Slow-Cooker Chili

Slow-Cooker Chili (a.k.a. “Tough Beans”)

Slow-Cooker Chili

In my last post, I mentioned my frustration at the length of time it took to cook legumes from dried (soaked) in my slow-cooker. I’ve done some testing, and found a method that seems to work well.

I did a bit of Googling to see if other people had the same problem…

I should have known it was an “issue” when I saw so few recipes that started with dried beans. I found a range of possible causes, such as old beans, too much salt, and too much acid.

That last one rang a bell for me – too much acid. Of the beany dishes I had made so far, the ones that resulted in tough beans contained TOMATOES. The ones that cooked perfectly did not.

I formulated a test to confirm my theory… a reworking of the chili dish that didn’t cook as expected, full of tomatoes and spices and beans. The difference would not be in the ingredients, but in the process. I started by cooking the legumes in *some* of the ingredients and some broth… and added the tomatoes in later.

It worked!

Unfortunately, this is (again) not a dish that can be done start-to-finish on a weeknight, as it would take at least 9 hours if you cook it as intended – and you have to be there to add the ingredients after 3. Being the mindful person that I am, I have included some alternative instructions for those of you starting with a cooked legume. You can always start it the night before, just to cook the beans, put it in the fridge overnight and resume cooking the next day.

A quick note… Be careful about cooking legumes from dried/soaked, using too low of a temperature may not kill the toxin described in this article on the FDA website. Using the slow-cooker on low may not be enough.


Slow-Cooker Chili

Slow-Cooker Chili

6-8 servings


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 -2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups dried legumes, soaked overnight (or 4 cups cooked)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-4 cups broth (can use water) – just enough to cover
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ancho chile (or another mild chile pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (can also use ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 – 1tablespoon canned chipotles in adobo, chopped or puréed – optional
  • 28oz canned tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped


Note: if you are using pre-cooked or canned beans, omit the broth and skip steps 2 and 3.

  1. Add onion, celery, garlic, olive oil, soaked beans and bay leaves to the slow-cooker.
  2. Add enough broth to fully cover the beans.
  3. Cover, and cook on the slow-cooker on high for 3 hours.
  4. When the beans have finished, add the carrots, corn, spices, canned chipotles and tomatoes to the slow-cooker.
  5. Cover, and cook in the slow-cooker on high for 6 hours.
  6. In the last hour, add bell pepper. If the chili hasn’t thickened enough, you can take the lid off to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
  7. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.