Slow Cooker Creamy White Beans with Pancetta & Greens

These slow cooker creamy white beans are super satisfying and tasty with crunchy pancetta and wilted greens mixed in.

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A blue and white bowl with creamy slow cooker beans and greens in front of a slow cooker.

How to Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker

If you’re looking for a comforting and flavorful dish that’s easy to prepare, look no further than slow cooker creamy white beans with pancetta and greens. This hearty dish combines tender white beans, salty pancetta, and nutritious greens into a satisfying meal that’s perfect for any occasion. The best part is that it is cooked entirely in your slow cooker, which might just become your favorite way to cook beans! Cooking beans in a slow cooker is so simple and so convenient. To start, rinse the beans in a colander and remove any debris or stones. I like to sauté onions, celery, carrot and garlic first, then add the beans to the slow cooker and cover them with water or broth. The ratio of water to beans should be about 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of dried beans. Set the slow cooker to high or low heat, depending on how much time you have, and let the beans cook for 3-4 hours (on high) or 6-8 hours (on low) until they’re tender.

Ingredients with a slow cooker on a butcher block countertop.

Soaking Beans… or Not!

The topic of whether or not you should soak dried beans before cooking is not without controversy! Some won’t cook beans without pre-soaking. Others are just not that well prepared. The bottom line is that it’s not necessary to soak beans before cooking them in a slow cooker, BUT it can help to speed up the cooking process. The more important variable to take into consideration before you decide whether or not you need to soak your beans is the age of your beans. The older dried beans get, the longer they take to cook. If I could only give you one tip to the success of this recipe, it would be to buy “fresh” dried beans. Buy a smaller quantity of dried beans more often, and you won’t even have to think about soaking them again. If your beans are older, however, cover them with water and let them sit for 2 to 6 hours. Then, drain the soaking water and proceed with cooking the beans in the slow cooker according to the recipe.

Preliminary Sautéing

This recipe starts with sautéing the pancetta. This renders the pancetta fat into the cooker to give the dish extra flavor. Add the vegetables to the pancetta fat and give them a head start. If your slow cooker doesn’t have a browning function, do this in a skillet over medium-high heat and then add that to the cooker with the beans and water. 

Looking down into a slow cooker with white beans and greens inside, a wooden spoon next to it and a blue and white windowpane towel.

Time for Slow Cooking Beans

The time needed to slow cook beans will depend on a few factors, including the type of beans, how old the beans are, whether or not they were soaked, and how hot your slow cooker is (pre-heating your slow cooker is always a good idea!). As a general rule, most beans will take between 6-8 hours on low heat and 3-4 hours on high heat to become tender. You’ll know the beans are done when they’re soft but not mushy, and the liquid is creamy and flavorful. 

Ladling some beans into a blue and white china bowl.

How To Serve Slow Cooker Beans and Greens

Once the beans are cooked to perfection, it’s time to make them creamy by vigorously stirring in Parmesan cheese and wilting in the greens! This dish is delicious all by itself. The only thing I need alongside is some crusty bread to soak up the delicious bean liquor and maybe a side salad. Enjoy!

Sprinkling pancetta on a bowl of slow cooker beans and greens.

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Creamy Slow-Cooker White Beans with Pancetta and Greens

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 3 h 15 m
  • Total Time: 3 h 30 m
  • Servings:
    to 6 people


  • 2 cups dried beans gigante, butter, cannellini or other white bean
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon diced
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 large carrot finely diced
  • 1 rib celery finely diced
  • 1-2 bay leaf
  • 6 cups water
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups kale spinach, or chard, rough chopped


  1. Soak the dried beans in water for 2 to 8 hours. (Put them in water just before going to bed. If you’ve forgotten, just go for it and cook them without soaking first.)
  2. Pre-heat the slow cooker on Sauté/Brown or heat a skillet on the stovetop. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Remove the crispy pancetta and set aside. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaf to the slow cooker and cook in the pancetta fat until the vegetables start to soften – about 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the beans (if you soaked them) and transfer them to the slow cooker along with the water. Slow cook on HIGH for4 hours (or LOW for 7 hours).
  4. When the beans are tender, add the Parmesan cheese. Stir really well to thicken the bean broth.
  5. Add the kale, spinach, or chard and wilt it into the beans either by turning the slow cooker on to Sauté/Brown again or by leaving it in the slow cooker for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season to taste with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, sprinkle the crispy pancetta on top and serve with a chunk of crusty bread to mop up any leftover sauce.
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