Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup – Sometimes the easiest recipes are the best! This vegetable bean soup is made in a slow cooker and has the perfect cozy blend of flavors. We love this so much! (Gluten Free & Vegan)
This post is written in partnership with Sprouts. All opinions are my own.
It’s that time of year again. The time where I get swoon-y about fall and start quoting my favorite lines from You’ve Got Mail.
Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I’d send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils, if only I knew your name and address.
Something about the fall is magical to me. The arrival of sweater weather, the advent of the holidays, the crispness of the air, the bountiful produce, and soup season.
Of course, where I live, it’s mostly honorary and ceremonial connection to all but the arrival of the holidays, but that doesn’t mean I’m not true to my favorite season.
Which is why I’m eating this vegetable bean soup. Now. In 106 degree weather. And loving it.
But, let’s be honest: Vegetable Bean Soup is yummy enough to eat no matter what the weather is. This simple slow cooker vegetable bean soup recipe has long been one of our favorites.
Here’s why we love it (and why I think you will, too)
What Makes This Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup Recipe Amazing:
It couldn’t be easier. The ingredient list is short, it’s a great use for those few carrots and stalks of celery you sometimes find yourself with after buying a bag to make something else. After soaking your beans, it’s basically a “chop and drop” recipe, where you just toss everything in the slow cooker, then set and forget it for a few hours. No extra fuss or attention needed!
It’s mega affordable. This is a SUPER budget-friendly recipe. It’s made from pantry staples, and makes use of dried beans which are a great way to extend your grocery budget. I find my dried beans at Sprouts–you can find them bagged or in the bulk bins, so you can buy just the amount you need or stock up when they’re on sale. Sprouts is my go-to grocery store for a lot of reasons (an awesome selection of gluten free/dairy free items, fantastic quality of and prices for produce, and their amazing sales, among other things). Stocking up on staples like quality vegetable broth, organic spices, and pantry items like dried beans means I’m always ready to pull together an easy, healthy meal without breaking the bank.
It’s a simple classic. This is the most basic version, but don’t be fooled by the short list of ingredients. You may be tempted to add all sorts of herbs and spices, or to throw in extra vegetables or meats. I highly recommend trying this recipe exactly as written the first time. Taste how delicious it is, and then let your imagination run wild, if you must.
It’s easy to dress up. That said, it’s always fun to play with a recipe, isn’t it? For vegan friends, you can add in some extra veggies (like bell peppers, or leeks), play with the spices (a little rosemary or thyme along with the sage is amazing). For non-vegan friends, try adding a little ham hock or a few slices of crisped bacon into the soup before your cook it (better yet, top it with a few slices of crisp bacon before serving).
I just think it’s amazing that something so simple can fill you up deep down in your happy place. And my happy place includes fall, and You’ve Got Mail, and soup.
Ingredients For Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup:
As I said above, the ingredients list is SUPER simple and straightforward. This is the perfect “home base” recipe. Consider this the basic version, but don’t miss all our favorite ways to boost the flavor below! Here are the ingredients for this yummy vegetable bean soup:
- Dried Great Northern Beans. You’ll start with dried Great Northern beans. These tender white beans have a lovely creamy texture when cooked and a neutral flavor that works well with all sorts of spices and seasonings. If you can’t find Great Northern beans, navy beans can be another good choice!
- Carrots + Celery + Onion. This trio of vegetables (known as mirepoix) is the flavor base of all kinds of soups, stews, and braises. And for good reason! There’s a delicious aromatic base of flavor, plus some subtle sweetness that really infuses our vegetable bean soup with flavor.
- Garlic. Plenty of garlic helps really add some big flavor to the beans. Lately, I’ve been using frozen minced garlic to save myself some chopping. It doesn’t have any added ingredients (just minced garlic!), and it’s easy to keep on hand when I need it.
- Dried Sage. Rubbed sage adds a warmth and earthy flavor to the vegetable bean soup. It’s lovely here!
- Vegetable Broth + Water. A good-quality vegetable broth will make a BIG difference in flavor. I love Imagine Organic’s vegetable broth (regular or low-sodium). Then, you’ll also need some water to help the beans cook.
- Salt & Pepper. Then, you’ll need plenty of salt and pepper to finish. If you feel like the soup is missing something, it’s likely under-salted!
More Mix-Ins & Flavor Boosts To Try In Vegetable Bean Soup:
Again, this is a base recipe, but there are so many ways to build in extra flavor. Here are some of our favorites…
- Ham or a Ham Bone/Hock. First off, YES this will mean the soup isn’t vegan anymore. But I did want to mention it, because the smoky flavor of some leftover holiday ham or chopped ham adds a lovely savory richness that’s gorgeous with the veggies and beans. You can even use a hambone from your holiday ham! It’s still full of flavor!
- Bacon. You can achieve a similar effect by cooking and crumbling some bacon. Add it to the soup with the veggies and broth to let it infuse as it cooks, or use it as a garnish on each bowl at the end.
- Fresh Rosemary. For a meat-free mix-in, you can add some depth of flavor with some rosemary. A little goes a long way, but it pairs nicely with the sage. 1/2-1 tsp. dried rosemary or 1/2-1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary will be plenty.
- Bell Peppers. For a camp-y, stew-y vibe, you can also try a diced green or red bell pepper along with the other veggies. It adds a lot of flavor!
FAQ + Tips For The Best Vegetable Bean Soup:
HOW TO SOAK BEANS (& WHY). Soaking beans beforehand makes them easier to digest, and shortens their cook time. I highly recommend taking the time to do this the night before for the best texture and fastest cook times. To soak properly, first pick through your beans to make sure there aren’t any bad ones or stray pieces of rock or sand that can sometimes make their way into dried beans. Then, rinse them in a colander for a minute or two. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with water. (The water should reach 2-3 inches above the level of the beans.) Refrigerate in the bowl for 4-12 hours or so (I leave mine overnight). Then, drain and rinse them, and they’re ready to use!
FORGOT TO SOAK YOUR BEANS? TRY THIS. If you forgot to soak your beans, you’ve got 2 choices: 1) just rinse them in a colander and plan on them taking about 7-8 hours to fully cook in the slow cooker. 2) Take a shortcut. For the shortcut method, put the beans in a large soup pot and cover with 2 inches of water (2 inches above the level of the beans). Bring to a boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let them soak for about an hour. Drain and rinse them in a colander, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
CAN I JUST USE CANNED BEANS INSTEAD? The amount of liquid in the recipe and the cooking time were calculated using dried beans. If you’re using cooked canned beans instead, you’ll likely want to reduce the liquid in the recipe unless you want it more soupy and less thick. In addition, you won’t need as long to cook the soup.
LET’S TALK SLOW COOKERS. If you’re on the hunt for an awesome slow cooker, we really like this one. It’s easy to use and has a clip for the lid. Lid clip = NO SPILLS! I use it ALL the time and can’t recommend it enough.
TO SALT OR NOT TO SALT. There are a LOT of opinions (even among experts!) about whether you should or shouldn’t salt your beans during the soaking and cooking process. Many folks say to add 1 Tbsp of salt per pound of beans to your soaking water. Other folks say do NOT add salt at all until the beans are completely cooked. I haven’t found that this matters much for slow cooking (since they’ll have plenty of cook time either way), but I do recommend waiting to salt the soup until the end, since sometimes your broth will condense a bit during cooking.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH VEGETABLE BEAN SOUP. We usually keep things simple with a side salad, some focaccia, bread, or rolls, and some fresh fruit (like grapes or sliced apples). This can also be nice with a toasty sandwich!