Slow Cooker Black Beans Recipe

Slow Cooker Black Beans are easy to make, inexpensive, filling, and delicious. Inspired by Chipotle's black beans, but with BACON. 

Love beans? I've got the official Chipotle black bean and pinto bean recipes as well as the full Chipotle menu. Or, build your own burrito bowl with chicken or sofritas!

A photo of the cooked black beans in the crock pot, being stirred by a wooden spoon.
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The great flavors in these beans come from sautéing the onions and peppers in the rendered bacon fat (Don't fret! It's just 2 slices!) and adding the spices, all before bringing the beans to a boil and adding them to the slow cooker.

This extra 20 minutes of hand's on time means BIG flavors for you in the end: Black beans worth raving about.

Do I need to soak the beans first?

It depends on the recipe. For this recipe, I developed it assuming you have pre-soaked your beans.

Un-soaked beans take about 30 minutes longer to cook and require more liquid than soaked beans. You would need to adjust this recipe if you don't pre-soak your beans.

Warning: If you substitute dried kidney beans, you MUST pre-soak them and boil them for at least 10 minutes. Please see "Kidney Beans are Toxic if Not Cooked Correctly" below.

There are two methods to do it: Overnight-soak and Quick-soak.

Overnight-Soaking Method for beans:

  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. Cover the beans with 5 cups over water and soak overnight.
  3. Drain and discard soaking liquid (see below “Should I discard soaking liquid?”).

Quick-Soaking Method for beans:

  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. To a large saucepan, add beans and enough liquid to cover them by 1 inch.
  3. Bring beans to boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and let beans sit for 1 hour.
  5. Drain and discard soaking liquid (see below “Should I discard soaking liquid?”).

An overhead photo of the inside of the crockpot with all the ingredients, clockwise from the top: white onion, red bell pepper, minced garlic, blackl beans, and bacon.. Topped with the spices: cumin, bay leave, oregano, and red chili flakes.

Should I discard the soaking liquid?

Yes.

But people have differing opinions on this.

  • Some people say it’s a waste of water to throw away the soaking water.
  • Some people say if you keep the soaking water, it adds a sour taste.

I have learned from cooks in Mexico that they don’t usually soak beans at all. But if they do, they toss the cooking liquid. So that's what I do, too.

Cooking Dried Beans:

You can pre-cook beans to keep on hand or freeze for later. If you do that for this recipe, you would just need to heat everything up in the slow cooker to be ready to go.

For 1 pound of black beans or chickpeas (garbanzo beans):

  1. To a large saucepan, add 1 pound beans, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, and water (4 quarts for soaked beans, 5 quarts for un-soaked beans).
  2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cook until beans are tender (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for soaked beans and 2 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours for un-soaked beans).
  3. Stir the beans occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and adjust heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Drain.

For 1 pound of pinto beans, navy beans, Great Northern beans, red kidney beans, Cannellini beans, or black-eyed peas:

  1. To a large saucepan, add 1 pound beans, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, and water (4 quarts for soaked beans, 5 quarts for un-soaked beans).
  2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cook until beans are tender (about 1 to 1 1/4 hours for soaked beans and 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours for un-soaked beans).
  3. Stir the beans occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and adjust heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Drain.

Wait – you add salt to the beans before they are cooked?

Yes.

You may have heard somewhere that the universe will implode if you add salt to beans before they are completely cooked.

However, if you read Kenji López-Alt’s information in his book, The Food Lab, he did some side-by-side testing and determined that salting beans before they are cooked is fine. In fact, doing so helps prevent the beans from exploding (see page 256 in his book).

Kidney Beans are Toxic if Not Cooked Correctly

Kidney beans contain phytohemagglutinin, a type of lectin that is very toxic at high levels.

This recipe calls for black beans, but you may decide to substitute kidney beans.

You MUST pre-soak dried kidney beans and hold them at boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit) for at LEAST 10 minutes.

This means you should never cook kidney beans in a slow cooker. You won't know for sure if the slow cooker reached boiling temps and held it for 10 minutes. Better to be safe than sorry! Just follow my stove-top method below.

Chipotle burrito bowls in white bowls.

How to make black beans on the stove:

  1. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, sauté bacon until it begins to crisp, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onions, bell pepper, cumin, and ½ tsp. salt. Continue to cook about 5 minutes longer, until vegetables are softened. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add water, beans, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender, about 2 hours.
  4. Remove and discard bay leaves. Add cilantro and lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

How to make black beans in a slow cooker:

  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, sauté bacon until it begins to crisp, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onions, bell pepper, cumin, and ½ teaspoon salt. Continue to cook about 5 minutes longer, until vegetables are softened. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add water, beans, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Pour into a large crock pot and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW 7 to 8 hours (see notes).
  4. Remove and discard bay leaves. Add cilantro and lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Can I substitute canned beans?

To substitute canned beans use 3 or 4 cans of black beans. Rinse and drain before adding to the saucepan and bringing to boil.

  • 1 pound of dried black beans is approximately 7 cups of cooked beans
  • 7 cups of beans is approximately 56 ounces
  • 3 (15.5 ounce) cans = 45 ounces beans
  • 4 (15.5 ounce) cans = 62 ounces beans

Slow Cooker Black Beans are great as a main dish (serve with rice or tortillas and toppings like salsa, sour cream, and guacamole) or on the side of your favorite Mexican entrees.  Or, build a classic Chipotle Burrito bowl. Just scroll down for all my Chipotle Copycat recipes!

A photo of the cooked black beans in the crock pot, being stirred by a wooden spoon.

Slow Cooker Black Beans Recipe

Slow Cooker Black Beans are easy to make, inexpensive, filling, and delicious. Inspired by Chipotle's black beans, but with BACON.
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 257kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried black beans picked over, rinsed, and soaked overnight (see notes)
  • 2 slices bacon minced
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)

Instructions

  • Drain and discard soaking liquid. In a 3-quart saucepan, sauté bacon until it begins to crisp, about 5 minutes.
  • Add onions, bell pepper, cumin, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Continue to cook about 5 minutes longer, until vegetables are softened. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add water, beans, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Pour into a large crock pot and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW 7 to 8 hours (see notes).
  • Remove and discard bay leaves. Add cilantro and lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes

Slow cooker times may vary. The first time you make the beans, please check them after 3 or 4 hours on HIGH and continue cooking longer if necessary. If the beans have any crunch to them at all, please cook them longer.
You can use either Italian or Mexican oregano. They have different flavors (Mexican oregano tastes more like marjoram) but both taste great in this recipe. Feel free to use whatever you have.
Pre-soaking the beans:
Soaking the beans before cooking is not required. However, you can cut about 30 minutes off the cooking time if you pre-soak the beans. WARNING: If you substitute dried kidney beans, you MUST pre-soak them and boil them for at least 10 minutes.
Overnight-Soaking Method for beans:
  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. Cover the beans with 5 cups over water and soak overnight.
  3. Drain and discard soaking liquid.
Quick-Soaking Method for beans:
  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. To a large saucepan, add beans and enough liquid to cover them by 1 inch.
  3. Bring beans to boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and let beans sit for 1 hour.
  5. Drain and discard soaking liquid.
To substitute canned beans:
Use 3 or 4 cans of black beans. Rinse and drain before adding to the pot and cook until heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook.

Nutrition

Calories: 257kcal
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!

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  1. Cindy

    Best ever!5 stars

  2. Gina Del Cid

    The recipe calls to reserve 3 1/2 Cups of the soaking liquid… what is it used for?

    1. meggan

      Hi Gina, sorry this isn’t clearly written. In step 3 it says to add water, but it should say “soaking liquid or water.” In the ingredient list it refers to both, so the instructions should refer to both. The only thing is, I’ve been talking to people in Mexico about this lately and one guy said that the soaking liquid has the potential to taste sour. So I am going to test this more and see if soaking liquid should still be an option for cooking FB beans. Having said that, in the past I’ve always used the soaking liquid to make these beans and I’ve never noticed any kind of sour taste. Sorry for rambling! I’ll fix the instructions so it’s less confusing. Thanks. -Meggan

  3. Meg

    Could I cook on low for 8hrs while at work instead of 4 on high?

    1. meggan

      Hi Meg, yes definitely! The recipe should say that, sorry for the confusion. Thanks for the question! -Meggan

  4. Erica Valencia

    Am I using the water I soaked the beans or fresh water?

    1. meggan

      Hi Erica, when I make this recipe I use fresh water. I’m still trying to figure out how much soaking the beans reduces the cooking time and whether it’s worth it (in Mexico, for example, at least the places I go, they NEVER pre-soak the beans). So, for now I’d say use fresh water, and hopefully at some point I’m more knowledgeable on the whole soaking-beans-situation in general and have the posted updated to reflect that. Thank you! -Meggan

  5. Jennifer Hill

    I want to make these for a large party have you ever tried doubling the recipe? 

    1. Meggan

      Hi Jennifer! Although I haven’t tested specific recipe this way, I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t work out just fine. I have doubled other slow cooker bean recipes with no problems. If they aren’t the right texture, just add to the cook time. Hope you have a great time at the party! -Meggan

  6. I’m going to take some ingredients from your black bean recipe, add it to a recipe for chicken soup, which should make a real stick to your ribs type of soup for cold winter nights.

  7. Kim

    Looking for frugal simple scratch made, tasty recipes for lunches. This looks good.
    A store near work has beans in bins for low cost. I bought black beans for extra nutrition.
    I have everything but the cumin right now.

  8. audrey

    Want to try this recipe for a large group. Can this be made and then frozen until the day before?

    1. meggan

      Hi Audrey, yes definitely! Beans can handle anything. :D Thank you, I hope you love it!

  9. Heather DePietro

    Thank you for all the Chipotle recipes! My kids were commenting how my attempts weren’t quite right so we shall see😊.5 stars

  10. FB

    can I use canned beans. if so what is the difference in cooking them

    1. Melissa

      How much canned black beans would you use?  

    2. meggan

      Hi Melissa! You would need about 4 cans. And the cooking time would be reduced a lot because you just need to heat the beans through, not actually cook them. I hope this helps! Thank you for the question! I’ll update the post with this information.

    3. meggan

      Hey there! Sure, you can used canned beans. Since they are already cooked, it would just be however long it takes to heat them up. So maybe 2 hours on high? 3 to 4 hours on low? That should be about right. Just cook them in there until they are hot. :) Thank you for your question! I’ll test it out myself when I get a chance and update the recipe notes. Take care!

  11. April

    Okay don’t laugh at me but I’ve never had black beans! I’m planning a “Chipotle” night for my family and was going to make this. I always get pintos at the restaurant, as does my husband, but my oldest always gets black beans (she doesn’t like pintos). Do these taste anything like pintos? LOL But my main question is have you ever tried it with chicken broth instead of water? I was just curious if that may give the flavor a bump. My soaking water for pintos is always very dirty looking the next morning, so I’m a little hesitant on using that.

    1. April

      Just wanted to come back and say everything was a hit! We really enjoyed it all and our daughter loved the black beans. We also made the corn salsa, the rice, pintos, and the chicken (which was amazing). Took some time for everything to come together but it was totally worth it! Thank you so much for these fabulous recipes! Will make again!5 stars

    2. meggan

      Thank you so much, April! I’m glad you loved the food, it sounds like quite the feast! I really appreciate the feedback. I need to post a pinto beans recipe. Take care. :)

    3. meggan

      Hey April, no laughs over the beans! No big deal. Obviously at some point in our lives, everyone is trying black beans for the first time. :) I don’t think black beans taste like pintos. However, I do think in general all beans have a similar taste and texture. So, they taste as much like pintos as kidney beans do. If that makes sense. You could definitely make these with chicken broth instead of water, but you really don’t need to give them a flavor bump. I’d say the bacon in cumin in particular make the beans quite flavorful, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on such as garlic, a bay leaf, and red pepper flakes. And when you stir in the cilantro and lime juice at the end, that’s quite bright and fresh as well. But use chicken broth! It’s no problem at all. And it’s okay if you want to dump your soaking water. Use fresh. No biggie. If you have anymore question just let me know! Thank you April! I hope your Chipotle night is a success. :) I have some of the other recipes from there too, the chicken, pork, rice, vegetables, guac, corn salsa, and tomato salsa. Good luck and take care!

  12. Abby

    This is a great recipe. Thanks! I don’t always plan ahead enough to leave time for soaking over night.  I often make a ton of beans and then freeze them in manageable batches so that they can be thawed and served a little more quickly. 5 stars

    1. meggan

      I really want to do more of this in my life! I picked up some 16-ounce containers recently so I can start batch-cooking and stocking my freezer, everything from brown rice and quinoa to beans like these. Great idea! Thanks Abby!

  13. Joe Edlhuber

    Made them today with some enchiladas. Soaked over night, Cooked on high for 2 hours and then dropped down to low for 3 hours. They were just about perfect. It was my first time using dry beans and it was too easy to not do again. The only problem? I made an entire crock pot full for 4 people! I think I’ll be eating them for the next few days.5 stars

    1. meggan

      That is always the problem with beans! You start with one pound and suddenly you have more beans than you can shake a stick at. I’m so glad you tried them and that it went well. They are super easy and the flavor is great. Thank you so much for your comment! #EdlhubersForever

  14. I’ve been looking for a simple and delicious recipe for beans! This is perfect. Thank you!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you Rebecca! I agree with you, it’s nice to have a fairly simple, yet still delicious, way to eat more beans. :) Have a great week! Thanks again!

  15. YUM! I can eat beans all by themselves! You’re right, they DO fill you up!5 stars

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