Canned beans are handy, yes, but cooking dried beans saves money, is easy, and results in beans with absolutely no added sodium.
We’re big fans of beans—they are so nutritious, so versatile, and very economical (see my other bean fan post here). But let’s face it, cooking beans from scratch (by which I mean, from their dry state), takes a lot of time. So if you’re going to do it, go big and cook at least one full bag of beans. It can seem like quite the production if you’ve never done it before, but trust me, it’s a cinch and totally worth it if you want to have beans around to cook with frequently. Plus, if you have extras, you can easily freeze cooked beans in portions for later use, which is very handy. And considering that a 1-pound bag of dried beans costs about the same as 1 can of beans, and according to the Bean Institute, a pound of dried beans yields about 6 cups of cooked beans (or roughly 3 can’s worth of beans) you can save a few bucks by cooking them at home, too.
First, a few notes about using dried beans in slow cooked recipes…
You cannot add dried beans directly to a slow cooker recipe without rehydrating them. This can be accomplished in two ways: soaking beans overnight or using the quick-soak method. After that, they can be put into a slow cooker recipe (they’ll still need quite a long time to cook to the proper texture). If you slow cooker recipe includes an acid, such as vinegar, in it, you’ll need to completely cook the beans before adding them to the recipe, since the acid will halt the softening of the beans.
Here’s how to precook dried beans in the slow cooker:
First, as always, rinse the beans and pick through them to remove any little stones or foreign matter that may have found its way into the bag of beans.
- Add the bag of beans to your slow cooker (you can even cook two bags of beans if you have a large slow cooker (6 quarts or more).
- Cover the beans with at least two inches of water.
- Cover the crock and cook the beans for 8 hours on LOW (perfect for overnight cooking).
- Drain and use beans immediately, or refrigerate or freeze beans for later use.
That’s it, you’re done.
–Kit Broihier, MS, RD, LD