For more on simple and healthy weeknight dinners, check out Sarah’s book, Feeding a Family: A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work.

I was always intimidated by cooking dried beans. I would either forget to soak them ahead of time (ahhhh!) or keep them simmering in a pot, only to find them undercooked at the end of the day. After a while, I began to shy away from recipes that suggested I try it again.

Discovering the simplicity of preparing dried beans in the slow cooker has thrown my trepidation out the window. You just combine a few ingredients and turn on the machine! A few hours later you have a perfect pot of beans. Life-changing. (But if you don’t have a slow cooker, fear not: I recommend the method outlined in this recipe.)

Dried beans are one of the most affordable and versatile ingredients for a home cook. To stock your pantry with dried beans costs a few dollars and ensures you a building block for quick and healthy weeknight meals.

For a week or so of bean-based dinners, make a batch of Slow Cooker Black Beans (double the recipe if you have a large slow cooker and a big family). The first night, serve them as is, alongside rice and sautéed kale…

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Slow Cooker Black Beans

By Sarah Waldman

  • 2
    cups dried black beans, picked over and rinsed

  • 4
    cups water

  • 1
    teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2
    teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to finish)

  • 3
    garlic cloves

  • 1/2
    medium yellow onion

  • 1/4
    Navel orange

View Full Recipe

…then, for the rest of the week use them up as follows:

  • Savory crêpes. Fill buckwheat crêpes with black beans, spiced squash, avocado, and Jack cheese. To simplify this meal, leave out the roasted squash and just grab some cheese and avocado for a lightning-fast vegetarian dinner.
  • Tacos. You can layer beans inside a tortilla with almost anything and call it a taco. Use a taco dinner as an excuse to finish up any half-eaten veggies, leftover roast chicken, or wilting herbs. Kale and sweet potato tacos are always a crowd favorite in my house (we double the amount of vegetables for the filling, then turn the leftovers into a frittata the next day).
  • Veggie burgers. Beans are a neutral, protein-packed base for veggie burgers. My family’s favorite bean-based burger is this Black Bean Quinoa Burger blend. Or, turn the mix into hash and eggs: Heat a large skillet with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and spread the mix out in a single layer, cooking it into a crispy hash. Serve the quinoa-bean hash with eggs and a salad.
  • Soup. A simple soup of beans, onions, peppers, and spices comes together in just 15 minutes. Top with anything from avocado and sour cream to crumbled tortilla chips and queso fresco.

For more on simple and healthy weeknight dinners, check out Sarah’s book, Feeding a Family: A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work.

Photos of crêpes, veggie burgers, and tacos by Elizabeth Cecil.

from Food52