How To/ Tips & Hints

How To Make Beans in a Slow Cooker + Freeze Them For Future Use

How To Make Beans in a Slow Cooker + Freeze Them for Future Use

How To Make Beans in a Slow Cooker + Freeze Them for Future Use
Beans are the original vegetarian protein. Before tofu and tempeh and fancy frozen meat substitutes, there were beans.

And when it comes to beans, you pretty much have two options: dried or canned. The biggest advantage to using canned beans is that they’re convenient. But guess what? You can make dried beans that are almost as convenient as the canned ones. Yes, it’s true!

Why use dried beans?

If canned beans are less of a hassle, maybe you’re wondering why you should bother with the dried ones. Well, here are a few reasons:

  • Dried beans are much cheaper! Canned black beans are about 50 cents per serving, while dried black beans are about 17 cents per serving.
  • You can control the amount of sodium with dried beans.
  • Dried beans taste better. This one is subjective, but I think they do!
  • Canned beans often have BPA in the lining of the can.

Dried Black Beans

How To Make Beans in a Slow Cooker

I prefer cooking dried beans in a slow cooker–I think they turn out better. There’s one big potential drawback to making beans in a crockpot, though: red kidney beans contain a toxin that can cause food poisoning if they’re undercooked. (Some other varieties, like fava beans, contain this toxin too, but in smaller amounts.) By soaking the beans overnight and cooking them on high instead of low, you’ll neutralize the toxins, but you can also boil kidney beans for 10 minutes prior to putting them in the slow cooker just to be sure.

Although slow cooking dried beans takes a little bit of time and planning, it takes very little effort. Here’s what you do:

Black Beans SoakingRinse and sort through the beans. Put them in a large resealable container and cover them with plenty of water. Cover and let them sit on the countertop overnight.

Rinse Beans in ColanderDrain the beans in a colander and give them a quick rinse.

Beans in Slow CookerTransfer beans to your slow cooker. Add a few cloves of garlic, a diced onion, or a bay leaf or two if desired. (If you want to add salt, do it after the beans are finished cooking.)

Pouring Water in Slow CookerPour water over beans to cover; for a pound of beans, that’s about 6-8 cups of water. Cook on high for 8-10 hours. Smaller beans, like black beans, should be done in 8 hours, while larger beans (kidney beans, for example) might take a bit longer, up to 12 hours. Older beans also take longer to cook.

How To Freeze Beans

And this is the point where dried beans become almost as handy as the canned variety–you freeze them! Oh fine, it’s a little bit annoying to have to thaw them first, but it’s still worth that tiny bit of annoyance, right?

Beans in Tupperware ContainersAfter the beans have cooled to room temperature, use a slotted spoon to portion them out into freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. Because a lot of recipes call for cans of beans, it’s easiest to freeze in can-sized portions, which is about 1 1/2 cups. Use a ladle to cover the beans with liquid remaining in the slow cooker. If the beans aren’t covered, add a little bit of water until they are.

Beans in FreezerCover and freeze for up to 6 months. (Oh, and you can label them with my handy printable freezing labels!) Before using, thaw in the refrigerator or microwave, then drain and rinse.

What’s your favorite way to use beans?

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79 Comments

  • Reply
    Crista
    October 5, 2012 at 7:15 am

    this is such a good idea. i’m totally going to do this.

  • Reply
    SCM (SocialCafe Magazine)
    October 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Great idea. We love beans, but I always make enough just for that day. And now I’m so going to do this ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen
    October 5, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Okay that’s it….I need to get myself a slow cooker!

  • Reply
    Mary
    October 6, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Will try this as I use a lot of black beans for soups, do you have recommendataions for pinto and garbonzo beans? I worry a little about the kidney beans and toxins, I did not know this. But, ok if I follow your directions? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      October 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      Pinto and garbanzo beans will work in the slow cooker too; garbanzo beans will take a little more time. With kidney beans, according to the FDA website, if you soak them for at least 5 hours, drain and rinse, and then boil for 10 minutes before cooking, the beans are safe to eat.

  • Reply
    Shirley
    October 16, 2012 at 12:12 am

    I didn’t know that bit about the toxin! Scary. I like making dried beans, but 8 out of 10 times I haven’t planned far enough in advance and reach for a can.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      October 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Yeah, I had no idea that you could get food poisoning from kidney beans!

  • Reply
    Amanda
    October 17, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Dear Lord the toxins! I have some frozen kidney beans in the freezer as we speak…I am going to toss them and start again! I had no idea. I love freezing beans, tomorrow I am going to try black eyed peas.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      October 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      No, they might be fine! How did you cook them? If you cooked them right, they’re probably okay. But if you slow-cooked them on low heat without boiling them first, then you could have an issue…

  • Reply
    Kayla H
    January 18, 2013 at 10:27 am

    So glad I read this! A friend of mine got food poisoning from a boxed mix with dry beans in it. I had never heard that of happening before and thought that maybe she had added some meat to it. Now, after reading this, I know that she probably didn’t add any meat and that she probably got sick from the beans. Thanks so much for this info. I am excited about saving money cooking and freezing dry beans :).

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      January 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Very scary! I had no idea that kidney could cause food poisoning either until recently–I don’t think a lot of people do!

  • Reply
    Alice
    January 20, 2013 at 12:15 am

    I like fava beans. Should I boil them for 10 min. like kidney beans before slow cooking them?

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      January 21, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Red kidney beans have the highest concentration of the toxin, but you can boil other beans before slow cooking just to be on the safe side.

  • Reply
    Ashlie
    January 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I dont have a slow cooker but I tried to make some beans before I saw your website.

    I soaked the kidney beans overnight (I guess I didnt give them enough water cause there was none left this morning) and then I put them in a pot and boiled them (for maybe 20 minutes cause I forgot them) and then let them simmer on med low heat for roughly 2-3 hours. Do you think they are safe to eat?

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      January 28, 2013 at 9:03 am

      Yes, it’s the boiling that neutralizes the toxin, so you should be fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    jacquie
    May 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    If i cook black beans, borlotti, white beans, and cannelli beans in slow cooker after soaking overnight, is this safe?
    I know kidney beans need pre boiling, but not sure re the rest. My favourite being black beans.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      May 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      I think cannellini beans are a type of kidney beans. I’m not sure if they have the toxin that red kidney beans have, but it never hurts to boil them first just in case.

  • Reply
    J D Williams
    May 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Kidney beans — quite lazy as bachelor — dried kidney beans not pre-soaked, nor precooked, in pot top of stove, add can of chicken broth with water to cover — use recipe from Joy of Cooking 1957 edition – lots of butter, pepper, salt, thyme, onions, garlic if like, small pinch of cloves which gives the poor beans quite a lovely kick! Fare thee well! Using for 40 or so years no adverse effects!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      May 16, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      Sounds like a delicious, easy meal! When kidney beans hit a certain temperature, the toxin is cooked off, so cooking on the stove usually isn’t a problem. It’s slow cookers, which cook at a lower temperature, that cause the food poisoning issue.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    June 1, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Have you tried them in the slow cooker without soaking them? I have some dried chickpeas I was hoping to use tomorrow, but I might just have to cook them on the stove pot. I was hoping to just put them in the crockpot and forget about them!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      June 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      I haven’t tried making beans in a crockpot without pre-soaking them. I’ve done it on the stove and wasn’t happy with the results, so I’ve never bothered to try it in the slow cooker…

  • Reply
    CJ
    June 25, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Thanks for the info. I bought a slow cooker and have made a few batches of beans. I am vegetarian and eat a lot of beans, black beans being my fav. Ok, so heres my question. In canned beans you have the delicious thick black bean juice. on the ingredients on the can is says water and black beans. period. No other preservatives or additives (they are organic beans).
    So i tried to emulate that with my own bean creation in the slow cooker. After a few days it smelled like a dead carcass in my house. The beans lasted maybe 3 days and went rancid. So now i know not to save the water you cook beans in…to always rinse after cooking…is this correct?
    I am a male and I am a virgin with slow cookers, so help me out here LOL!
    Can someone please give me a rundown of slow cooker rules or direct me to a good website.
    Thanks in advance

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      June 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      If you freeze the beans in the liquid after cooking them, they’ll last much longer vs. refrigerating them. I think your issue wasn’t that you’re saving the cooking liquid, it was that you were keeping the beans too long in the refrigerator.

  • Reply
    John Simms
    August 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    They’re cheap and good for you!

  • Reply
    RH
    February 20, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Great info! How long after beans have been soaked can you wait before boiling/slow cooking? And do they need to be refrigerated? Thank you!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 10:44 am

      After you’ve drained the beans, you need to cook them, otherwise they’ll start to dry out again. Once the beans are finished cooking, they do need to be refrigerated.

  • Reply
    Desirรฉe
    May 13, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    I am just wondering, do you get rid of the onions after they’re cooked?

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      May 14, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Since the onion is diced, it would be hard to pick them out of the beans! If you’re not a fan of onions, I would just omit them altogether.

      • Reply
        Desirรฉe
        May 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm

        I do like them but most of my meals with black beans call for varying amounts of onions. Leaving them out would be just fine?

        • Reply
          Kiersten Frase
          May 20, 2014 at 12:13 pm

          Yes, leaving them out will be fine!

        • Reply
          Cindy
          July 26, 2016 at 8:34 pm

          This is an old post, but I quarter my onion, and leave garlic cloves whole, when adding them to dried beans. When they are done cooking, I can just remove the onion and garlic, if desired.

  • Reply
    Rinna
    June 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

    This is great. I usually spend a weekend with my stove covered in soaking beans one night then cooking the beans the next day to freeze. Americas Test Kitchen suggests soaking in brine (salted water) rinsing VERY well and cooking in fresh water. Having soaked in both fresh and salted water, I find that the salt water soak helps the beans cook faster. I usually freeze without the liquid in a gallon ziplock and the beans are perfect for chili. I can’t wait to try out my new crockpot for cooking the beans. I can probably get way more done and won’t have a full stove of beans for a whole weekend. Thanks for sharing!

    Also – I often use my beans in chili. Do you think it would work to put the soaked beans in the crockpot and cook directly in the chili recipe instead of 2 steps of water then chili? I’m concerned that if I slow cook both then the beans will be overcooked and fall apart (which has happened to me before on stovetop)

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      June 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks for the tip about the salted water! I’ll have to try that. As for the chili, I’m not sure. I attempted to do a chili like that last winter and I couldn’t get the beans to soften. After researching it, I found some people saying that the acid in tomatoes prevents the beans from becoming tender if you try to cook them with chili. That said, I had soaked my beans in regular water; maybe your method, with soaking the beans in salted water, would be different. If you give it a try, let me know how it works out!

    • Reply
      Cindy
      July 26, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Just stir the cooked beans into your chili during the last 15-30 minutes of cooking. They will be heated through, and you won’t even know that they didn’t cook in the chili.

  • Reply
    Trisha
    January 17, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Hey Kiersten,
    Thanks for the feedback on the red kidney beans. I prefer to soak my own because I agree that they do indeed taste much better! Especially…chickpeas!
    When I soak my own/cook, they tend to split apart, lose color, and not that it should matter, look ugly..LOL.
    But when you buy a can of pre-cooked beans they look perfect. What do you think may cause this?
    Could I be overcooking the beans or soaking them too long?

    Thanks,
    Trisha

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      January 23, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      I think cooking them low and slow helps prevent the beans from breaking apart. If you find that happening often when you make them, I’d cook them a little less next time–it could be that your slow cooker runs a little hot. But I do notice that there are always some casualties. I think that’s inevitable!

  • Reply
    Lita Watson
    June 18, 2017 at 9:45 am

    I think that using microwave to thaw the frozen baked beans isn’t a good idea. Since sudden changes in temperature can affect the overall quality of the dish.

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