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Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup (Vegan)

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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)

Overhead view of Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup

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)

Two Bowls of Crock Pot Vegetable Bean Soup

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 - Bowl of Great Northern beans, bowl of onions, bowl of diced carrots, bowl of diced celery, Sprouts brand organic sage, and a teaspoon.

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…

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
Two bowls of Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup with two spoons next to them.

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!

Spoon in a bowl of Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup
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Overhead view of Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup

Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup


  • Author: One Lovely Life, adapted from My Whole Food Life
  • Total Time: about 6-8 hours
  • Yield: 68 servings 1x

Description

Another favorite white bean would work well here too. The soaking step speeds up the cooking process, but if you forget, don’t fret. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1lb. dried Great Northern beans, soaked overnight if possible, drained & rinsed*
  • 3 carrots, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rubbed sage, such as Sprouts Organic dried sage
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Soak beans in water at least 4-12 hours, or overnight (see notes for a detailed explanation of how to do this.) Drain and rinse beans in a colander.
  2. Place soaked beans, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and sage in the slow cooker.
  3. Cover with broth and water.
  4. Cover with lid and cook on HIGH for about 6-8 hours (the beans will be tender after 3-4 hours if you’ve soaked them beforehand, but the longer it cooks, the creamier the soup gets).
  5. Taste soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

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? 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.

Dress it up (variations) – For vegan friends, you can add in some extra veggies (like bell peppers, or leeks), play with the herbs (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 or kielbasa before serving).

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ soaking time)
  • Cook Time: 6-8 hours
  • Category: Soup, Main Dish
  • Method: Slow Cooker, Crock Pot
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: slow cooker soup, crock pot soup, slow cooker vegetable bean soup, crock pot vegetable bean soup, slow cooker vegetable soup, crock pot vegetable soup, vegan slow cooker recipes, vegan crock pot recipes, gluten free, vegan, vegan soup recipe

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93 Comments

    1. Absolutely! For fresh herbs, you typically use 3x the amount as dried. So instead of 1/2 tsp dried sage, you’d use 1/2 Tbsp fresh sage. 🙂

  1. Looking for a healthy and easy recipe on a cold day? This is it! We used a healthy dried bean mix from Natural Grocers and added extra veggies from our freezer. I played with the spices using sage, freshly crushed rosemary, smoked salt, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of tomato paste. Topped it off with a few pieces of vegan cheese, and a slice of garlic bread. A complete meal!

    1. I really enjoyed the flavor (sage with thyme) but I was really looking forward to a thicker soup like in the photos. I even blended some to add thickness, but ended up using too much of the beans. Any suggestions? I used 1 lb of the cannellini beans, but that shouldn’t change anything.

      1. Drew – I’m sorry it wasn’t quite as thick as you would have liked. I do think it could have been the different beans. Cannellini beans are larger, which might have contributed to the different texture. (Smaller beans mash, break down, and thicken more easily than larger beans do.) Cannellini beans are also more firm than Great Northern beans, which have a tendency to break down faster than cannellini beans. In the future, you can try cooking the soup a little longer—different slow cookers often cook at different temperatures, so yours might need longer than mine does. Longer cook time helps break down the beans a bit more, which can thicken the soup. I hope that helps!

  2. Omg! I made this and is sooo good. I added 1/3 cup of whole wheat quinoa and a bit more of vegetable broth with a splash of lemon juice. Just what my preggo body needs. Thank you for the recipe.

  3. If buying beans already packaged from local grocer how can you make sure they you have beans that will soften if you soak them?

    1. It can be tough to tell (and I’ve bought some bad bags myself–SO FRUSTRATING!), but the best suggestion I’ve heard is to buy from a store with regular turnover. Health minded stores, co-ops, and farmer’s markets sometimes tend to have faster turnover for dried beans. (That said, I’ve had good luck buying beans at Target and Kroger without a problem other times). Thrive Market is another great resource (online).

      1. I just put this all together. Still in crockpot since 9:00 eastern time . soaked beans. Used sage and paprika. It is still missing something. I also added half stick butter for more flavor. I am taking to feed teacher for lunch at local school tomorrow. Any suggestions?

        1. Janet – Rosemary is really nice! A good pinch of black pepper, and you can also try adding 1 tsp of cider vinegar (sounds strange, but the acid brightens up the soup and it won’t taste vinegary.)

  4. Great recipe! I didn’t have time to soak beans so used dry lentils instead since they cook faster. Also I used homemade vegetable broth that I make a big batch of once a year and freeze, if anyone is interested in the broth recipe I can add it!

  5. This made far more food than was expecting. Filled entire slow cooker. Also – no one mentioned taking the casing off the bean before cooking. Left it on and was dissappointed. Also, I soaked the bean for 15 hrs and still had to cook for 8 just to get them soft. Needs some kind of spice, too. Kind of bland. Decent but nweds a lot of work.

    1. Anje – I have never taken the casing off my beans before cooking in any recipe. It sounds like your dried beans may have been an old batch. After soaking 15hrs, if you’ve cooked them for 8 hrs and they’re still not soft, it’s a bad batch of beans.

      I’m sorry it wasn’t what you were looking for this time!

    1. Justine – Fresh or dried sage leaves? I haven’t used either in this recipe, but my best guess is if you’re using dried, I’d only put 2-3 and pull them out after cooking. If using fresh, you could probably use more like 4-5 (depending on how large they are). If your sage is really small, you may want to add a bit more. If you’ve got fresh sage, you can always add additional leaves after cooking if you find the flavor isn’t as strong as you’d like 🙂

  6. Can you use this with canned navy beans? (19 fl ozs)? I would think so … concerned about navy beans become mush… And also, can I use chicken broth for more flavour?

  7. I made this recipe exactly as written. I like that it is easy to prep, cheap, healthy, and vegetarian but still has protein. It’s a good starting point, but it needs more seasoning. I had to add a LOT of salt and pepper as well as some seasoning salt at the end of cooking. We ate it with grilled cheese (tasty), but now eating some leftovers in my lunch with some crackers and it doesn’t have enough flavor to be a stand-alone recipe. Next time I would probably add more garlic, maybe some mixed Italian seasoning on top of the sage, or something like that.

  8. I added a splash of almond milk and a zucchini. I did top with Parmesan cheese at serving. So good, especially the second and third day. Next time I would add a bag of baby spinach in the final 30 minutes.

  9. I just made this and used both Great Northern White Beans and Lima Beans and it turned out amazing! I’m also serving each bowl topped with sour cream and sliced avocado. This such a healthy and delicious soup!

    1. Cyn – If you use canned beans, you’ll want to WAY cut back on the cook time, or it’ll just turn to mush. I haven’t made it with canned beans before, but a few others have and just reduced the cook time. 🙂

    1. I have frozen the leftovers with good results! Sometimes thawed bean soup causes the beans to split a bit, but it’s really only cosmetic. The taste and texture reheat well for me!

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