The Case for Slow-Cooker Beans (and a Vegan Chili Recipe)

Marla Rose
5 min readAug 30, 2021
Photo credit: John Beske

Years ago, as a 20-year-old in my first apartment, I started learning to cook because eating boxed stuffing mix every night, tasty as it was, was not really a way for a functional adult to sustain herself. I was a vegetarian and it didn’t have meat in it so I guess it was fine, right? At first it was fun, like having the best part of Thanksgiving every night, and I reveled in my first taste of freedom outside of my childhood home and the dorm. Until I didn’t.

The stuffing became an immediate heavy-hitter but one evening, somehow I saw myself hunched over another bowl of it in a weirdly Gollum-like way and thought, You know, I should probably add something else into my dietary repertoire. I’d always loved cooking with my grandmother but my role was just as a glorified assistant who stirred, whisked and listened to a little fun gossip, so I didn’t know how to cook for myself. This was the era before Google and the internet, so eventually I found myself in a bookstore, specifically browsing the few shelves with titles about enchanted broccoli forests and boasting recipes that had gotten the thumb’s up from the whole commune. My people! I mainly learned how to cook through cookbooks and the same was true about five years later when I went vegan.

I don’t know when I first discovered Robin Robertson’s oeuvre but it was within a year or two after I went vegan. She has written, I don’t know, a million or so (give or take) but the first one I got remains seared in my memory: Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow-Cooker. (She has since updated all of her cookbooks to reflect her vegan diet.) In this early cookbook, I learned that I could take whatever ingredients the recipe called for and with very little effort, return home at the end of the day to the indescribably rewarding aroma of a fully prepared, warm meal.

I also learned that the humble bean — the heartiest pillar of a plant-based diet — could be elevated to new levels if prepared in a way that best suits them, which was the slow cooker. There I was, a hipster-ish young adult and I was eyeballing my mother’s Crockpot? It turns out that the slow cooker renders beans creamy, tender, flavorful, more digestible and next level delectable. Who knew? Well, I soon did and to this day, if I am making a recipe with dried beans, I never make them…