During our first week of college, Ryan was sitting in my dorm room and I asked him if he wanted some kidney beans.
“Um, just kidney beans?” He asked.
“Well, with seasonings.”
I’d recently become obsessed with eating kidney beans as a quick and easy meal or snack, since packaged ramen noodles were not my dorm room meal of choice. I’d crack open a can of kidney beans, dump them into a plastic bowl, sprinkle them with a few different seasonings, and microwave them for a minute.
Sounds fancy, right? Of course. Not really.
These days I don’t use the microwave much, and definitely not with plastic dishes. I now like my beans saucy, and I prefer them in soups or mashes to just heated straight out of the can. But I still love beans.
Legumes are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians, and although Ryan and I do eat chicken or fish very occasionally, we still rely on nuts, seeds, and beans to get in our daily protein. Beans are cheap (win!), versatile (double-win!) and easy to make (the best!). Now that the weather is cooling off a little bit here in Arizona, I’m using them in even more in comforting dishes like this slow cooker baked beans soup. I’ve always LOVED baked beans, but I can do without the chunks of bacon and loads of added sugar, thanks. So I tried to recreate the flavor with healthier ingredients, and make it crock pot style so I can dump it, set it, forget it, and come home to a house that smells like a summer barbecue without doing any of the work.
In this recipe, the slow cooker works its magic on onions, tomato pasta, maple syrup, molasses, and a few seasonings for a soup that’s thick and rich, with layers of flavor more complex than your typical brown sugar baked beans. Still, the sugars are kept low with just a third of a cup of maple syrup. For extra creaminess I add butter, but vegan butter or coconut milk are also great alternatives–I’ve used the coconut milk trick when I was out of butter, and it’s rich enough to replace it without adding a coconut flavor.
We like this soup with a slice or two of crusty sourdough bread to sop up the sauces at the bottom, but it would also be delicious with rice, potatoes, roasted vegetables, or by itself. It’s filling and tasty, so you really don’t need any side dishes if you want to keep things simple.
This soup is part of our regular slow cooker recipe rotation on days when we work up until dinner time and I want to come home to hot meal. Check out some more of my favorite slow cooker recipes for more easy goodness! Here are two that we make all the time.
Slow Cooker Red Lentil Stew With Spinach: Creamy and protein-rich without any dairy, and full of complex flavors. Also super cheap, because red lentils are very inexpensive.
Slow Cooker Pineapple Mango Coconut Curry Bowls: This isn’t a soup so much as a thick stew we love to have with rice and a handful of fresh baby spinach. It tastes tropical and delicious with juicy mango and pineapple, as well as other vegetables.
A deliciously rich soup with all the flavors of baked beans, made with healthy ingredients in your slow cooker.
- 5 15.5 ounce cans beans (I used a mix of kidney beans and navy beans)
- 1 medium/large onion, diced
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons butter or vegan butter OR 1 tablespoon coconut milk
- 4 cups water
Drain and rinse beans. Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker EXCEPT the butter/vegan butter/coconut milk, adding the water last and stirring to evenly distribute everything.
Cook on high for 6 hours. Stir in butter, vegan butter, or coconut milk just before serving.