooker. Add water.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Notes
Variations:
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)

Pinto
-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.

Kidney
-cook the same way for pinto or black beans
-for use in Italian soups--proceed as for the white beans

Slow Cooker Black Beans

Substitute any dry bean in this recipe. Variations included below the main recipe.

Ingredients:

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 if desired)

Instructions:

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.

Variations:

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)

Pinto
*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.

Kidney
*cook the same way for pinto or black beans
*for use in Italian soups–proceed as for the white beans

Of course there are other flavors you can infuse, these are the most basic ways we use them in our house.

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62 Responses to “How To: Slow Cooker Black Beans”

  1. Melissa February 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Yea!!! I normally pressure can dried beans so they are shelf stable and the cook while being processed (does that make sense?) anyhow. I’m out of propane it it seems a bit cold to do it anyways outside (I like to pressure can outside…) so I’m out of beans and have been stewing over a slow-cooker method. Mystery solved. Thanks.

  2. Kalyn Denny February 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    This is pretty much how I do it too, but I like to add dried cilantro.

  3. Heather M. February 8, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    It looks like you have the same slow cooker as I do. Just checking to see if that is the case. Is yours the All Clad?It’s funny. I use canned black beans all the time and just this week was thinking I need to start making my own from dried. I’ve never done it and wanted to find a simple method so the beans work in different kinds of dishes. This sounds perfect for me! Thanks for posting this today…. it was meant to be.

  4. Lindsey Johnson February 8, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    Melissa, I would love to do that! I need to get a pressure cooker one of these days.

    Kalyn, I have added cilantro before and I love it! My hubby protests though because he insistes cilantro is not for *his* black beans. :)

    Heather, yes! That’s the one. For a long time I was afraid to use it for beans. I thought it might ruin the finish or something, but it works just great! It saves a lot of money and time.

    Thanks for the comments!

  5. Emily February 9, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    LOVE black beans! Definitely going to try this!

  6. Becky @ Project Domestication February 12, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    100% going to try this! And the black beans looks so lovely! You’ve got the eye and photography talent.

  7. Tracy February 16, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    So do you not soak them first? Or is there a soaking step that is omitted? I made black beans on in the crock pot and was not impressed but I soaked them over night as the bag said to

  8. Tracy February 16, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    So do you not soak them first? Or is there a soaking step that is omitted? I made black beans on in the crock pot and was not impressed but I soaked them over night as the bag said to

  9. Lindsey Johnson February 16, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    I never soak the beans first. I used to but didn’t find it to be much different than cooking them in the slow cooker unsoaked. If I cooked them on the stove, then yes, soak first. I like yo bring them to a boil and let them soak for about two hours then turn them back on for the remainder.

  10. Elsbeth March 10, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Just made them and they turned out great. Thanks!

  11. Chelsea Watkins March 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Soo I just opened my first bag of dried beans (ever) about 2 hours ago and figured I’d let them soak a little while before adding them to the slow cooker (since I read that pre-soaking *may* help with digesting them more easily), however, much to my surprise I just checked on them and many have already split open! I tried googling this problem but it didn’t yield very many results.. Do you have any idea why this would happen?

  12. Lindsey Johnson March 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Hi Chelsea! How frustrating! The only thing I can think of is that the beans were too old. I did some searching of my own and I did find some evidence that old beans split while cooking. So, totally not your fault!

    Some tips I found to make sure you’re getting fresh dry beans at the store is to make sure the beans have a slight sheen to them and that they are intact–not too many split or broken beans. Maybe this is easier with beans from the bulk bin. It’s often difficult to see all of those things with packaged beans.

    Don’t give up! Your beans will probably still taste great, just not as appealing to look at. :)

    E-mail at cafejohnsonia@gmail.com if you have more questions!

  13. Jacquie May 2, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Do we have to boil the beans for 10 minutes first like kidney beans?

    • becky February 20, 2014 at 2:53 am #

      Kidney beans should be boiled for ten minutes prior to being put into a slow cooker in order to eliminate toxins that can cause digestive problems. I only do this with all other dry beans (garbanzos, black, pinto, etc.) that I forgot to soak overnight. Garbanzos, maybe simmered up to an hour if I plan on making a dish where I will mix them with another bean that cooks faster.

  14. Lindsey Johnson May 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Jacquie, nope! You can if you want to, but I haven’t found it makes that much of a difference. Maybe still do it with the kidney beans as they take longer to cook because they are about twice the size of black beans. Great question!

  15. jacquie May 3, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    Thank you!
    i will cook my black beans right now!
    So this talk about kidney beans must be boiled to remove first not an issue?

  16. Lindsey Johnson May 3, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    I don’t cook a ton of kidney beans, but when I do, I don’t boil them first. I used to boil first and let soak and cook all the next day and the result wasn’t any better than just cooking them in the slow cooker. They do take extra time, but I don’t know that the soaking helps with the slow cooker method. If you are boiling them on the stove, it does help speed up the cooking time, as does an overnight soak. Hope that helps!

  17. Unknown May 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Regarding jacquie’s comments: Kidney beans have a toxin called Phytohaemagglutinin (Kidney Bean Lectin) that causes severe food poisoning when they are undercooked. If you’re slow-cooking kidney beans and not experiencing this, maybe your slow-cooker is hot enough to destroy the toxin, or maybe you’ve been lucky. The FDA recommendation is:
    Soak in water for at least 5 hours.
    Pour away the water.
    Boil briskly in fresh water, with occasional stirring, for at least 10 minutes.
    Undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans.

    I’ve just picked up my first bag of dried black beans, and this looks like a great way to enjoy them!

  18. Jessica May 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    I’m super excited to try this recipe as I want to get away from using so many canned beans, so thank you for posting! One question – is it one tablespoon of salt per pound of beans or one teaspoon of salt per pound of beans? Thanks!

  19. Lindsey Johnson May 21, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    Hi Jessica!

    It’s one tablespoon per pound, but keep in mind that we like ours with a lot of extra liquid/broth. Start with 1-2 tsp and then see if you need more. It’s really personal preference. And I realize that sounds like a lot of salt! The beans don’t absorb all of it. They come out really well seasoned. So if you are looking for lower sodium, just use less. :)

    Let me know how they turn out!

  20. Anonymous June 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    Hi! Do you ever try to cook rice with the beans in the slow cooker so that they both have time to simmer in the good flavor?

  21. Lindsey Johnson June 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Anonymous, I can’t say that thought had ever occurred to me! I guess you could do that, except that the beans take so much time to cook and the rice would turn to mush before the beans were soft. Maybe if you added the rice when there was about an hour left of cooking time? Try it and let us know how it goes!

  22. Vien Phan June 9, 2013 at 5:29 am #

    Hi! Does it matter if the salt is added with the beans at the beginning instead of the end? I was excited to try the recipe and overlooked that detail. Thanks.

  23. Lindsey Johnson June 10, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    Vien Phan, you’ll have to let me know how it turned out! Usually adding the salt prevents the beans from softening as they cook, so I’m curious what happened for your batch. Let me know!

  24. Brynn June 18, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    When you freeze the beans do you freeze them in the liquid or separate before freezing? I can’t wait to try this!

  25. CoyLou July 2, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    FYI, in one area you list the salt at 1 tablespoon, but further down you list 1 teaspoon. I’m guessing it’s actually a tablespoon.

  26. Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    Tried it. Loved it. Thank you!

  27. Ana July 16, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Made this yesterday and it come out fantastic! So easy and so delicious. Was at work while it was cooking so it was on low for 10ish hours without a problem :-)

    Thank you for sharing!

  28. Shelby September 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    So, why Brazilian style? Is your husband Brazilian? I an curious because my mom is from Brazil and I started looking for slow cooked black beans because that’s how she makes them.

  29. Anonymous October 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    YUMMYLICIOUS!!!! I just made those black beans yesterday and they were fabuloso! Thank you so much. I adjusted the recipe a little and added 1 Knorr buillion cube, and some fresh rosemary and basil (one small basil leaf and two of the rosemary leaves – very little). it was so tasty. Thank you so much! My family loves it too.

  30. Lindsey Johnson October 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    I’m so glad you liked them! Sounds wonderful!

  31. Anonymous December 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    The recipe’s text needs correction in this sentence, “Cook on high for about 3-4hours, (or high for 6-8) testing after 3 hours.” Also, a comment from CoyLou alerted that directions for the amount of salt differed. It seems to me such a comment deserves a note of thanks if a change was made, both as recognition for the help and because it would let newsreaders know there is no longer a discrepancy.

  32. Lindsey Johnson December 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Check out that paragraph and let me know if the correction makes sense. Sorry if it was confusing! Also, CoyLou was not the first person to alert me to that typo. I am always grateful when a mistake is caught. Not thanking CoyLou was not an intentional snub, simply an oversight. Perhaps it was a busier day than others, as some days are. But I thank you for comment and I hope the directions are more clear now.

  33. Anonymous December 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Kudos for attentiveness and clarity! Thank you for following up. My beans are in the crockpot, and I have every anticipation of great enjoyment having followed your instructions.

  34. Unknown December 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I’ve only cooked pinto beans in the slow cooker before. I had never heard about the salt preventing the beans from getting soft, and I put the salt in with the black beans when I started it this morning. Now I’m worried its going to take longer to cook! I cook for 3 people from Guatemala and they love the beans in a slow cooker rather than canned.

  35. Lindsey Johnson December 10, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    They might be alright, I’ve just never had luck with them softening when I’ve salted the cooking water. Pop back over and let me know how it went!

    • Unknown December 11, 2013 at 5:26 am #

      They came out great!

  36. Sammi Wei December 12, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    Thank you so much for this recipe!! I moved to Costa Rica recently so it’s essential to know how to make beans. After I tried this recipe, my boyfriend who is Costa Rican told me that they taste like his grandmas which is a super high compliment. I use this every single time I make beans and they always come out great!

  37. Alice December 25, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Dear Lindsay,

    I´m so happy that I found this recipe. But I have a question.

    I have already made black, white an red beans, chickpeas in my crockpot, but I was sure that I have to soak all of them for at least 12 hours.

    Did I get that right…you just rinse the beans very well, but you don´t soak them, right?

    And can I do it the same way with the kidney and the white beans? I thought the soaking is very important because of some unhealthy thing that must be washed out.

    Of course I would like to skip that part and would be very happy about an answer.

    All the best from Germany,
    Alice

  38. Lindsey Johnson December 27, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Hi Alice! I haven’t ever heard about unhealthy things in the beans that are released through soaking. I do know that sometimes it can be easier on digestion to rinse the beans well after cooking.

    Soaking just helps shorten the cooking time, but with slow cooking, it doesn’t matter so much. I find that I prefer to use a slow cooker without soaking – it takes the same amount of time as cooking on the stovetop with soaking.

    Let me know how it goes!

  39. beantheredonethat January 19, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    I have made these several times now and they taste much better than canned. Thank you! Last time I made them I had a lot of liquid leftover so I froze it. Any thoughts on how to use it? Thanks.

  40. Lindsey Johnson January 20, 2014 at 12:50 am #

    @beantheredonethat – so glad to hear how much you like the beans! I haven’t ever really saved the extra cooking liquid. We usually ladle it along with the beans over rice. It soaks in nicely. :) But, I’m thinking you could use it when making soup or chili to thin it out.

  41. Kimmerz March 25, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    I have tried canned black beans and garbanzo beans and now I am doing the bag beans, healthier and way better taste I think.. the only problem is, I am the only one who eats black beans and I am wondering how long they will be ok in the fridge? I am going to have to freeze a lot I am SURE! but they will keep and I will just take out what I will need.. all natural is the way to go!

  42. Excellent March 27, 2014 at 4:25 am #

    We can’t thank you enough for your black beans recipe! Always been afraid of pressure cookers and was googling one day and found your blog.
    Even the baby ate a second portion of beans and rice the first time in made it.
    The only ingredient I add after the beans are cooked is tiny bit of olive oil and beef bouillon.

    • Lindsey Johnson March 27, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      I’m so glad it turned out well for you! Love hearing that. ) Hooray for babies that like rice and beans!

  43. Food, Faith, and Other Fabulous Finds March 27, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Easy and tasty! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  44. J.L. March 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Hi Lindsey, will the cooking time stay the same if you double the recipe to 2 lbs? Thx

    • Lindsey Johnson March 30, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      Hi J.L.! Yes, when I make 2 lbs, the time is the same. If you were to cook 4 lbs (are there even slow cookers that big?) then it would probably take more time. Great question!

  45. Nastassia D. (@TasciaD) April 10, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    I came home to find my black beans cooked just right in my crock-pot . The only problem was that I had to lengthen cooking time. I used Goya Black Beans and garlic cloves, after cooking for 8hrs on low, they were still hard , so I cooked them some more for 6hrs on high. The added cook time might me due to the beans being old perhaps. The beans came out more soft and delicious than when I cooked them on the stove-top, and the biggest plus for me is that I just put the beans in the crock-pot and left them to cook, I didn’t have to constantly be checking them or adding water.

    • Lindsey Johnson April 10, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

      So interesting that they took so long to cook! It definitely could be that they weren’t as fresh. I have found that some batches just take a little longer. I’m so glad they were delicious! I just made a kilo of beans today actually. Thanks for the comment, Nastassia!

  46. Marissa April 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    This is WONDERFUL! I made the recipe as is. I cooked mine for about 6.5 hours, then did the 30 minute salt soak. Me (and my family) will be eating these many many more times I’m sure. I made enough to last us 1 week and I kept all the liquid. Thanks for this super easy and delish post!

  47. Rosanna May 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Black beans will only last one week frozen? I’m not sure my family of 2 can eat that many beans in one week. I hope they last longer. Looks delicious and full of flavor.

    • Lindsey Johnson May 10, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      No they last must longer when frozen – several months even. They last about one week in the fridge. We make a giant batch then separate them out into smaller containers, freeze, and then pull them out as needed. Sorry for the confusion!

  48. Brooke Pearson May 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    Thanks for such a great recipe! It completely inspired me to create my own version with a few different herbs. Check it out and let me know what you think!
    http://mycupoftea-elfinadventure.blogspot.com/2014/05/slow-cooker-black-beans.html

  49. Dru June 2, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    I’m trying to find good sources of protein other than meat to add to our diet, but we’ve NEVER been exposed to beans in our home cooking. Neither my husband nor I in our childhood or adult years have had meals with beans as a side dish. Would you say this is a good way to introduce them or should we try mixing them with other grains to incorporate (as first-timers?)

  50. James August 12, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    I’d like a bean burger recipe or recipe’s

    gracias!

  51. Danika August 29, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    Does the cooking time vary for different beans?

    • Lindsey Johnson August 29, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

      Yes, it does. But more so with kidney beans. The smaller beans all seem to cook between 3-4 hours, a little longer if they are older beans. Navy beans cook in the same amount of time as the black beans. For larger beans, add an extra hour or two on high, and 2-4 hours on low.

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