CrockPot 16 Bean Soup Recipe

16 bean or Calico Bean soup is a crockpot staple recipe. Next time you are in the bean aisle of the grocery store, pick up a bag of beans and throw them into your slow cooker! It's an easy recipe that is super frugal and quite filling!

Originally posted during my Year of Slow Cooking.

16 Bean soup made in crockpot slow cooker is a super easy dinner recipe that is frugal and filling! Use pantry items to make a delicious soup that can have meat in it or can be vegetarian or vegan!

Day 99.

I have walked by the bags of soup mix in the grocery store a hundred million times. I've even picked one up, read the print on the bag, and taken it for a ride in the shopping cart. 

But then I chicken out and put it back on the shelf with it's friends.

It just seemed like a lot of work.

I, um, actually don't really enjoy work. 

I'd really like a house full of forest creatures like in Snow White or in Enchanted to come do it all for me so I can spin around in circles singing. 

So far the closest I've gotten to that dream is a six-year-old wearing a two-sizes-too-small rooster Halloween costume running around with a feather duster...

but it's a nice dream, nonetheless.

Okay, back to the soup. I was ecstatic when April emailed me to let me know about the 16-bean soup her amazing daughter Alecksandra makes in the crockpot

By herself. And she's eight. And she probably doesn't even shed.

Alecksandra rocks.

The Ingredients.
serves 8 to `10

The ingredients you need to make 16 bean or calico bean soup in the crockpot slow cooker

Alecksandra's version:
1 bag of soup mix
1 onion
1 packet of onion soup mix
--cook on low all day long

I didn't have any onion soup mix in the house. 

And since I wasn't expecting any woodland creatures yesterday, I made due with what I had in the pantry.

The Ingredients.
serves 8 to 10, freezes well.

1 bag of soup mix (READ LABEL carefully if avoiding gluten. Many varieties use Barley inside; Bobs Red Mill is a good choice, it has 13 Beans.)
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 teaspoons of your favorite spice rub
   (OR: 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon paprika)
1 (15 ounce)can of Italian-style tomatoes
6 to 8 cups water or broth
Kosher salt (add the salt at the last minute, a teaspoon at a time, according to taste)

(OPTIONAL: if you'd like meat, you can use a leftover hamhock and 1 cup diced ham. OR you can add a package of two of smoked sausage. I usually have the Aidell's brand in the house because they are gluten free. We like chicken and apple sausage and cajun-style -- I use a package of each just because it provides tons of flavor.)

It is up to you how much water you use.  If you want more broth, use more water, if you want it thick and beany, use less. If you want to use broth and ooomph up the flavor, go for it.

The Directions.

For best results, put the beans into a large stock pot and fill with cold water. Bring this pot to a boil for ten minutes, and then remove it from the heat, cover, and let the beans sit and soften for 1 hour before plopping into a 6-quart crockpot.

This is also important to do if your soup mix has any red beans in them.

Red beans have a naturally-occurring potential toxin. It is rare, but boiling for 10 minutes will kill anything that might be lurking. 

Drain the beans, and place them into your empty slow cooker.

Add the rest of the ingredients -- stir to combine.

Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or even longer --

 Soup tastes the best the longer you cook it, and it tastes even better the next day.

The Verdict.

this was healthy, filling and flavorful. I am thrilled to have lunch for the next week. The kids picked out their favorite beans and liked that I sprinkled parmesan on top. 

I can't wait until they can yield a knife like Alecksandra!

I served the soup along with corndog muffins (simply your favorite cornbread recipe made into muffins with 
chopped up hot dogs; yum!).

Use a bag of mixed beans from the grocery store to make a delicious, hearty soup that feeds up to ten people for only about $3 for the entire pot! 16 bean soup or Calico bean soup --- can be vegetarian or vegan unless you want to add ham! :-)

If you are new to slow cooking or have any burning (simmering? HA!) questions about crockpotting, this article, Slow Cooker Buying Guide & Must-Have Beginner Supplies from All Free Slow Cooker recipes is a fantastic resource!! 

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at April 08, 2017

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What they say about this article

  1. I always have to make corn muffins anytime I make something with beans (that way the kids will survive). I wish I could get my kids to eat beans.

  2. I love your site! I am so happy I found it. Alas, I have 2 crock pots, but they are in storage. I keep looking for one. I don't think I can go another year without one. (but do I really want to buy a 220v crockpot? It's a dilema. But with baby # 2 coming, I think it might be worth it.)
    Keep up the great recipes - and if you ever capture one of those cleaning fairys let me know!

  3. This looks great! I've never tried onion soup mix in beans but I use it in everything else so I'd expect it to be good in beans too! I'll have to try it.

  4. It's still just cool enough for a nice soup and this is definitely on my list. I've tried 15 bean soup before in the crock and it was NOT a good situation! Thank you for posting some inspiration to try it again.

  5. Anonymous4/08/2008

    Hi! I just found your blog the other day via Parent Hacks.

    Question: did you soak the beans over night before? When I make ham and beans I always soak because I'm afraid they won't get soft enough from just cooking on low all day. If if works without soaking that's close enough to a dusting blue bird for me :-)

  6. Lizzy, those corndog muffins were a HUGE hit here.

    UG, I was never so happy to use my crock as I was when preggo. It was so nice to put it on when I had the energy, then sleep for the rest of the day. ;-)

    kristin, we really liked it!

    april, let me know how it goes. I hate "wasting" dinner---and I've done it plenty of times.

    sleepycat, I did not soak them. I've soaked different beans a few times--and if I ever do, I will make sure to clearly state that in the recipe.

    The beans in this soup were plenty soft after 8 hours on low, but I cooked it for 11 because I had the time to do so.


  7. Anonymous4/08/2008

    The time you must cook your beans depends greatly on the altitude. I grew up in Texas where I could cook beans all day in a crockpot on low. Now I live on the coast (at 15 feet above sea level) and I can put beans in at breakfast and eat them for lunch! At high altitudes (like where my grandparents live, near the Rocky Mountains) you would have to leave beans in the crockpot for two days for them to be soft enough. If you aren't sure, you could ask some older people how long they suggest cooking their beans. Soaking the beans also reduces cooking time.

    If you do choose to soak them (which I recommend), pour off the water and cover with fresh water before you turn them on to cook. This reduces the gassiness (phew!) so you can eat beans and still keep all your friends.

  8. thanks, Anon! I am most definitely at sea level, and have no experience whatsoever with high-altitude cooking or baking.

    very good to know! thank you for chiming in---I appreciate it.


  9. Hahaha.. what a great post, the recipes and the part about having forest creatures do the housework are terrific.

    Thank you for the great effort in blogging 365... amazing blog.

  10. Anonymous4/08/2008

    hey I just wanted to let you know that I LOVE your blog! I check it everyday! thanks so much for all your hard work!

  11. Anonymous4/08/2008

    I bought a bag of beans today because of you- thank you!! My only regret is that I found you 99 days late!

  12. Anonymous4/08/2008

    Thanks for being gluten free! I also love your recipies and your humor!

  13. I have been reading your recipes through email for a couple of weeks now. I love reading about your crock pot cooking adventure and you "crack me up". I so need a little dose of humor first thing in the morning!

  14. Hi, enjoying your blog, immensely! You are hilarious. I truly love the idea of spinning in circles and singing while some other creature or person for that matter, does all the work!
    This soup looks good!

  15. Anonymous11/12/2008

    I am returning to crock pot cooking after a decade-long break.

    Thanks for posting all of this great information!

    This bean recipe will be my first crock pot meal--wish me luck!

  16. I have some 15 bean soup in the crockpot right now! Where's my other bean? :P

    I think I might've cooked it too long. Hopefully not, I don't want 15 bean mush!

    Have a great day!


  17. I wasn't able to find 16 bean soup at my store, but they did have a 10 bean cajun soup mix.. so it's currently cooking in the crockpot right now. I just wanted to point out that the seasoning packet that came with that soup mix was actually healthier and full of more natural ingredients than the onion soup mix I picked up.. so I'm using that instead.

    Looking forward to having this for dinner tonight! Thanks for all your recipes!

  18. Made this yesterday and it was great! I went "Italian" with mine, using two cans of tomatoes and lots of Italian spices. A little bit of leftover spaghetti sauce got dumped in too. Served with garlic bread. Turned out really well, and was very hearty. I'm going to have to remember this one for Lent this year!

  19. To add to the soak/no soak debate. I'm in Denver and made this last night with no pre-soaking. I ended-up having to cook on high for 12 hours. I added water two times but the soup turned out fine. I've also have good luck with putting dry beans in a stock pot, covering with water and bringing the beans to a boil. Once boiling, transfer the beans and water to the crock pot. They cook normally after that.

    Good, easy and healthy recipe.

  20. I do this in the crock pot too but I add turkey kelbasa...YUM--oh and yes toss the spice packet that comes with the beans--not good!

  21. I put a can of dice tomatoes and then a bunch of seasons I had in with it and it smells good.

    That's what I like about Crock Pot cooking is the smells goes all through my apartment.

    I have went from a 1 star cook to a 5 in over a week. If I know slow cooking was this easy I would have done it years ago.

  22. I made this yesterday and it was sooo delicious!! I made a lot of changes to it though. Here is what I used...

    1 16oz bag 15 bean soup mix
    1 lg Vidalia Onion
    1/2 head cabbage, chopped
    1 cup frozen carrots
    1 lg zuchini, chopped
    1 tomato diced
    1 cup frozen green beans
    3 Red Potatoes
    8 cups water
    2 bay leaves
    2tbsp chili powder
    2tbsp dried parsley
    2tbsp dried oregano
    2tbsp dried basil
    2 cloves garlic, chopped

    I didn't pre-soak the beans. I just cooked it on low for about 9-10hrs and it was delicious!!

  23. Marena7/23/2010

    Hi Stephanie, I found your site while looking for a delicious way to fix this soup mix. I too, have picked up and put back on the grocery store shelf, this bag of beans... a million times! Even walked out of the store pondering the "what if!" I followed the recipe, adding Italian herbs and half a ham bone (along with some nice chunks of meat) left over from this yr's Easter ham. Yup, all frosted over and freezer burned. I live in Marlyand and had to slow cook them on low for almost 12 hrs. It was unbelievably GOOD!! My teen daughter hates beans, but she ate these (along with her famous Jiffy cornbread muffins) ;) ... We all enjoyed it very much! Thank you, and thank you Alecksandra!

  24. Jane in California7/28/2010

    I am slowly working my way through your wonderful crock pot recipes, and today I tried the 16 bean soup. I did soak mine overnight, then drained and rinsed them before placing in my crock pot.

    I added on can of Italian style diced tomatoes, and some country gravy mix, along with the chopped onion and garlic and water. Here in northern California, the soup was fine after 8 1/2 hours on low, but could have cooked longer without turning to mush.

    I love beans, almost every type of bean there is -- so I really enjoyed this soup. I bought 1/3 pound of Italian sausage at my butcher counter, and cooked up about half of that in the sauce pan tonight, in little crumbles. I used that as a topping for the soup when serving it up - just enough to add a little dash of yummy sausage flavor!

    This is a great, inexpensive, healthy soup and I will definitely make it again. I am full after 2 1/2 bowls, no need for muffins or anything else :)

  25. Anonymous8/09/2010

    In the words of Rachel Ray! Yum-O!

  26. :) Steph.
    Lady, you are awesome!
    i found you here when i was scavenging around for some nice transitional vegetarian spinach lasagne or enchilada solutions a few weeks back before getting busy for my sister's wedding.

    i just read your post on your child being nine y.o. then the caramel apple 7th birthday. and it is all too sweet. (...not to mean in excess)

    You're such a pick-me-up.
    i LOVE the authenticity of who you are and your hopes, joys and heartaches.
    that you are such a hysterically affirming role for young ladies such as this Alecksandra.
    i'm sure it's been said and overdone, but regardless;
    you still crock my world.

    i enjoy the familial, thrifty and wholesome edge & insights which you have to give.

    and as a twenty-one year old's perspective after reading all about your committed & enduring crocked view and everybody's else's comments and suggestions
    i truly mean it when i say that you're classy cool. ("whatever that's supposed to mean?")
    it really is just beat-around-the-bush for cool mom with an air of refinement.

    1 more deserved superfan.


  27. Recently a bag of 16-bean soup mix came into my possession. I stopped looking for a recipe the moment I found your site! Thanks for sharing, my blog frog friend!

  28. Thanks for posting your recipes. As an aging widower, I need to plan my meals days in advance. I would like to clear up a common misconception: beans are not pre-soaked to "make them softer" but to extract the water soluble chemicals that cause excess flatulence. An overnight soak probably works best but the boil-for-an-hour-then-drain technique works reasonably well.

    I do remember 16-bean soup packages but can no longer find them. I was curious about the missing bean. A friend informed me that it was the "has-bean" which is no longer popular :)

  29. Anonymous4/09/2011

    Hi! I Love your blog...I am very pregnant with my second and it's a life saver! =) Anyway, if the soup mix contains kidney you worry about it? I just made this tonight (yum!) and didn't presoak or anything, but cooked on low all day long (10 hours). The beans were perfectly soft so I didn't worry about it...but now I'm paranoid. Guess I'll know soon one way or the other =/

  30. I am going to make Trader Joe's 17 bean soup today with 1 onion, package of Knorr onion soup mix and chicken broth oh and a ham hock. Did soak the beans night before but we live @ 3880' alt so thought I'd better. It smells great already. Wanted to put some tomatoes and carrots in but in a hurry. Can't wait to eat it. Thanks for your quick recipe. I have it bookmarked on my smartphone.

  31. everydayfarm10/20/2011

    I see everyone cooking corn muffins.... I found a reciepe that has you float and boil corn meal dumplings on top!

  32. sally d.11/17/2011

    I have been using this site to find crockpot recipes for a few months now, but have never posted.

    I made this dish tonight. I didn't think it could possibly work - that the beans wouldn't cook and I'd come home to firm beans. Wrong, oh so wrong I was!

    This dish is too easy and delicious. The only thing wrong with it, is that I'm afraid I might eat too much.

    I didn't have any onion soup mix, but used some cumin and chili powder. I didn't even need to add salt. I served it with some turkey sausage.

    Thank you Steph. This one is another keeper! I too have always wanted to do 16 bean soup, but was intimidated.

  33. I cook my 15 bean soup first to boiling with a little soda, then let it soak overnight. Then I cook all day on low in crockpot with salt, pepper, and Crazy Jane, and then add cooked Polish sausage pieces mixed with green pepper and onions. (All 3 ingredients need to be cooked first, then added to bean mixture within 30 mins. of eating. This is DELICIOUS!

  34. I made this and unfortunately it was really bland. I was really hoping it would be delicious because it is so easy and filling. I thought it might be better the second day, but unfortunately we ended up throwing most of it out. It may have had something to do with the fact that my bag of beans had been in my pantry for longer than I can remember. Maybe they lost some of their flavor.

  35. I love this soup. I prefer to add some freshly ground black pepper, and sea salt. A ham hock is great! You get the flavor, and the bits of meat. And I like to add chopped green mild chilis to the corn bread batter. This gives you some "kick" and also adds color.

  36. One of my favorites and I am making this soup today. I will follow Tammy's suggestion and add carrots and cabbage, maybe a bit of celery.

  37. Anonymous4/30/2014

    My Version (And it came out delicious!!)

    - 1 bag New Star Spinach with Power Greens
    - 1lb bag of Full Circle Organic 14 Bean Soup Mix
    - 1 tablespoon of minced garlic (already prepared)
    - 1 28oz can of Nature's Promise Organic diced tomatoes
    - 1 large white onion, chopped
    - 1 teaspoon sea salt
    - 1 teaspoon turmeric
    - 2 teaspoons Garam Masala
    - 5 & 1/2 cups of water (all that would fit in my 4qt crock pot lol)

    Took a day and a half to fully cook but it was worth the wait :)

    Thank you for the recipe idea!!

  38. Anonymous5/09/2017

    BACON!! Wow you girls have no clue to a man's heart.

  39. Anonymous3/14/2022

    Hi Stephanie,

    Loved this recipe! I added two packages of sausage and it was delicious! Thank you for the tip about boiling the beans.