Crock-Pot® bean soup is an easy and versatile way to slowly cook a variety of ingredients, tied together with beans, over a long period of time. Ingredients for the soup often include carrots, peppers, onions and nearly any other vegetable that is available in the kitchen. Dried and fresh spices can be added near the end, but many recipes call for the use of a ham hock or other flavorful bone-in meat to add a rich taste to the soup. The low, even heat that can be applied for several hours at a time means dry beans can sometimes be added to the Crock-Pot® directly, removing the need to be soaked overnight. With the correct type of Crock-Pot®, the entire recipe can be made in a few hours or can be prepared in a way that takes two days or more.
There are a number of ways to cook beans, most of them involving soaking them overnight. The same procedure can be used to make a Crock-Pot® bean soup, but the soaking process is not always necessary. The low and consistent heat of a Crock-Pot® allows the beans to absorb liquid at a steady rate, meaning they will actually cook until tender — directly from the dried state — with only a few extra hours of cooking. Beans that are soaked overnight will cook faster, however, and in certain cases will contain less of the elements that can cause digestive problems in some people. One unpredictable problem with cooking Crock-Pot® bean soup is that the age of the beans can drastically increase the amount of time it takes for them to become tender.
Many of the recipes for Crock-Pot® bean soup are intentionally designed to be very easy and hands-off to maintain the convenience of using a Crock-Pot®. Vegetable ingredients usually include onions, carrots and peppers that are not cooked before being added, although more complex recipes can call for ingredients to be seared quickly for a different flavor. The recipes are generally flexible, so any vegetables on hand can be used so long as they work well with the other parts of the soup.
One traditional ingredient in a Crock-Pot® bean soup is a smoked ham hock or other type of fatty cured or smoked meat. Over the long hours of cooking, the meat will start to break down and impart a deep, savory flavor to the water or stock in which the beans are being cooked. It is not advised to use raw meats, because there is a chance that larger cuts will not cook properly, or that the heat of the Crock-Pot® might not be high enough to destroy any harmful bacteria that could develop.
Depending on the types of beans in Crock-Pot® bean soup, the final dish could be very light and fresh tasting, especially with the addition of fresh herbs such as parsley at the end. It also could be a hearty winter dish, including cured sausages, pasta or eggs to thicken the liquid. Whatever the ingredients used in a Crock-Pot® bean soup, it is important to ensure that everything is thoroughly cooked and that the soup does not sit out without the Crock-Pot® being active to prevent any bacteria or mold from forming and ruining the dish.