An overhead shot of a quart of cooked slow cooker black beans.

Last week, after announcing my resolve to use more canned beans, my friend Rose emailed sharing her opposite, recently adopted stance: after using canned beans exclusively her entire life, she had started cooking beans from scratch, a batch of slow cooker black beans having showed her the light.

Never, she wrote, would she go back to canned.

Ha! What’s a girl to do?

Rose’s note reminded of the joys of cooking beans in the slow cooker (see Slow Cooker Gigante Beans) and of perhaps a slow cooker’s strongest play: bean cookery!

I immediately pulled out my crockpot, dumped in a pound of dried black beans along with a few aromatics, covered it all with water, and let it cook way. Eight hours later, my beans were done, the house smelled fantastic, and I had 6 cups of super-seasoned, perfectly cooked beans on hand to use immediately or to freeze for future use.

My slow cooker black beans landed in these sweet potato burritos, a combination of two recipes: the filling for these sweet potato quesadillas, a longtime favorite recipe, and these homemade flour tortillas, a recipe I had not made in ages prior to this week, but which, like the dried beans, reminded me how much fun from-scratch cooking — sometimes — can be.

Simplest Slow-Cooker Black Beans How-To

  1. Place a pound of dried black beans — no need to soak — into a slow cooker. Black beans, as you may remember from this Black Bean Soup post, never need to be (and in fact maybe shouldn’t be) soaked, regardless of how you cook them: slow cooker, Dutch oven, pressure cooker.
  2. Add aromatics, such as an onion, garlic, a bay leaf, all of which will impart the beans with good flavor. Fresh thyme is nice, too.
  3. Add salt: Opinions vary about when salt should (and should not) be added to beans, but I am of the belief salt does not impede the cooking process and that it adds flavor. I start with 2 teaspoons for a pound of bean, but always add more (often 2 teaspoons more) once the beans are cooked.
  4. Add water and olive oil, if you wish. Olive oil is something I always add to my stewy slow-cooker cooked beans (see here). I think it adds flavor, especially once the beans finish cooking and are cooling in the flavorful cooking liquid. Feel free to omit if you wish.
  5. Store beans in their cooking liquid. Beans freeze beautifully, too, in their cooking liquid. These deli quart containers are great for this purpose.

PS: Favorite Vegetarian Chili

PPS: Smoky Black Bean Soup

Ingredients for slow cooker black beans on a board.

Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients.

Overhead shot of dried black beans with aromatics in a slow cooker.

Place dried beans, onion half, garlic, bay leaf, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes into a slow cooker.

Overhead shot of a crock pot filled with black beans, water, oil, and aromatics, ready to simmer.

Add water and olive oil (optional), then close the lid.

A Crockpot on a countertop.

Cook for 6 to 8 hours on high or…

A wooden spoon holding cooked slow cooker black beans.

… until the beans are cooked.

Two quarts of slow cooker black beans.

Store in quart containers. These deli quart containers (BPA-free) are great for this purpose.