Why You Should Never Cook Kidney Beans in a Slow Cooker

This popular cooking method can have dangerous results.

Cooking dried beans in a slow cooker is incredibly convenient. Just throw them in with a bit of a broth and several hours later you'll be rewarded with some creamy and tender legumes. But if you try this method with red kidney beans, you risk giving yourself a severe case of food poisoning.

According to research from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), red kidney beans contain high levels of a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) that causes extreme nausea, severe vomiting, and sometimes abdominal pain.

PHA is present in red kidney beans that are still partially raw from undercooking, or haven't been heated to a safe temperature to destroy the toxin. The low temperatures of a slow cooker may not heat them sufficiently.

Red Kidney Bean Poisoning, as it's named by the FDA, has a rapid onset and the severity of symptoms is related to the amount of contaminated beans that are consumed. White kidney beans, by comparison, have only around one-third the toxin amount that red kidney beans contain.

While this information may sound scary, it shouldn't stop you from enjoying kidney beans. All you need to do is use the simple method below to ensure that what you're cooking is safe for you and your family.

How to Safely Prepare Dried Red Kidney Beans

These instructions follow the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's recommendations:

  1. Soak - Raw kidney beans need to soak in water for at least five hours.
  2. Boil - Drain the beans and change to a fresh pot of water. Bring to a boil (212 degrees F/100 degrees C) for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  3. Prepare - Once you've followed the previous two instructions, your kidney beans are no longer toxic and can finish cooking in whatever method you prefer, such as in a slow cooker or on the stove top.

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