Slow Cooker Speedy Baked Beans (Guest Post By Linda Watson and a Giveaway)

Text and photo © Cook for Good 2012, used with permission.

Thanks so much to Kathy for letting me share one of my new favorite recipes with you.

If you’ve been following my Cook for Good project, you’ve seen me use less and less dairy and eggs in 2011. In early December, I went full-fledged vegan. Was I reading The China Study again? Reading Eaarth? Weekly lunches with Kathy, queen of The Vegan Slow Cooker? Probably a combination of those forces.

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I’d tried going vegan before, but gave up after three months. This time, it all seems so much easier. The vegan community is much larger, the resources are better, and I’ve already got a wealth of my own vegan recipes to draw on. Here’s one of my favorites: Slow-Cooker Speedy Beans.

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Speedy Baked Beans

Most recipes for baked beans use pork for flavor and long slow cooking to thicken the sauce. After talking about the physics of baking with my Taster, who is an engineer as well as a patient man, I tried to capture the creamy richness of baked beans faster and with less work. The quick and easy recipe below makes beans every bit as tasty as the ones I grew up with, using equal parts peanut butter and tahini instead of pork and a slow cooker instead of an oven.

Bean Physics. Water boils when it reaches 212° F and doesn’t get any hotter except under special conditions, such as in a pressure cooker. So my original thought of baking beans and bread at the same time was a bust: a big pot of beans will drag down the oven temperature. Even alone in the oven, the beans took forever to cook. Why? My Taster says transferring heat through the air, as in an oven, is much less efficient than transferring heat through physical contact, as on a stove or in a slow cooker. The acidity of the tomatoes and molasses makes a slow situation slower even slower by toughening the beans.

Speedy Beans. Beans can’t tell much difference between bubbling along in a slow cooker or an oven, but beans in the slow cooker cook faster. Instead of cooking the beans uncovered in the oven to boil away some of the water, I just added less water in the first place. Don’t let tomatoes and molasses put the brakes on the cooking time either; add them when the beans are already tender, then let the flavors blend overnight.

Slow Cooker Speedy Baked Beans (Guest Post By Linda Watson)

Serves: 10

Active time: 15 minutes. Total time: at least 4 hours, preferably at least 12 hours.
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 onion
  • ½ cup unsulphured molasses (such as Wholesome Sweeteners' Organic Molasses)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons mustard (such as Whole Foods Market's 365-brand Organic German Mustard)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  1. Pick over and rinse pinto beans (see my recipe and video on Cooking Dried Beans). Put beans in a slow cooker with water and cover. Optionally, allow beans to soak for up to 12 hours to reduce cooking time and improve texture.
  2. Stir in salt and turn slow cooker to high. Cook beans covered until tender, about 3 hours if soaked and about 4 hours if not. Stir beans if they peek up above the water line, adding hot water if needed to keep them barely covered.
  3. When beans are nearly tender, chop onion and stir into beans with remaining ingredients. Continue cooking covered on high until beans and onions are tender.
  4. Serve immediately or, better yet, pour into another container to speed cooling, let cool for up to two hours, and then refrigerate overnight so the sauce flavors works their way through the pintos. Reheat and serve over rice, baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, toast, or as a side dish.
Try these mild beans for breakfast, especially if you can't enjoy a hot lunch. I first enjoyed beans for breakfast, along with pan-fried tomato slices, in many English B&Bs.
If you like this recipe and would like to get a delectable and affordable vegan recipe every week, sign up for the free Cook for Good newsletter.
And please check out my book, Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet--All on $5 a Day or Less. It's all vegetarian with a lot of vegan recipes, including an index to vegan recipes in the back. The front half of the book will help you make the best use of your time and money through the whole food-preparation cycle, from planning and shopping to cooking, cleaning, and storing.

Recipe originally published as Vegetarian Un-Baked Beans.

Enter to win a copy of Linda Watson’s Wildly Affordable Organic. As she mentions it is not a vegan book, though it is vegetarian, and she even has a list of the Vegan recipes to make it easier to find. You will definitely find some tips and tricks that will make your yummy vegan life easier and cheaper.

To enter the giveaway do one or more of the following. You must leave a separate comment for each one you do to get the extra entry! The winner will be announced Friday.

Good luck!


  1. Ann says

    Please advise your readers to warn guests about the peanut butter when serving. Most people would not think of peanut butter as an ingredient in baked beans, and someone severely allergic would think baked beans is a “safe” dish.

    • says

      That’s great advise. I’m always very particular to let guests know about any gluten, nuts, soy, etc that might be in the food I’m serving. In fact, I ask about allergies before I plan my menu.

      I will say that in New Orleans they often use peanut butter in vegetarian red beans, so you might want to ask there too.

  2. pugeretto says

    Well, I am going to try this & I’ll be back later to let you know how it turns out! Sounds right up my alley! Thanks.

  3. says

    I am not very fond of the sweet and savory tastes together, but the pictures looks amazing! Must give it a try. I learnt the bean physics the hard way, when I cooked ‘kidney beans’ for the first time, that too when I had guests coming. Thankfully, I had the sense to put them back, gravy and all, into the cooker and let it whistle merrily in slow. Made it creamy and delicious.:)