Turns out cooking dried red kidney beans in your slow cooker can make you sick. Find out how to eliminate the toxin that can make you ill and how to safely prepare and cook these commonly used legumes.
moms chili

Pictured Recipe: Mom's Chili

Dried red kidney beans—we all love them. When cooked until their centers are creamy, these beloved legumes go into delicious veggie burgers, fresh salads, rice dishes and, of course, chili. Needless to say, they are pantry staples and healthy to boot, adding protein, fiber and iron to your daily meals. Whether you have cans of prepared beans or bags of the dried ones stacked (neatly, of course) in your pantry, red kidney beans are always good to have on hand.

However, dried red kidney beans can be toxic when prepared in a slow cooker. All of you chili champions and stockpilers of beans, especially, need to hear this.

According to the Food and Drug Administration's Bad Bug Book, dried red kidney beans contain toxic levels of lectin—proteins that bind to carbohydrates—and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal illness for several hours when not cooked properly. Phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) is the lectin in the beans that causes people to become sick. PHA protects legumes from pests and pathogens, but when humans consume as few as four improperly cooked dried beans, they may suffer these symptoms, says the FDA. Lectins are found in all plants, including legumes, but dried red kidney beans are the only ones that contain a high enough concentration of PHA to temporarily sicken humans.

The good news? Eliminating the toxic level of lectin in the beans is super easy. When preparing dried red kidney beans, you must boil them for a minimum of 10 minutes. Since most slow cookers do not reach the boiling point (212°F), beans prepared in them will carry the toxic lectin. (And no need to worry about canned beans; they've already been cooked at 212°F for more than 10 minutes.) So, here's what you need to do to safely cook dried red kidney beans and serve them to your family without worry. It's as easy as 1-2-3.

How to Safely Cook Dried Red Kidney Beans

1. Soak the dried beans for a minimum of 5 hours or overnight.

2. Drain the soaked beans and boil them (212°F) in fresh water for a minimum of 10 minutes.

3. Prepare your beans as desired.

Bottom Line

Carry on with your bean-eating routine, just be sure to boil your dried red kidney beans for 10 minutes before continuing with your intended preparation. Because most slow cookers do not heat food to more than 212°F, this extra step is necessary when following a slow cooker recipe. The 10-minute boil will rid the beans of lectin, which can cause temporary gastrointestinal distress.

Beans are nutritious, delicious and affordable, especially when you buy them dried. So make a dent in your stash of beans and dig into one of these easy recipes that highlight dried beans.