How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch

Either in a Slow Cooker or Slow-Cooked in the Oven

How to transform economical dried beans into soft, delicious cooked beans. All it takes is some beans (like navy beans, cannellini, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc) plus an onion, a smidgen of fat and salt plus three or four hours of mostly hands-off time. Seriously, that's it! It couldn't be easier! Or the results more delicious! And oh my, everyone, that broth ...

How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch Mexican-Style in a Slow Cooker or Slow-Cooked in the Oven ♥, easy, healthy and delicious.

Whole Food, Fresh & Comforting. Hearty & Filling. Year-Round Kitchen Staple. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Great for Meal Prep. Easy DIY. Low Fat. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free.

If you're used to canned beans, you already know how convenient they are. And inexpensive! And handy to keep on hand!

Design types may fantasize about moody-colored pantries with woven baskets and glistening glass jars all lined up and Pinterest pretty.

My dream-come-true is a dedicated metal shelf in the basement that's four-cans deep with canned beans (black, red, cannellini, kidney, butter, navy, chickpeas of course) all in an row ... the goal is to never run out!

Pinterest vs Practical? To each their own? Of course!

But the point is, I l-o-v-e canned beans and make special room to keep them handy!

And at the very same time, I l-o-v-e homemade cooked beans even more, they're incredibly good.

And good news, it's really easy to cook dried beans from scratch! I usually make a double or triple batch and then freeze the beans in the equivalent sizes of a standard 15-ounce can. Meal prep for the win!

Whether the cooked beans are intended for a side dish; as an "under" dish instead of rice or pasta; a substitute for canned beans in soups and stews; or just eaten with pleasure, one spoonful at a time – I do hope you'll try the nothing-like-canned taste of home-cooked dried beans.

So round up a bag of beans and let's cook 'em!

But First, A Proposition.

You'll consider a small wager, right? Here it is.

You give me $1.25. Then you take a long nap. And after 3 or 4 hours, I'll give you $5 back.

That's some return! And about that easy. And healthy. And tastes so-so good.

Okay so yeah, I'm talking about cooking the humble dried bean. Black beans. White beans,. Red beans. Navy beans. Kidney beans. Chickpeas. Even the very pretty mix of beans and lentils in "Ham Beenz".

I'm not saying anyone should give up canned beans. Canned beans are one of the most economical convenience foods.

But if you really want to save money on groceries? Cooking dried beans from scratch is a low-effort, high-return proposition.

What's that math again? FYI updated with new numbers in 2023.

  • You can buy a pound of dried beans for about $1 per pound.
  • A pound of dried beans will yield about 6 cups of cooked beans, the equivalent of about 4 15-ounce cans.
  • A can of beans goes for about $1.25, that's $5 for four cans.
  • That $1.25 investment (plus some onion, a little fat and salt and time and electricity, of course) pays $5 back in value.
Different varieties of beans, for How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch Mexican-Style in a Slow Cooker or Slow-Cooked in the Oven ♥, easy, healthy and delicious.

Back to Basics: What, Exactly, Are Dried Beans?

Who's eaten baked beans? Everybody, right? Well, before they were cooked, those beans were dried beans. Who's eaten hummus? Everybody, right? Well, before it was puréed with tahini, garlic and other flavors, that hummus started off as dried chickpeas.

Who's noticed that I'm not mentioning fresh green beans? That's on purpose, even though our language is so imprecise, in common parlance, arrgh, they're both called "beans".

Beans are an ancient source of sustenance in nearly all cultures and were one of the first foods to be domesticated. In the U.S., they're the only food to be designated as both a protein and a vegetable!

Beans are the dried seed of certain legumes. In some places, they're called "pulses". Varieties you may know are kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, fava beans, garbanzo beans aka chickpeas,

While you can find the most popular varieties of dried beans in bags and boxes at grocery stores but for heirloom beans and an eye-crossing number of varieties, watch your farmers market for local growers. A famous source for dried beans is Rancho Gordo. Beans are usually packaged just one variety at a time but some companies mix different varieties, they're especially pretty to cook.

To be eaten, dried beans require cooking, usually in a liquid like water or stock. Some cooks like to simmer beans for a long while on the stove but I prefer slow cooking, either in a slow cooker/crockpot or slow-cooking in the oven.

Bean cooking inspires great controversy, whether or not to soak beans before cooking; whether or not to salt beans as they soak and whether or not to salt beans before or after cooking; whether beans cause flatulence. You see? Hot topics!

SOURCES: Personal knowledge and Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes (affiliate link) by Joe Yonan, food and dining editor of the Washington Post.

Hands presenting different varieties of beans, for How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch Mexican-Style in a Slow Cooker or Slow-Cooked in the Oven ♥, easy, healthy and delicious.

Home-Cooked Beans vs Canned Beans

But cooking beans at home is more than just saving money. Just look at a few other benefits.

  • The fact is, home-cooked beans taste better. I could eat the whole pot!
  • The skins are more tender, making the beans easier to chew and digest.
  • The cooking broth is just delicious, not that salty stuff we rinse off canned beans.
  • It takes less effort to carry in a pound of dried beans than four pounds of canned beans. If you're the one carrying groceries, you'll appreciate this!

On the flip side ...

  • It's easier to buy four different kinds/colors of canned beans if that's what you need.
  • Canned beans have long shelf lives, dried beans are more perishable.
  • Canned beans are ready at the drop of a hat, no planning required.

Just so you know. No way Jose, I'm not suggesting anyone give up canned beans.

But I am making the case for adding slow cooker and/or slow-cooked beans to your repertoire and keeping a pound's worth or two or three in the freezer.

Ready to start cooking?!

One Quick Tip: Why Dried Beans Won't Cook ♥, the reason why dried beans some times won't cook, how to avoid it.

But First ... Are Your Beans Old?

The number one mistake with dried beans is attempting to cook with old beans.

It's so easy to happen. Don't we all stock up on bags of dried beans but then never get around to cooking them? Soon it's been a few months, even a year or two or three. Don't be afraid to admit it, we've all done it and your intentions were good ...

But old dried beans just won't cook. Here are all the details, Why Dried Beans Won't Cook.

What's In Home-Cooked Dried Beans? Just Four Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. Usually I'm a big fan of substitutes, in this case, I recommend sticking with the recipe, it just works.

The Beans You'll find a veritable rainbow of dried beans at the grocery store. In the U.S., anyway, they're usually sold in one- and two-pound bags usually found near the canned beans. (Although not always! For awhile, my usual Walmart shelved dried beans in a "Mexican" section a few aisles over from the canned beans. This was crazy! Nobody but nobody could find the dried beans!) Some stores sell dried beans in bulk.

I've cooked dried beans like this for so long, more than 15 years, that I've lost track of all the different kinds of beans that work really well. My favorites are black beans, navy beans and pinto beans.

If you're cooking chickpeas for hummus, let me suggest choosing another recipe, see How to Cook Dried Chickpeas Especially for Hummus aka "Jerusalem Chickpeas".

Since the start of the pandemic, it does seem as if people are cooking more beans. In my stores, that means that there might only be one or two kinds of beans left on the shelf and that while once the stores tried to stock six or eight different kinds, now, not so much.

So while I don't recommend "stocking up" on dried beans when you find them, that's because they really do need to be used within a few months, I do recommend checking that shelf and buying a bag or two of your own favorite beans whenever you find them.

I also really like the bags of 15-bean soup beans from Hurst's HamBeenz. The beans are more expensive (and you'll toss the spice packet) but the color, size and texture variation is quite nice. And they do make great soup! See 15-Bean Soup!

Onion A white onion adds a small bite but yellow or even red onions work great as well. Dice the onion small, then it melts into the liquid, creating creaminess without actual cream. The same trick works with these two favorite soups, Quick Cauliflower Soup or Quick Broccoli Soup.

Fat Just one tablespoon makes all the difference, taste- and texture-wise. Use a plant-based oil for vegan cooked beans or just a spoonful of butter or bacon fat.

Salt Getting the salt right is so important! But it might be the hardest thing to accomplish.

First, taste for salt varies. Some people are simply used to less (or more) salt. I think this is especially true for beans since canned beans are notoriously high in sodium.

Second, health needs vary. Some people actively opt to reduce sodium; others don't worry about sodium because their reliance on from-scratch cooking is already low-sodium.

Third, salts vary in the shape of their grains, which means that, measured by volume, a teaspoon of table salt is "saltier" than a teaspoon of sea salt because a teaspoon of small grains literally contains more salt than a teaspoon of larger or rougher grains!

All this said, over the years, for my taste, for my sodium sensitivity, I've settled on 2 teaspoons of Morton's kosher salt per half pound of dried beans ... but also suggest tasting the beans after they're cooked, adding more salt as needed to your own taste. If you use a small-grained sea salt, I'd still start off with 2 teaspoons. If you use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, you'll use a bit more than 2 teaspoons. If you use table salt, I'd start with 1 teaspoon.

I told you this was kinda hard!

FYI this same salt discussion applies to every single recipe that calls for salt. It helps to settle on one or two salts to lean on in your kitchen, then to pay attention to how things taste to you and to keep notes.

Kidney beans in a bowl, for How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch Mexican-Style in a Slow Cooker or Slow-Cooked in the Oven ♥, easy, healthy and delicious.

How to Cook Dried Beans

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in three easy steps. You can definitely do this!

  • DECIDE whether to cook in a slow cooker or in the oven, then combine all the ingredients in either an oven-safe pot or the slow cooker.
  • COOK THE BEANS UNTIL DONE on High for about 4 hours in a slow cooker or at 250F/120C for about 3 hours in the oven.
  • CHECK for DONENESS EVERY HOUR especially when cooking dried beans from scratch for the first time. Pay attention, you'll learn a lot about how things work in your own environment, especially with your own slow cooker since different units perform so differently.

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How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If a simple recipe for cooking dried beans inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch Mexican-Style in a Slow Cooker or Slow-Cooked in the Oven ♥, easy, healthy and delicious.

in a Slow Cooker or Slow-Cooked in the Oven

Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time-to-table: 3 - 4 hours
Makes about 3 cups cooked beans, easy to double

Red kidney beans may be cooked in a slow cooker or slow-cooked in the oven but must first be boiled for at least 10 minutes beforehand. Why? Red kidney beans contain a compound that can cause great intestinal distress if it's not properly cooked. This is a little-known fact, spread the word, especially as more and more of us are cooking beans at home. It came up in a food blogger group recently and 99% of us were shocked. Source: Kansas State Extension Service.
  • 8 ounces (225g) dried beans (black beans, navy beans, cannelini, etc.)
  • 1 white (or yellow or even red) onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon fat (vegetable oil for vegan, otherwise bacon fat or butter)
  • 5 cups hot water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

PREP Rinse the beans well under running water using a colander or strainer. With your fingers, pick through the beans just a bit, keeping an eye out for small stones, shriveled beans, etc. Yes, it happens!

FOR THE SLOW COOKER (4 HOURS) Place the beans and remaining ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on High for about 4 hours or until the beans are fully cooked and the broth is slightly creamy and, well, brothy, stirring and checking for doneness every hour. (Once you figure out timing in your own slow cooker, there's no need to stir and check.) Once done, if there's more broth than you want, remove the lid and let cook down, checking often, then taste and adjust the salt. If you like, reduce the heat to Low to keep warm until ready to serve, adding water if needed.

FOR SLOW COOKING IN THE OVEN (3 HOURS) Set the oven to 250F/120C. Place the beans and remaining ingredients in a pot or Dutch oven or bean pot and cook for about 3 hours or until the beans are fully cooked and the broth is slightly creamy and, well, brothy, stirring and checking for doneness every hour.

TO SERVE The beans are delicious as is, either hot or cold. I also like to substitute my own beans whenever canned beans are called for in soups, stews, etc.

TO SUBSTITUTE FOR CANNED BEANS It helps to be strategic when packing the beans into containers. Use a slotted spoon to lift out the beans and divide into containers, then scoop out the cooking liquid to cover the beans. Here, I use two-cup freezer-friendly containers (from a Rubbermaid set from Sam's Club) and fill with 271 grams of beans (about 1-1/2 cups by volume), that's the equivalent of a 15-ounce can of beans after draining, then divide up the cooking liquid equally. One container may come out short, that's your lunch!

TO FREEZE To avoid freezer burn, place a double layer of wax paper on top of the beans/broth, touching the surface, then put the lid on and burp the lid to remove the air inside. Label the container. Use within a few months.

ALANNA's TIPS Who noticed?! There's no need to soak the beans overnight, there's no need to soak the beans at all. That said, if you prefer to soak the beans overnight, go ahead, in fact, I go back and forth, some times soaking ahead of time or sometimes not. Be aware, the cooking time will likely shorten so start checking after the first hour in the slow cooker. I keep learning the hard way how much temperature variation there is among different slow cookers. For years, I successfully cooked these beans again and again for 4 hours on high, perfectly cooked every time. Unfortunately that slow cooker died. I have now purchased four new slow cookers, trying to find one I like that works. In one recent batch, the beans never cooked at all (that slow cooker is defective and has been returned). In another, the beans cooked in about 8 hours although with much excess liquid, it's usually absorbed into the beans and leaves a light, creamy sauce. (That said? It's not always the slow cooker's fault, Why Dried Beans Won't Cook.) When the beans cook properly, they are fabulous but I would advise caution until you know how your own slow cooker will perform. If you bought dried beans and bulk and find yourself with more/less than 8 ounces of dried beans, not to worry. If you're just a couple of ounces off, just stick with the recipe as is. If you're under 6 ounces or over 10 ounces, just scale the onion/water/salt up/down, no need to be precise but do think about the math, for example, 6 ounces = 75% of 8 ounces but 10 ounces = 125% of 8 ounces.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Makes 3 cups cooked beans, per half cup: 118 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 2mg Cholesterol; 36mg Sodium; 26g Carb; 12g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 7g Protein WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 3 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 3 & blue 1 & purple 1 & future WW points CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = scant half cup (6g protein).

Inspired many years back from a favorite cookbook, Mexican Everyday (affiliate link) by Rick Bayless but ever since, I've streamlined and simplified and switched to oven-cooking ... and ... and. .

Frugal Eating With Dried Beans

~ dried beans ~
Red Beans & Rice, another slow-cooked healthy dinner ♥ Meaty or Vegan. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep.

Ham & Beans ♥, an easy, budget-friendly one-pot supper that makes best use of a leftover ham bone. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.

At Last Black Bean Soup ♥, Laurie Colwin's recipe, just dump in the ingredients and cook it on the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ canned & dried beans ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.