With it’s origins in the French countryside, this Slow Cooker Cassoulet is a classic comfort food meal that’ll keep your belly warm on the chilly nights ahead!
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I really gave my slow cooker a run for its money on this recipe. I absolutely love my slow cooker. While it gets more of a workout in the winter months, it still makes appearances from time-to-time in the summer. (This Slow Cooker Cajun Snack Mix is great for a crowd!) That slow cooker has handled things like a champ for years now…but I really put it to the test this time.
You see, years ago (right around the time I was starting this blog), I worked part-time in a kitchenware store here in town. That was a fun job since I got to talk about food all day. We’d occasionally host special events on weekends, and one weekend we had a cassoulet simmering away in the kitchen. This was a strategic move as it was early Autumn, and the smell of the cassoulet simmering away in the back drew customers into the store. I wasn’t familiar with cassoulet before that event, but it only took one spoonful for me to be hooked!
I came home that very afternoon and made another batch of cassoulet for the family. It was delicious! Laura (always the eloquent one) nicknamed it “French Pork and Beans.” In a way, I guess she was right. But there’s so much more to cassoulet than that! There’s 3 (!) types of pork – shredded pork, bacon and sausage. There’s a whole carload of Great Northern beans. There are some tomatoes. Heck, there are even a couple cups of wine in there. Let all that simmer for a bit, and you’ve got one amazing meal ready to go!
So what exactly is cassoulet? A cassoulet is a slow-cooked (be it in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker) meaty casserole or stew of sorts. It originated as a peasant’s meal in southern France, and as such the primary ingredients are white beans, bacon, tomato sauce and perhaps mutton or pork sausage. Fancier cassoulets made with duck confit, goose and lamb have popped up over the years, but the origin of this dish is a peasant’s meal.
Thomas Keller’s version of this classic dish calls for pork shoulder that gets slow cooked until it is incredibly tender. I personally love the shredded pork in this dish. If pork is not an option, ham hocks, chicken thighs or duck legs would keep with the origins of this French recipe.
In fact, the process of cooking cassoulet often calls for starting with the leftover stock from the previous day’s cassoulet. Similar to how bakeries make sourdough, this means that the life of a cassoulet can be extended for years. Le Central, a San Francisco bistro, has a cassoulet that’s been going for 43 years now. 43 years! That cassoulet is older than me!
Slow Cooker Cassoulet
For this Slow Cooker Cassoulet, I simply pulled out the slow cooker rather than the Dutch oven. This recipe comes from the great Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry fame). I’m not one to mess with perfection, and Thomas Keller’s Slow Cooker Cassoulet recipe is perfection. The flavor is absolutely fantastic!
To be fair, this recipe tested the limits of my standard 6-quart slow cooker. By the time I added all of the ingredients, I barely had enough room to get that last can of beans into the pot. Another half cup of liquid, and we would have had “cassoulet a la countertop.” But that slow cooker handled things like the champ that it is, and by that night Laura and I were eating a delicious bowl of Slow Cooker Cassoulet…even if Laura still called it French Pork and Beans.
Leftovers should be stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days. To reheat, simply place cassoulet in saucepan over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. I hope this Slow Cooker Cassoulet keeps you warm on chilly nights!
Did you make this Slow Cooker Cassoulet at home? Leave a comment. Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog). Cheers!
Looking for other slow cooker comfort food recipes? Check out these favorites, too:
Slow Cooker Cassoulet
- 3½-4 lb. boneless pork shoulder
- 3 tsp kosher salt divided
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
- 4 ounces thick-cut bacon or diced pancetta
- 3 medium yellow onions coarsely chopped (can use 2 large onions)
- 2 cups dry white wine i.e. sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, etc.
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 28 oz. peeled Italian plum tomatoes coarsely chopped
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1½ pounds cooked or smoked Spanish-style chorizo sausage
- 12 cups cooked Great Northern beans or cannellini beans drained (~7 cans)
- 1 head of garlic halved crosswise.
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley plus more for garnishing
- Trim pork shoulder of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces. Place pieces in a large bowl. Add 2 tsp of salt and pepper and toss until well combined; set pork aside.
- Using a large skillet, add canola oil and panko breadcrumbs; stir until well combined. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-6 minutes or until panko is golden brown and toasted. Transfer breadcrumbs into an airtight container; set aside.
- Cut bacon crosswise into ½” strips. Place bacon in skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and pat dry; set bacon aside. Reserve the bacon fat in the skillet.
- Place half of the pork in the skillet and sauté for 1-2 minutes per side, or until browned. Remove browned pork and repeat with the remaining pork.
- Add chopped yellow onions to skillet along with the remaining 1 tsp of kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally for 6-7 minutes, or until onions have softened.
- Add wine and let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until wine has reduced by half.
- Add tomato paste, tomatoes and chicken broth; stir until well combined. Transfer mixture into slow cooker.
- Slice chorizo sausage on the diagonal into ½” slices; add chorizo to the slow cooker.
- Add cooked beans, pork and garlic.
- Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 9-10 hours, or until pork shreds easily with 2 forks.
- Remove and discard garlic. Add breadcrumbs and parsley; stir until well combined. (If desired, you can squeeze the garlic cloves from the halved heads and leave them in the cassoulet. Just don't leave the entire half head when serving!)
- Let cassoulet stand for 30 minutes before serving.
- Sprinkle each bowl with cooked bacon, additional parsley and a pinch of kosher salt.