Instructions on how to cook chickpeas in the slow cooker – my new favorite way of cooking any legume.
When I have a stash of cooked beans in the refrigerator, I can make a lot of dinners with little advanced planning. And that makes for a more stress-free week for me. I wrote an earlier post about How to Cook Dried Chickpeas and Other Legumes, which was focused on stovetop cooking methods. That post included tips for getting the best texture, and what to do when your beans won't soften.
But these days, I admit I cook my chickpeas in the slow cooker or in an electric pressure cooker (such as the Instant Pot) more often when I cook up a fresh batch of beans. If you're looking for tips for cooking up your next batch of beans in an electric pressure cooker, read this post first!
If you have a slow cooker, there are a few advantages of using it over stovetop methods.
Advantages to Cooking Dried Chickpeas in the Slow Cooker:
- Cooking dried chickpeas in the slow cooker is much more hands off than cooking them on the stovetop. This frees you up to do some errands while they cook :-).
- Thanks to a slower heating process with a slow cooker, foaming is largely if not completely eliminated. I discussed in the above linked post the fact that excess foaming often affects the texture of the beans.
- There's no fiddling around with the burner temperature with a slow cooker. It's truly plug and go. I don't know about you, but I sometimes try most of the stove dial before getting it just right. Sometimes the water boils over, providing me an unwanted cleaning opportunity. Then I turn the dial down and the pot doesn't even simmer.
Why Do Some Dried Beans Never Soften When Cooked?
One of the common complaints I hear from readers cooking dried beans, is that their beans don't soften, even after prolonged cooking. There are a number of things that can cause this:
- The beans were improperly stored, or are too old. For example, beans stored for longer than 12 months, including the time stored before you purchased them, are particularly at risk.
- Dried beans sometimes harden more firmly if grown in an unusually hot, humid growing season.
- Acids harden the skins of dried beans, therefore it's best to wait until they completely soften before adding tomatoes, citrus, vinegar, or other acidic ingredients.
- Beans may not soften when cooked in hard (or mineral-rich) water. If your tap water falls in that category, I recommend using store-bought vegetable broth as your cooking liquid instead of water.
Tips for Cooking Dried Beans That Won't Soften:
- Pre-soak the beans overnight. This should be done in conjunction with the following recommendations.
- Use vegetable broth if your tap water is categorized as hard water.
- Add 3 tablespoons salt per 1 gallon water, but don't do this in addition to baking soda (see the next note).
- Add 1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp baking soda per 1 gallon water, although there are some risks: 1) if the beans were normal, you will end up with a mushy bean; 2) the flavor of the beans may taste slightly chemical to some people; 3) the cook time dramatically shortens, so check on them at regular intervals; and 4) eliminate the salt if you add baking soda, as the combination guarantees a mushy bean that easily falls apart.
- Don't add anything acidic to the beans during the cooking process.
- Use a pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, and add 10 minutes to the recommended cook time.
#1 Best Tip for Beans That Split Open During Cooking
Another common complaint I hear is although the beans soften, they split and slip from their skins. Pre-soaking is one of the most important steps when cooking dried chickpeas. And using a brining liquid for this step is by far best of all. There’s no need to worry about an overly salty flavor, as the beans don’t absorb much saltiness. And the salt does not translate into a tougher cooked bean. Instead, the brining liquid promotes a consistent cooked bean texture far surpassing either pre-soaking without salt or skipping the pre-soak step. It also helps to prevent some beans from splitting during cooking. Additionally, pre-soaking typically makes the beans easier to digest and promotes a faster cook time, so it’s worth taking a little extra planning for this step. Here’s what always works for me: Cover the beans with 2 inches of water (about 1 quart), add 1 tablespoon salt and either (1) cover and soak over night, or (2) cover and simmer for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cool for 4 hours and rinse well.
More General Tips for Cooking Dried Chickpeas in a Slow Cooker:
- Cook time for cooking dried chickpeas in a slow cooker is dependent both on the type, size, and age of bean, and the slow-cooker equipment you're using. I cut a couple of beans in half to check for doneness before draining them.
- If you want to shorten the cook time, cover the beans with a couple of inches of water in a heavy pot for an overnight pre-soak. If you forget to do a pre-soak, but still want to shorten the cook time, simmer the beans for 10 minutes, drain, and add to the slow cooker with fresh water or broth.
- When using a slow cooker, I recommend pre-heating the broth in the microwave oven or on the stove. This getting the cooking process started a little more quickly.
- I used to be in the no pre-salting camp, but changed my opinion after many, many batches of beans. I now recommend adding 1 teaspoon kosher salt for every 1 cup dried beans when beginning the cooking process.
A toxin known as kidney bean lectin, is found in many beans – and is particularly high in kidney beans. In fact, ingesting just a few improperly cooked kidney beans can make you very sick. Unfortunately, slow cookers don't heat the beans to a high enough temperature to rid them of the toxin. In fact, it can make it even worse. Other beans, including white kidney beans, broad beans and lima beans, contain the same toxin in smaller but still dangerous amounts. This is easily solved by boiling them for 10 minutes, draining, and rinsing before adding them to the slow cooker. Be sure to use fresh broth or water to cook them. This risk does not apply to chickpeas in the slow cooker.