These are the BEST Slow Cooker Black Beans ever! Full of flavor, a total crowd pleaser and naturally vegetarian, gluten free and dairy-free.

Slow cooker black beans after they have been cooked. Image is a close up of a wooden spoon containing a scoop of cooked beans.

Through my many years of clean real food eating, I have felt the sting of many a pricey grocery bill. Grocery bills that have made me cringe. Grocery bills that almost made me give up on real food and go back to the processed junk that is (for some insane reason) often cheaper. 

Thank goodness I didn’t give up. I stuck with my belief in the importance of real food in our lives. And luckily, I found tricks and recipes that are wholesome, delicious and super-duper budget friendly.

Beans are a wonderful real food kitchen staple to have on hand. Especially the dry ones! About as cost efficient as real food gets, dry beans are a wonderful way to feed a crowd for pennies or make a grocery budget stretch a little further. 

The ingredients for slow cooker black bean, arranged in the slow cooker before being mixed together and/or cooked.

I’ve been making my beans from dry for years and don’t foresee myself every going back to the canned ones. The taste and texture of freshly cooked beans is so much better and, when made properly, much kinder to the digestive system than than the canned variety. 

And this recipe is absolutely a bean recipe you NEED to have. Because, this is the recipes for the BEST Slow Cooker Black Beans….ever. 

Everyone I have made these black beans for raves about them (adult, kid, vegan, vegetarian, omnivore…they all love them). These slow cooker beans are not your “blah” black beans, as they are full of savory spices and magnificent flavors.

Real food eating is amazing…..but it ain’t cheap. Amirite?

I love to soak my black beans during my weekly Sunday meal prep and then make this recipe in my slow cooker for an easy Meatless Monday dinner. But they are also great when feeding a crowd or just to enjoy whenever the mood strikes you. Which it will. Often.

The ingredients for slow cooker black beans mixed together with a large spoon, prior to being cooked.

Why is soaking your beans so important?

Soaking helps to reduces the phytic acid (enzyme inhibitors naturally present in beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) that makes certain foods hard to digest.

 I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommended soaking your beans for at least 8 hours before cooking. This makes them so much easier on the digestive system and really cuts down on the whole “beans beans the magical fruit” situation that have most people running away from beans of all kinds.

How to soak your beans.

My preferred method for soaking my beans is to do it overnight. But If you only have 8 hours, that will do the trick as well.

Before you soak your beans, give them a good rinse. You want to get all the dirt and stuff off. And while you’re at it, pick through your dry beans to make sure there aren’t any little rocks trying to hang out in your dinner. Black beans are a bit notorious for having little rocks in them.

Once all that rinsing and picking through is done, simply throw your beans into a bowl. Cover them with 2-3 inches of clean water. Throw a clean dishtowel over the bowl to keep random debris and insects from ending up in the bowl. And let the bowl hang out at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

You can also add a tablespoon or two of an acidic medium (apple cider vinegar, lemon juice) to the soaking water to help make the beans more digestible. 

step-by-step on rinsing and soaking black beans

Do I have to soak my black beans?

Running low on time and want to skip the soaking process all together?  You can and cook them right from dry if you want. 

The cooking time will change, though. 

Cook UNSOAKED beans for 4-5 hours on HIGH, checking the beans at 4 hour mark for doneness. Or on LOW for 7-8 hours, checking the beans at the 7 hours mark. 

How do I make slow cooker black beans in the Instant Pot?

Some people have fallen head over heels with their Instant Pot (check out my Instant Pot Black Beans) and have totally ditched the slow cooker all together. 

Combine everything but the salt in your Instant Pot and cook the beans on HIGH pressure for 9 minutes for soaked bean, letting the pressure naturally release for 15 minutes. Or 30 minutes for UNSOAKED beans, letting pressure release for 20 minutes. 

Should I use salt when making my slow cooker black beans?

I think salt really enhances the flavor of beans, so I say yes to the salt.

However, WHEN you add the salt is key to their success. 

I have made black beans from dry more times than I can count, adding salt before cooking and other times after. I have found that adding the salt AFTER the cooking process ensures that the black beans are consistently tender and perfect. 

Why are my slow cooker black beans still hard after cooking?

While this recipe is almost always successful….there are a few factors to keep in mind if you beans are still hard after cooking and may result in you needing to give them a bit more time. 

If your beans are still hard after cooking, some reasons why this might be are:

  • The size of the beans. Black beans are usually pretty consistent in size but they are a plant and sizes can vary. If your beans seem larger than normal, you might need to cook them for a a bit longer. If your beans are on the smaller side, they may need less time!
  • How old your beans are. Old beans tend to take longer to cook and may also require a bit longer in the slow cooker to become tender.
  • You added the salt before cooking. As mentioned above, I HIGHLY recommend adding salt AFTER cooking to ensure your beans soften up. 
  • Not all slow cookers are the same. Some cook at a lower temp. Others at a higher temp. Know your slow cooker and adjust cooking times as needed. 
a bowl of finished slow cooker black beans and rice topped with cheese and chopped cilantro on top of a white marble slab and white napkin.
These are the BEST Slow Cooker Black Beans ever! Full of flavor, a total crowd pleaser and naturally vegetarian, gluten free and dairy-free.
beans on spoon
4.91 from 31 votes

The BEST Slow Cooker Black Beans

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours
Cuisine: American
Course: Main Course
These are the BEST Slow Cooker Black Beans ever! Full of flavor, a total crowd pleaser and naturally vegetarian, gluten free and dairy-free.

Ingredients
 

  • 1 1/2 cups dried black beans, picked over, rinsed, soaked overnight and rinsed again
  • 1 cup salsa (I used mild since I was serving it to children)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups bell pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 4 cups water or broth
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil, (optional, but it adds a richness to the beans many enjoy)
  • 1/2 tbsp salt**, or to taste

Equipment

  • slow cooker

Instructions
 

  • Combine ingredients **EXCEPT SALT** in your slow cooker. You will add this after cooking.
  • Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours (checking after 3 hours to see if the beans are done) or on low for 6-7 hours (checking after 6 hours to see if beans are done).
  • Once the beans are done cooking, remove the bay leaves. THEN, stir in salt.
  • Enjoy warm! Use a slotted spoon to drain off extra liquid and serve beans over rice, quinoa or a salad. Top with avocado, extra salsa or shredded cheese.
  • If storing leftovers, allow beans to cool completely before transferring beans and some of the cooking liquid to an air-tight container. Store beans in fridge for up to 5 days or in freezer for up to a month.
Serving: 1cup, Calories: 114kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 1378mg, Potassium: 398mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 417IU, Vitamin C: 18mg, Calcium: 71mg, Iron: 2mg