Slow Cooker Baked Beans

updated Feb 8, 2024
4th of july

Use the slow cooker to transform dried beans into tender, tangy-sweet baked beans.

Serves8 to 10

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Meet your new favorite party recipe: slow cooker baked beans. Long loved for their sweet, tangy flavor and tender, creamy texture, baked beans for backyard barbecues, summer cookouts, and game day parties used to mean heating up the whole house to slowly cook the dried beans for hours upon hours. Here the slow cooker saves the day by doing all the work and keeping you cool at the same time.

This recipe for slow cooker baked beans really is as easy as soaking some dried beans, dicing an onion, and layering a few things in the slow cooker before letting the beans cook low and slow overnight. You’re going to be making these crowd-pleasing beans for all your cookouts this year.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Why You Should Slow-Cook Your Baked Beans

Traditional baked beans are started on the stovetop with a sauté of some bacon and a diced onion, then dried beans and some cooking liquid are added and the whole pot goes into a warm oven for several hours. The long, low heat of the oven transforms the beans from hard to tender, thickening the cooking liquid as it absorbs it, making for a rich gravy around the creamy beans.

The slow cooker can make the same transformation without heating up the stove and, dare I say, make better, creamier beans with less effort. Because the slow cooker is designed to cook low and slow but doesn’t heat up enough to sauté the bacon and onions, the only special consideration we’ll make for this method is how we pile in the ingredients.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Key Ingredients in Slow Cooker Baked Beans

  • Dried beans: You can use dried navy, pinto, or great northern beans. (Note that if you use dried red kidney beans or cannellini beans, they need to be soaked overnight, then boiled for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the slow cooker to eliminate toxic levels of lectin.)
  • Bacon: We like thick-cut bacon for meatier pieces in the baked beans, but you can use regular sliced bacon if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Tomato paste: You’ll need a full (6-ounce) can of tomato paste. (Here’s the easiest trick to get tomato paste out of the can!)
  • Onion: Dice the onion small so that there aren’t large chunks in the baked beans.
  • Molasses: Use light molasses, which is the most common type of molasses found in grocery stores. (We don’t recommend using blackstrap molasses, which can be too bitter.)
  • Brown sugar: You can use either light or dark brown sugar. The brown sugar, along with the molasses, gives the baked beans its signature flavor that’s slightly sweet and savory.

How to Make Slow Cooker Baked Beans

  • Soak the beans before cooking. The actual cooking time of your baked beans will vary depending on the age of the dried beans. Unfortunately there’s no real way to tell how old your beans are at the store. Soaking the beans overnight will, however, cut your cooking time. For the fastest way to soak your beans, try a quick soak to shorten your cooking time.
  • Layer the bacon, onion, and beans. Layering the beans between the bacon and onions helps get the aromatics the heat they need to soften gently before all their goodness — fat from the bacon, flavor from the onions — is soaked up by the beans. Put the bacon right into your slow cooker’s crock, then pour the beans on top and finally sprinkle on the onions. After you mix up the cooking liquid, pour it over the beans and resist the urge to stir before you begin cooking.
  • Mix the cooking liquid well. Because we want to avoid stirring the contents of the slow cooker for the first few hours, make sure the cooking liquid — in this case, water, molasses, brown sugar, and tomato paste — is whisked well before pouring it over the beans.
  • Save the seasoning for the end. Generally, it is best practice to leave salting any beans until the end of cooking, as long exposure to salt softens the beans’ skin and can make them mushy. With these slow cooker beans, salting at the end also allows for adjustment based on the savoriness of your bacon or canned tomato paste.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

What to Serve with Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Slow cooker baked beans are the perfect side dish for your next cookout or party. Here are some ideas on what to serve with them:

How to Store Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Leftover beans keep well in the fridge for up to a week, but they also freeze beautifully too. I like to freeze them flat in a zip-top bag for future dinners — it feels just like having a can of baked beans at the ready, but they taste so much better for your efforts.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans Recipe

Use the slow cooker to transform dried beans into tender, tangy-sweet baked beans.

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pound

    dried navy, pinto, or great northern beans

  • 1 pound

    thick-cut bacon, small dice

  • 1 medium

    yellow onion, small dice

  • 3 cups


  • 1 (6-ounce) can

    tomato paste

  • 1/3 cup

    molasses (not blackstrap)

  • 1/4 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt (optional)


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  1. Spread 1 pound dried navy, pinto, or great northern beans beans out into a rimmed baking sheet or plate and pick out any debris or broken beans. Transfer the sorted beans to a colander and rinse under cool water. Transfer to a large bowl or 6-quart or larger slow cooker (this eliminates one extra bowl to wash) and cover with 6 cups of cool water. Cover and soak at room temperature 10 to 12 hours.

  2. Drain the soaked beans and dry the slow cooker insert if needed.

  3. Spread 1 pound diced thick-cut bacon in a single layer in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Add the drained beans, and sprinkle diced 1 medium yellow onion over the beans (do not stir). Cover and turn on to the LOW setting while you prepare the sauce.

  4. Place 3 cups of water, 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, 1/3 cup molasses, 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Reserve the salt for seasoning later in the cooking process.

  5. Pour the sauce evenly over the onions, beans, and bacon. Do not stir.

  6. Cover and cook on the LOW setting for 6 to 8 hours. At the 6-hour mark, begin tasting for doneness and add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, as needed. The beans are ready when they are creamy and tender.

  7. Stir to combine — the sauce will be thick. Serve or cool and refrigerate.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before reheating in the microwave or on low heat.