Updated on 09.10.14

Dinner With My Family #12: Slow Cooker Jamaican Red Bean Stew

Trent Hamm

Jamaican Red Bean Stew

Kevin wrote in this week asking me if I could show some meals that utilized a slow cooker, as he’d love to cook more inexpensive and healthy dishes at home but he’s often strapped for time in the evenings.

I’m happy to oblige.

One of our favorite slow cooker recipes is Jamaican red bean stew, a delicious thick stew that turns out wonderfully after cooking slowly all day in a slow cooker. You can prepare it in about fifteen minutes in the morning before you leave and your house is fragrant when you get home.

Chopping carrots

All you have to do is chop some vegetables and toss some stuff in the slow cooker in the morning!

This will make a healthy pot of soup – our family of four ate this soup for dinner, then for lunch, and there’s still about 1/3 of the soup in the freezer. If you’re single or just a couple, you may want to halve the recipe.

This recipe is based on Robin Robertson’s Jamaican stew recipe from Quick-Fix Vegetarian cookbook, though we’ve modified it quite a bit.

What You Need

The ingredient list is pretty straightforward. Most of the ingredients are either fresh vegetables or spices you should already have on hand.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced carrots
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 sweet potato, diced
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz), drained
1 1/2 lbs. dark kidney beans (two 15 oz. cans drained of the juice will work)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper

The receipt totaled $9.80 for the ingredients and produced 12 servings of the stew, which means the cost per bowl was around $0.80.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

If you wish, you can slice the carrots, chop the oinion, and dice the sweet potatoes the night before. This will cause a slight alteration of the procedure in the morning, but don’t sweat it. If it’s more convenient for you to do things this way, prep the vegetables and keep them in the refrigerator overnight.

Preparing the Meal

If you’re doing the vegetables in the morning, put the olive oil and the garlic into the slow cooker and turn it on high while you’re preparing the vegetables. If the vegetables are prepared, just add the olive oil and garlic first and turn the slow cooker to low.

When the vegetables are ready, start adding ingredients, going straight down the list above. Stir the stew as you’re adding ingredients to make sure the liquid is getting everywhere and distributing the spices all around. The coconut milk may have some “curds” in there, but don’t worry about it – they’ll go away throughout the day.

Set the slow cooker to low, put the lid on, and leave it all day. When you come home that evening, serve!

Jamaican red bean stew

That’s really all there is to it!

Optional Ingredients

If you’d like, slice up some cooked cured sausage and add to the stew, as you desire. Another ingredient that would work reasonably well would be diced ham.

In any regard, this is such a hearty stew that it’ll function just fine as a standalone meal.

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  1. Sheri says:

    Sounds good. I don’t quite follow the part about the beans. Are canned beans the preferred form, are does this work with dried beans soaked overnight? If so, a pound and a half (3 cups) of dried beans sounds like a lot.

  2. Adam P says:

    Wow it sure sounds like a *lot* of beans. I guess it is bean stew tho to be fair. Hmm not sure I could have this on date night! But it looks decent. And low sodium to boot (if you used salt free canned tomatoes and water instead of veggie broth). I think I’d use less beans and more carrots/celery/onion/potato/sweet potato etc. in their place.

  3. Rebecca says:

    i was wondering about the beans too. 1 lb of dried beans makes about the equivalent of 3 cans of cooked beans, so 1 and 1/2 lbs would be more like 4 to 5 cans of cooked beans. Also with the amt of liquid you have in the recipe, you would need to pre cook the beans separately, drain them, and then add the veggies and other items. There isn’t enough liquid in the soup to cook that many dried beans. Also, tomatoes tend to prevent beans from totally becoming soft, so it works best when working with dried beans to cook them completely before adding the tomatoes.

    AdamP, for that size stew, what Trent added for beans seems on the low end, hence my question. And if you eat beans often, your body gets used to them, and you have less gas then.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I was also thinking this would be good with a scoop of brown rice, either added to the stew or cooked on the side and served in the same bowl, sort of like gumbo.

  5. lurker carl says:

    A suggestion, based on the first picture, for those of you with the smooth surfaced ceramic cooking surfaces that are now popular replacements for the coil electric models. Do not use the ceramic surface for anything except cooking and do not put empty utensils on it. Replacing the damaged cook top can cost as much as an entire range.

  6. Tracy says:

    This sounds really delicious!

    One thing I do whenever I’m making any kind of soup or stew, whether or not it calls for it, is to add some finely diced kale or spinach (or other greens, but that’s what I usually have on hand) – it doesn’t change the flavor, but it’s a great and easy way to get more nutricious greens into your diet.

    Re: the bean issue – I used amazon’s look inside to peek at the original recipe – it calls for the cans of beans. So it’s likely Trent just was guestimating the dried beans wrong.

    The modifications he mentions in the post is substituting half an onion for 3 chopped scallions, for anyone who wants to recreate the original recipe, and substituting half the coconut milk (original called for a full can) for more broth. I love coconut milk so I’d revert that change personally, but keep the onion change.

  7. Tracy says:


    Hee, not surprisingly – the original recipe says to serve this over rice or couscous!

    I’m actually thinking of making this tomorrow, it’s making me hungry.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Tracy, I should have peeked at the original. I am thinking I would like this but my husb would be more on the fence. He would eat it, but not the leftovers. Perhaps I will make a small batch for me. Also thinking some winter squash could be subbed for the potato I don’t have. Definitely using dried beans I cook myself, though. I can’t stand the canned ones.

  9. Anne says:

    Trent, I really appreciate the low cost, vegetarian recipes. Money is incredibly tight for me and your recipes go a long way. Those that I’ve tried have all been hits!

  10. Kathleen says:

    This looks AWESOME!

  11. Andrew says:

    Lurker Carl-

    You are so right about cooktops. They look good until you start to use them, and that’s it. I got rid of mine a few years ago and will never have another.

  12. New Reader says:

    I don’t have a slow cooker, but this looks like it would translate well into an easy stove top stew. I’d just saute the garlic and onion in olive oil, add all the other ingredients, and simmer for about 45 minutes while I tend to other business. I like meals that cook themselves, my total prep time would be about 15 minutes, and dinner would be on the table in about an hour. Nice.

  13. Riki says:

    My parents have a glass cooktop stove and we’ve never had problems. The secret? My mother scrapes the glass clean with a razor blade. EVERYTHING comes off and the stove has never had a scratch or stain. The speciality cleaners never worked for us.

    Trent’s stove seems to have stubborn stains/marks around the elements but I bet they would come off with the razor blade in a heartbeat.

  14. Wayward says:

    This sounds really good, Trent! I’ve yet to find a slow cooker meal that I really like, but this sounds yummy, and since it’s a stew I’m hoping it’ll work well. Thanks!

  15. Des says:

    @Riki – It depends on the glass top. The glasstop stove we had when I was growing up could be scraped with a razor blade just fine. However, the one we have now has a texture to it that doesn’t work with a razor blade. I have no idea what benefit the texture serves (other than to trap the burnt food) but the only way I have found to get it totally clean is to soak a washcloth in soapy water and leave it on the burner over night. Then in the morning, I use Barkeepers Friend and a TON of elbow grease. With this method I can clean a couple inches of burnt burner before my arm gives out and I have to try again the next day. I’ve pretty much given up all hope of keeping it totally clean.

  16. lurker carl says:

    A clean or dirty cook top isn’t the issue. Using the cook top as a work surface will eventually lead to bigger problems. Think in terms of breaking the ceramic, melting pots and utensils, burns, fire and such. It’s single purpose is to heat pots of food, so beware if you have any other uses in mind.

  17. zoe says:

    Great post! I’ll definitely be trying this one – it looks very tasty.

  18. valleycat1 says:

    Sounds good,although now that warm weather has hit our area, we probably won’t be making many soups or stews for awhile.

    Also, if you don’t have a crockpot, you can use a stewpot with a lid in the oven (assuming someone will be at home while it’s cooking), or prepare it stovetop. In that case, since it isn’t cooking as long, it will be even better reheated as leftovers.

  19. Deb says:

    I can’t believe people cue in to the cook-top. What’s the most important issue here? A recipe! Myself, I’m getting a chef’s knife!

  20. Matthew says:

    Great recipe: I never use curry powder, I substituted 2 tsp of tumeric, 1 tsp of ginger and 1tsp of mace. Instead of canned tomatoes, used fresh. Soup is wonderfully color and pungent. Used dessicated coconut instead of the cream, adds a nice flavor plus some texture. This is going to become a standard. Thanks for the inspiration!

  21. deRuiter says:

    This would be better if the onions were caramelized before starting. The dark golden color and the enhanced taste are worth the effort. Has potential especially when served over some rice.

  22. Riki says:

    I just made this recipe with a few tweaks:

    – I cut down on the beans and added cubed ham; next time I’ll saute the ham and onions in the garlic and onions before adding it to the slowcooker.

    – The recipe as written is a SOUP, not a stew (confirmed by Trent’s photographs), therefore I added some flour to thicken and give it a more stew-like consistency.

    – I just unplugged the slow cooker a few minutes ago and it smells lovely. I plan to serve it over rice. Next time I might add the rice directly into the stew.

  23. Kate says:

    The recipe looks great but I’m also glad to see the comments about the stove cooktop. I recently bought a new stove and am thankful that I did some research about burners. I opted for the old style and from reading here, I am glad I did. Now I only wish that I had gone for the old “turn the dial” and things work. I hate the electronic push button style controls.

  24. marie says:

    I really wish you would put more pictures for the meal series. It would make it easier to visualize what you are doing.

  25. Cindy says:

    I’m planning on making this for my family this week. Keep these easy, healthy recipes coming! I have loved all the recipes I’ve tried.

  26. jim says:

    Looks really good. I may try it, but use red beans instead of kidney beans. I like them a lot better.

  27. Marta says:

    This looks great! Can’t wait to try it!

  28. Karen says:

    Looks good! Might incorporate some of the tips. Getting hungry now!

  29. Sheri says:

    Carnivores, read this . . .

    I made this recipe today, with the following changes. It turned out well: husband loved it, kid thought it was pretty good. I will probably make it again.

    Carrots (3-4) and sweet potato (1) in the bottom of crockpot, then 4 bone-in chicken thighs (skin removed). Red beans (1 can) + diced tomatoes (1 can). Brown one large diced onion in oil, add garlic cloves crushed with 1 T. salt, then about 1 T. flour to make a quick roux. Add to top of the pot, plus sauce made of coconut milk (1 can), 3/4 c. stock, and spices (including 1 t. red pepper flakes).

    Simmer on low for about 8 hours. Adjust salt and add fresh minced parsley close to the end. Serve over rice.

  30. NewReader says:

    I made this today, on the stove top since I don’t have a slow cooker. I made two changes to Trent’s version: I added a handful of frozen peas at the end because I felt like it needed something green, and I thickened the sauce with some cornstarch near the end. It tasted great! I served it over brown rice. Next time I’m going to add some fresh ginger, that was the only tweak I thought of.

  31. Emily says:

    oh my – wish I read the comments first! I put dried beans in the pot this AM and followed the recipe – I thought it wasn’t enough liquid, but went to work and now I have a bunch of mushy veggies and no liquid left!

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