Slow Cooker Vegan White Bean Stew

slow cooker vegan white bean stew

Before we indulged in our decadent dessert on Sunday night, we enjoyed a very healthy vegan white bean stew that I made in my slow cooker. Slow cooking is such a great way for me to save time (and money) and still make healthy meals for my family. I’m a big fan of making a big pot of soup on the weekend that will serve as my lunches for the coming week.

We’ve cut down on meat and poultry over the last two or three years, and I’m ready to branch out from all the beans I cook. (I’m sure I will still make a pot once a week because we really do love them.) So watch for more slow cooker recipes to come as I get creative with it. My mind is swirling with all sort of ideas for healthy meals I want to try to convert to using my slow cooker.

In the meantime, Kalyn’s Slow Cooker From Scratch is a great repository of fantastic slow cooker recipes.  (I can’t wait to make her Indian-Spiced Slow Cooker Red Lentil Soup with Spinach and Coconut Milk.)  I know this is going to be fun!

This stew is really flavorful.  I used a variation on my Slow Cooker Black Beans to make the white beans.  I’m telling you–add aromatics when you cook dry beans it they will have so much more flavor.  It’s impossible to go wrong when you start with flavorful beans as a base for a soup or stew.  For this I started with diced carrots, celery, onions, fresh garlic and dried herbs.  I used larger white beans so they took a little longer to cook than black beans or smaller white navy beans.  Keep that in mind if you use a different kind of bean.  Another big flavor boost comes from the canned tomatoes.  I used my favorite Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes.

Update 09/02/14 – NOTE: The recipe does call for 2 Tablespoon of salt. I use a ratio of 1 Tablespoon per pound of dry beans. It sounds like a lot of salt, but by the time the beans absorb some and the rest is in the cooking liquid, and the vegetables are added in, it’s about right. You can start with less – 1 Tablespoon – and add more at the end.

Update 01/21/15 – This recipe is perfect for a 6-quart slow cooker. If you have a smaller one, halve the ingredients.

Update 01/12/16 – I’ve updated the cooking time in the recipe directions to reflect different beans or slow cookers used. Please note that not all beans cook the same every single time. If the beans are old, they may never soften despite extra long cooking times. (There’s no good way to know if the beans are old or not, unfortunately. Try to buy them from somewhere with a high turnover rate of ingredients like dried beans.) Also, soaking the beans overnight or for several hours may or may not lessen cooking time. I’ve never personally found pre-soaking to be of much consequence, which is why I prefer using the slow cooker to the stovetop when cooking dried beans. I’ve tried both ways many times over many years and this way always works for me. 

3.8 from 4 reviews
Slow Cooker Vegan White Bean Stew
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12 servings
Quick and easy vegan white bean stew made in a slow cooker.
  • 2 pounds white beans (see note below)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 large celery stalks, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. each: dried rosemary, thyme, oregano
  • 10-12 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. salt (according to taste, can start with 1 Tablespoon and add more at end if needed)
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted)
  • 5-6 cups (or more) roughly chopped leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale)
  • Rice, polenta, or bread for serving
  1. Sort through and rinse beans several times in cool water. Add to the slow cooker along with the diced carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaf and dried herbs. Add the water. (Use less for a thicker stew, more for more of a soup.) Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or LOW for 8-10 hours. Remove lid from slow cooker and add the salt and pepper, and diced tomatoes. Let cook for another 1-1½ hours, or until beans are very soft. (If they are already soft after the initial cooking time, different kinds of beans may vary in cooking time, then add the tomatoes and greens and serve immediately.) Before serving, stir in the chopped greens.
  2. Serve over hot cooked rice, polenta, or with bread.
  3. Makes a lot--enough for at least 10-12 servings. Freeze half for later or invite friends over.
Cooking times may vary. Type of beans used, as well as the age of the beans, may require longer cooking times. I typically use Great Northern Beans and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Navy beans will take a little less time. Cannellini beans (white kidney beans) will take even longer because they are much larger.

We like beans with rice almost always, but I’ve also served similar stews served over polenta.  But there is still something comforting about spooning up a big ladle full of flavorful stew chock full of healthy veggies and eating it with rice.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Other tasty recipes using white beans:
Heirloom Verdina Bean Salad
White Beans with Carrot and Radish Top Gremolata and Pan-Roasted Veggies
Quick Roasted Chicken and White Beans
Provencal Winter Squash with White Beans
Mushroom White Bean Tostada from Dine and Dish
White Bean Dip from David Lebovitz
Farro and Kale Salad with White Beans and Sun-Dried Tomatoes from The Perfect Pantry
Vegetable Soup with Pesto Gruyere Toasts from me for Petit Elefant
Creamy White Bean and Kale Risotto-Style Stew from Food Nouveau

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  1. Hi Laura!

    No need to soak the beans first. I have found it doesn’t make much of a difference in the cooking time, so I stopped doing it. Feel free to do it if that’s your preference. It certainly won’t alter the recipe other than the beans may cook a tiny bit faster.

    1. Hi Lindsey
      In the uk we don’t have anything called ‘white beans’
      Are they the same as haricot beans? Could I use canned beans instead?


      1. Hi Hazel! Yes, they are the same as haricot beans. Canned would work fine, just be sure to reduce the water by quite a lot since the beans won’t be soaking up all the liquid. (You probably already knew that!)

  2. this was wonderful! it made SO MUCH which will be nice this week as easy meals to take to work. thanks for the recipe!

  3. Hi Lindsey! This looks SO delicious. I can’t wait to make it! I’m wondering how many ounces the “large” can of diced tomatoes that you used was. Thank you!!

  4. Made this stew last night and it was a huge hit with my family. Used kale as the greens in my inaugural attempt at this recipe and it was delicious. And it made enough that I have a lot left over for this week. One question: is 2 Tablespoons of salt correct? Just want to make sure. Thank you for this recipe, it will become a staple.

    1. Hi Danna! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it really is 2 Tablespoons of salt. One tablespoon per 1 pound of dry beans is the ratio I use whenever I cook beans in the slow cooker. If that was too salty for your taste, you can definitely use less. I’ll go back up into the recipe and add a note. :)

      1. Thanks for your suggestion about the salt, Lindsey. This recipe is so delicious. In the last 3 weeks I’ve made it twice with kale and once with spinach. The love the aroma that fills the house during the last two hours of cooking. This stew is 5+ stars!

  5. Hi! I am going to make this recipe this coming week. If I wanted to make it a little heartier, would it be an okay idea to add a bunch of cut-up small red potatoes to this mix? If so, how many do you think I could/should add? Would there be enough room for the addition of potatoes? Or would I have to reduce the amounts of other ingredients? I have a 4 quart slow cooker. :) Thanks!!

    1. Hi Tiffany! I think adding potatoes would be great. The slow cooker I use is a 6 quart, so I’m thinking you would probably want to use 1 lb. of beans and 5-6 cups water. Red potatoes hold up a bit better during cooking, but I’m afraid after the long cooking time, they might turn to mush. So, probably add those about an hour before the end of cooking time for HIGH and 2-3 hours for LOW. Or you could cook them separately and add at the end. OR you could try adding them at the beginning and see how it goes. :) You could probably add .5 to 1 lb. of potatoes. But this is all just kind of a guess because I haven’t done that before. I just would make sure that you leave 1/3 of the room at the top in your slow cooker for the expansion of the beans as they cook. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Thank you for your reply! All of that is very helpful. If I may ask, what brand/model crock-pot do you use? I have been considering upgrading to a larger size, and am curious as to what you use. Shopping around, I have had trouble deciding for various reasons. Thanks!

      2. I wish I had read this comment sooner! I have a 4-quart and had no room left to add the tomatoes or greens so I had to switch to a large pot on the stove at that step. Still tastes delicious!! I might just add in the recipe that you will need a 6-quart crockpot. :)

  6. I ended up boiling the red-skinned potatoes (a bag of them, quartered) separately, and then after draining the potatoes, I returned them to their large pot, and poured the finished stew from the crockpot, over the top of the potatoes in the pot. Then I added the chopped spinach, mixed it all up, and served it right out of the pot, with cornbread muffins (made with almond milk) on the side! I also added chili powder to taste to the crockpot, along with the other herbs/spices. This turned out great! It made a ton at the onset, but by adding the red skinned potatoes, I was able to stretch it even farther! Thanks again for this great recipe. It was a hit, and I’ll make it again and again. I just need to get a 6-7 qt. crockpot. I pushed mine to the brink today and then some, and that was even after reducing the water in the recipe to only 9 cups! lol :) It came out thick and hearty though, with a great sauce and texture.

    1. Not stupid at all, Lauren! I don’t sauté first because the heat of the stew will wilt the greens nicely. If you find that kale or chard are tough rather than tender, you might want to sauté them first. But you don’t really need to. Especially not for the spinach – I initially used to use spinach the most and if it were to be sautéed first, I think it would become gummy. Great question! :)

  7. This looks delish! I am going to try it next week and am wondering, do you think it’ll still turn out if i put the tomatoes in at the beginning? I would be leaving this to cook while at work, so putting them in an hr before the end isn’t an option.

    1. Hi Laura! That’s a great question. I think you can definitely add it in the beginning, you may want to add a little less water if the slow cooker is looking too full. The only adverse effect would be that the beans may stay a little firmer than if they were cooked without the tomatoes. The acid and salt can sometimes prevent them from cooking softer. But after the long cooking time, it may not matter too much anyway. Let me know how it goes!

  8. I tried this recipe and it wasn’t up to my taste. I halved the recipe and it was still too much for my 6-quart slow cooker. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I used the full amount listed. Overall, I’m glad I tried it, but do not plan on making it again.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I’m really curious why it didn’t work out for you in the 6-quart slow cooker. We make it all the time without any trouble at all. Sorry it wasn’t to your liking!

  9. Curious – do you use dried or canned beans? I plan on making this soon, but two pounds of dried beans seems like a lot of beans.

    1. Hi Rebecca, I use dried beans. And 2 pounds is a lot, but this recipe makes A TON of stew. You can totally half the recipe for a smaller amount. I like making the full amount because we like eating it for a week between the five of us. :)

  10. This would be a great cook once eat twice recipe. I’d save half, add more chopped vegetables and cover with mashed cauliflower then bake to make bean shepherd

  11. Thank you so much for the recipe. I help feed a less fortunate group of people, usually 75 to 100. So, I’m going to TRY to incorporate it into a large roaster cooker and make some hearty stew for the group! I always need new ideas.

  12. Made this for our 15 yr old recently turned vegetarian daughter and it was a huge hit. Super yummy. I was concerned about it fitting in the crock pot (we used 10 c of water) but once it cooked it wasn’t a problem. So yummy! Thank you, we’ll make this again.

  13. This was incredible! I was stunned, since it was so simple. I never bothered with the tomatoes because it was already so good, so I saved them for another time. The only change I made, was I added about a ½ tsp of curry because I love it, and add it to nearly everything.

    My husband said this tasted like a party of flavour on his tongue.

    Thank you so much for what is now a new staple for us.

  14. Hi, I am curious to try this but had a quick question – is there a way I could cook this on the low setting instead of the high so I can put it up before work and have it on all day? I’m new to my crock pot so I’m not sure if some kind of conversion exists between high and low settings.

  15. Didn’t come out too great. I think the beans should have been pre soaked for at least an hour. I had this going ten hours and it’s really still not acceptable. I think it’s got potential but this is the first time my kids didn’t ask for seconds. Just thought I’d let you know.

    1. Hi Kristine! Thanks for popping back over to leave your feedback. I’m sorry the recipe didn’t turn out for you. I’ve literally made this dozens of times and I’ve never had it not work, and I never soak the beans first. I read an article awhile back that supports what I’ve found to be true. If the beans never softened even after a long cooking time, the truth is that they were probably old beans. It’s so hard to know how long dry beans are on the shelf or in the bin before being bought. I’ve only ever, in over a decade of cooking beans from scratch several times a week, had one, maybe two batches of beans not soften. You didn’t say whether or not you cooked the stew on low or high. If you cooked them on high for that long, it’s definitely not the recipe or anything you did. It’s the beans. Soaking would not help that, unfortunately. If it was low, then they may have benefitted from more cooking. I typically cook this stew (and other bean recipes) on high, so maybe that’s an issue I haven’t often run into? I can’t say for sure. In any case, I am sorry it didn’t work out for you. It remains one of the most popular recipes we use regularly in our family – I made it again this week, actually! And it’s one of the most popular on my blog. My point is – it’s not you, and I don’t think it’s the recipe, it’s probably the beans. One last thing – larger white beans can take longer to cook than smaller ones. Depending on which ones you used, that could also be a factor. I’ve used heirloom beans to make this, too, and they stayed on the firmer side. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate knowing how a recipe turned out, even if it wasn’t successful.

  16. I’ve been eating vegetarian/vegan for 8 years. I made this stew today and it tastes incredible! I rarely choose these seasonings when I cook, but I’m glad I trusted the recipe! I found it took maybe 8 hours on high and I was worried the beans would never get soft, but they did eventually and it’s great. I’m freezing all of this for when my baby is born next week…well maybe after a couple more bowls. :) thank you for the recipe

    1. Exact same problem here 7 hours in. I followed the recipe to a tee so am not sure why the beans haven’t cooked fully. These are great ingredients together though, otherwise.

  17. I get all of my dried beans from the Rancho Gordo website. *Fresh, fresh, fresh* favorite varieties and even heirloom and Old World varieties. They are sometimes sold out of the favorites like Ojo de Cabra and Good Mother Stallard, just keep checking back – those two are literally the best beans I’ve ever made! I always forget to pre-soak and they still cook in about 5 hours.

  18. My girlfriend and I have been looking for healthy, vegetarian recipes recently and were VERY happy with this one. We added about 50% more of each herb, and it was outstanding. We will for sure be making it again!

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