Pinto bean stew with jalapeño corn dumplings

This satisfying dish is easy to make in a slow cooker.

Contributed by Nadia Borchardt, RD

Pinto bean stew with jalapeño corn dumplings

When counseling many of my patients on healthier nutrition, a common barrier is lack of time to prepare foods. I understand. With our busy lifestyles, coming home to prepare a meal from scratch might seem like an overwhelming task. This is when slow cookers come in handy. Nowadays they come in a variety of sizes, features, and price ranges — and they can be used to prepare almost anything, including soups, legumes, meats, pastas, and even desserts.

Today, I am sharing one of my favorite recipes, adapted from Eating Well. It is packed with plant-based nutrition and my favorite part is the awesome aroma it produces as the spices combine to produce this satisfying and easy-to-make dish.

Servings: 8

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 5 to 9 hours in a slow cooker, plus bean-soaking time


  • 1 pound dry pinto beans, soaked (see tip below)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Juice (approximately 2 tablespoons) and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, finely chopped (do not use if you prefer less spice)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes


  1. Drain the soaked beans. 
  2. In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the beans, water, onion, bell pepper, celery, corn, garlic, chili powder, and cumin.
  3. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. I recommend cooking on low for 8 hours if you are leaving it to cook while you go to work.
  4. After the bean mixture has cooked for 4 (or 8) hours, stir the lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt into the beans. Save the lime zest for the dumpling mixture.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  6. Add butter and use a pastry blender or two knives or a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  7. Add jalapeño (as desired) and lime zest and toss to combine.
  8. Add buttermilk and stir to form a dough. 
  9. Using generous tablespoons of dough, drop 8 dumplings on top of the stew in the slow cooker.
  10. Cover and cook on high for 1 more hour.
  11. Serve each portion of stew topped with a dumpling. 
  12. Garnish with cilantro and radish.

Bean-soaking tips

  1. Before using beans in a slow-cooker recipe, soak them to ensure even cooking. For both methods, start by sorting beans to remove any pebbles and rinse well with cold water. 
  2. Overnight soak: Place beans in a large bowl, cover with 3 inches of cold water and soak at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. 
  3. Quick soak: Place beans in a large saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 330
  • Total fat: 4.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 8 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 58 g
  • Dietary fiber: 16 g
  • Protein: 16 g