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.
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.
Slow Cooker Vegan White Bean Stew
Quick and easy vegan white bean stew made in a slow cooker.
- Total Time: 4 hours 20 mins
- Yield: 10-12 servings 1x
- 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
- 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 1-1 1/2 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.
- Serve over hot cooked rice, polenta, or with bread.
- 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.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 4 hours
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: American
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
This looks delicious, Lindsey! I’m always looking for healthy slow cooker recipes!
This looks delicious, and thanks for the shout-out for Slow Cooker from Scratch!
Do you think it would work well to cut the recipe in half?
Yes! It can very easily be halved.
Yum this was so good! I made it today. I made only half the recipe and it took about 5 hours on low to cook.
I’m so glad you liked it Katie!
do you soak the beans overnight first?
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.
In the uk we don’t have anything called ‘white beans’
Are they the same as haricot beans? Could I use canned beans instead?
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!)
this was wonderful! it made SO MUCH which will be nice this week as easy meals to take to work. thanks for the recipe!
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!!
Hi Sam! A large can is 28 ounces, or about 3 cups. Let me know how you like it!
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.
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. :)
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!
Hi Danna! Oh, that makes me so, so happy! I’m ready to make a big batch this week to put in the freezer for quick lunches. I really appreciate you coming back to tell me! xo
I’m so looking forward to making these today. I have One of those tiny crockpots as there is only me in the house whole. I’m starting out with about a cup and a half of soaked beans to make later this morning. What should I reduce the spice amounts to?
I hope I didn’t ruin my meal. I just added a full Tablespoon of salt and other recipes I have looked at say only 1 teaspoon. Ugh, I don’t cook much, trying to surprise my guy. I hope it turns out okay.
Hi Tina! I know 1 Tbsp. sounds like a lot, but this recipe makes a large amount and it really doesn’t turn out salty – I promise! The typical salt to dry beans ratio is 1 Tbsp. per 1 pound of beans. If you do find it too salty, add some extra water or even veggie broth to dilute it. But I’ve honestly never had an issue with it being too salty. Hope that helps!
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!!
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!
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!
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. :)
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.
This may sound stupid, but do I saute the greens first or just put them in raw?
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! :)
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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. :)
Do you know if you could sub black eyed peas for the white beans? Thanks!
I don’t see why not! I think that would be wonderful.
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
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.
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.
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.
Do you think you could freeze before cooking?
I’ve never frozen uncooked beans before. However, if you wanted to freeze all of the other ingredients, sans beans, I think it would work out fine. The cooked stew does freeze very well though.
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.
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.
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.
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
So glad you enjoyed it! Good idea to freeze it before your baby arrives. Congrats!
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.
What kind of beans did you use, Margaret? See my reply above to Kristine. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you!
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.
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!
Wonderful, Joshua! Thanks for coming back over to tell me! It’s still one of my favorites. :) Cheers!
This soup is perfection! It was so easy to prepare, and absolutely delicious.
Sharing with a vegan friend, it’s so rich and flavorful that I know she will love it as much as we do. Thanks for a well-thought-out recipe, well done!
Thank you so much, Miki! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. It’s still, after all these years, one of my very favorites too.
So good!!! I just made this tonight and know it’s going to be one of my regular recipes. I soaked the beans for a couple of days and then finished it in the Instant Pot and it worked great! Thank you for this amazing recipe!
I am going to try this! If I wanted to put quinoa in it, would there already be enough liquid? And put it in about 30 minutes before finish? Thanks!
Hi Stacey! I think there will be enough liquid depending on how much quinoa you want to add. That’s a great idea. I think 30 minutes should probably be enough time if you’re cooking it on high. If you’re cooking on low, you may want to give it a little bit longer. Let me know how it goes!
Hello, I need to avoid tomatoes and other foods that are acidic. What can I substitute for the tomatoes?
Sorry for the late reply, Cheryl! You can leave them out if you want to. You can add diced fennel when you add the celery, carrots, and onion to the beans – it will add extra flavor. And if you want more veggies, you could also add some diced bell pepper at the beginning of cooking time.
Hi Lindsey. I decided to microwave two sweet potatoes for 10 minutes then mashed them up with butter and added the mixture to the stew, it made the stew creamy and rich. Delicious! Thank you.
Nine hours later (on HIGH)…beans are still hard! I used great northern like you suggested. Everyone else but you suggested precooking dried beans. Now I know why. :/
I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, Selina. It was probably the beans. I literally cook a batch of beans in my slow cooker every single week and I never soak them. I made this White Bean Stew just a few weeks ago exactly as it’s written here, and it cooked in 4 hours on high. It’s so hard to gauge the age or freshness of beans when you buy them. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a batch of beans that didn’t soften, and that was when I presoaked. So sometimes, as I said, it is just the beans. Not you, not the recipe. It happens.
Did you accidentally add tomatoes to the beans before the beans softened? Tomatoes prohibit beans from softening. Always cook beans to the desired texture before adding any tomato product.
My daughter is a “new” vegetarian and I’m trying to come up with more options for her. I like this idea, but can I used canned beans? If so, would I rinse them? Or would you suggest not to do that?
Hi Linda! I’m sorry for the delayed reply. My original reply did not go through. I was having some issues with being able to comment, but that seems to be fixed now. :) If you use canned beans, you can totally skip the slow cooker, if you want. The conversion I use is 4 (15-ounce) cans of beans to equal 1 pound dry beans. I have made this recipe several times with canned beans though. Reduce the liquid by A LOT. And depending on if the canned beans have salt in them or not, you’ll most likely need to add quite a bit less. And the cooking time will be different. The canned tomatoes could go in right at the beginning. The only “con” I see from using the canned beans is that the beans may disintegrate if they are cooked for a long time. So probably do LOW for 3-4 hours or HIGH for 1-2. (That’s just an estimate because different brands may cook hotter or cooler.) Hope that helps!
Hi! Wondering if you could substitute vegetable broth for the water?
Hello, Ellen! That is a great idea! I would recommend low-sodium so the beans soften. Let me know how it goes!
I had the same problem with the beans. Fortunately I made them early enough in the day that I could switch them over to my large dutch oven and cooked them on the stove top, then let them sit over night (in the fridge). Beans were perfect. Is it possible to get the serving size and the calories per serving? I’m trying to track all my meals. Thank you!
I’ve been making this for a couple of years now and the whole family loves it! Hubby adds chipotle and I sprinkle cheese on top :)
Thanks for such a wonderful recipe!
Sorry! I didn’t mean to do 3 stars, not sure how I managed that.
This was a great recipe!!! I even pureed a portion of it for my super picky kid, and she loved it. She’ll eat a smooth soup but not one with visible vegetables.
This made an enormous amount, so much that I was able to freeze 3 more meals worth from the leftovers. I thought it was pretty tasty, but to me it just lacked a little oomph. I added some Worcestershire when I reheated the leftovers, and I think that gave it what I was looking for.
Everything smells and looks fabulous so far. Have you tried adding Pastina or orzo to this recipe?
Forgot to give this 5 stars! doing so now
The soaking of beans is not to soften them, but to leach out toxins. Hard uncooked beans are poisonous, some more than others. That’s why you are supposed to soak them and toss out the water before cooking.
Hi Diane. I don’t think that’s entirely true. Soaking beans has typically been the method with the intent purpose of cutting down cooking time. Just Google it. It’s all over the place. Cooks’ Illustrated, Epicurious, and other publications have done their own testing.
Now about toxins. I’ve never been convinced about the phytic acid toxicity being a true “thing.” It’s more of one of those fringe alarmist issues that hasn’t really been corroborated by scientific studies. I know because I’ve researched it on my own many times for articles I’ve written and for my own personal knowledge.
Red kidney beans are a different story – they do have a toxin (though it’s not phytic acid, it’s called Phytohaemagglutinin or Kidney Bean Lectin). They need to be boiled at a rolling boil for at least 10-15 minutes before cooking in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. The beans can make some people sick if they are at all undercooked or raw. Cooking them well eliminates the risk. An instant pot or pressure cooker cook at a high enough temperature that will destroy the toxin.
Like I said, I’m not worried about phytic acid. I eat beans, legumes, grains, and pseudo-grains every single day and have never had an issue. You may find this video from naturopathic medical doctor Dr. Alan Christianson. And also this article from The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research.
I totally messed this recipe up and it still came out great. I used cooked beans and added the diced tomatoes in with everything else instead off waiting until the end, i cooked for 4 hours on high. Mine tastes like a minestrone type soup. I also accidentally bought the fire roasted tomatoes with roasted garlic so I omitted the garlic. Thanks! This is the first thing I have made on your site. I’m anxious to try more recipes.
This a delicious and healthy meal. I’ve made it several times and have never felt the need to change a thing. Thank you for sharing.