If you are going to get serious about vegetarian cooking, you will be using a lot of beans. That’s also why knowing how to cook dried beans in a crockpot is so handy. Buying beans in a can is not only more expensive, but storing canned beans requires considerably more space – canned beans take up more than twice the amount of space as dry beans. Not too mention, constantly cleaning all those empty bean cans for my recycling bin is something I certainly don’t want to do.
The only thing that canned beans have going for them is convenience. The problem with using dried beans is that you have to cook them ahead of time. Traditionally, that was a bit of a task. First, you had to soak the beans overnight, then cook them for 1-2 hours in a pot. Frankly, who has time for that on a weekday?
No one. That’s who.
Good thing you don’t have to have time for all of that, because you can cook beans in a crockpot and it takes about 2 mins to set it up. No pre-soaking required.
Step 1: Get out your crockpot.
Any crockpot will do. I have a little 2.5 quart one that I inherited from a friend. In my opinion it is the perfect size for dried bean cooking. It holds the equivalent of two cans of beans, which is more than
sufficient for most vegetarian recipes.
Step 2: Measure out your beans.
Check how many beans your recipe calls for:
1 cup dried = 2 cups cooked = 1 can
Step 3: Add water.
You need to add about 3x the amount of water as beans, which for me normally means adding 6 cups of water. Basically, I fill up my crockpot to about 2 inches from the top.
Step 4: Set it to “Low” and walk away.
Yep. It’s that easy.
8 hours later you will have perfectly cooked beans for your favourite veggie recipe.
Tricks of the Trade:
Not all beans are created equal when it comes to cooking time. Black beans cook very quickly. You can put them on high for 3-4 hours and they will be done. Chickpeas and pinto beans cook a little slower, they will take about 4-6 hours on high. So, if you happen to be at home during the day, you can throw your beans in around noon and still have them ready for dinner.
Lastly, I actually prefer cooking my own beans rather than buying canned because it allows me to customize the softness of the beans. Many of the recipes I use are actually much easier to make if the beans are slightly overcooked (e.g., Falafels and Chickpea Sloppy Joes). On the days that I know I will be making those recipes, I simply cook the beans a little longer (like overnight instead of while I’m at work) or turn them up to high for 30 mins – 1 hour at the end.
**PLEASE NOTE: It is NOT advisable to cook kidney beans using this method. Kidney beans contain the high levels of a substance called phytohaemagglutinin, which is toxic and causes severe food poising systems when ingested. Unfortunately, cooking kidney beans in the crockpot actually increases their levels of phytohaemagglutinnin. Not good. So, looks like you have to cook them the old-fashioned way!**