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Jamaican Black Beans with Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Onions

Add deep flavor by caramelizing onions in your slow cooker while giving beans a quick soak. This technique will improve many recipes. If you like, cook extra onions to top pizzas or enrich tomato sauce.

Jamaican Black Beans with Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Onions made with slow cooker recipe

Active time: 15 minutes. Total time: 6 hours or more. Makes 4 cups of cooked beans, serving 8. Vegan and gluten-free.


2 cups dried black beans (370 grams or 13 ounces)
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 yellow onions (680 grams or 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet potato (226 grams or 8 ounces)
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle or cayenne


  1. Play some Jamaican music. I started with Jimmy Cliff's I Can See Clearly Now, which I have on a well-worn soundtrack LP of The Harder They Come.
  2. Pick through beans to remove stones and anything that's not a bean. Rinse beans and put in a large bowl with water and salt.
  3. Cut onions in half and cut into thin slices. Put in a slow cooker with olive oil and toss to coat. Cover and cook on high for about two hours, stirring two or three times, until onions are fragrant and golden brown.

    how to caramelize onions in a slow cooker or crockpot

  4. Slice garlic and set aside. Peel sweet potato and cut into one-inch cubes. 
  5. Stir garlic, cumin, and chipotle into onion mixture. (This helps the oil carry the flavors.) Add sweet potato and beans with their soaking water. Cover the slow cooker and continue cooking until beans are tender. Add a little hot water if needed to keep beans from poking up above the water line.
  6. Serve hot with more Jamaican music. Ladle it over rice or quinoa if desired and top with the usual suspects: green onions, avocado, fresh tomatoes, or hot sauce. Keeps refrigerated for four days and frozen for up to a year.


  • If you want a longer cooking time, just cook on a lower setting. You can mix it up by caramelizing the onions on high and then cooking the beans on low for an extra few hours. Please share the timing that works for you in the comments below.
  • I used my small two-quart slow cooker for this recipe. You can easily make double or triple batches in larger slow cookers.

Reader Comments (2)

What a great idea to caramelize the onions in the crockpot! I had never thought of it. I have the Jamaican black beans recipe in my crockpot now with extra onions still cooking in my mini crockpot. The smell is amazing! Can't wait to eat tonite. Love all the work you do, have your books, you are such an inspiration! Thank you so much!!

Oct 14, 2014 | Registered Commenterjackiedix

We tried this a couple of evenings ago and I just finished off the leftovers. It's so delicious that it's amazing there were any leftovers at all--just more than the two of us could manage in one sitting--even cutting the recipe in half. We don't own a slow cooker so had to adjust, but ti all worked out fine. This is now officially one of our faves.

Nov 4, 2014 | Registered Commentercarole
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