How to Make Mexican Style Pinto Beans

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Pinto Beans
Pinto Beans (Image: juan monino for www.istockphoto.com)

A traditional Mexican meal would not be complete without a side dish of well-cooked pinto beans. Cooking pintos requires not much more than enough time to make sure they are cooked thoroughly. Pinto beans have a creamy texture and a rich taste, but can suffer from over-seasoning. A few common ingredients are all you need to make Mexican-style pinto beans.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 cups pinto beans
  • 4 Tbsp. lard, butter or oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste

Sort pinto beans. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and look for any bits of dirt. Some packaged beans come triple-washed, but it's a good idea to check through them anyway.

Soak the beans in four to six cups of water for at least two hours. You can soak them longer, or even overnight if you like. The purpose of soaking is to rehydrate the beans in order to lessen the cooking time.

Drain the beans, rinse well and set aside.

Saute onions in lard until soft, but don't let them turn brown. The beans will be most authentic if you use lard, but you can use butter or vegetable oil if you would like to keep the dish vegetarian.

Add garlic and bay leaf and cook for two to three minutes. Although it's tempting, do not add salt at this time. Cooking the beans in salt will toughen the skins and is one of the more common mistakes made when cooking pintos.

Pour in six cups of water. If you like, you can use chicken, beef or vegetable stock in place of water, but the stock should be mild so as not to overpower the taste of the beans. Add pinto beans, bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for two to three hours, or until beans are completely soft. The amount of time you soaked the beans will factor into the cooking time. Beans are cooked when they can be easily mashed with a fork.

Salt the beans to taste once they have finished cooking. Serve topped with shredded cheese and fresh, minced yellow onion.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want to add more flavoring to your beans, use traditional spices and herbs like cumin, chili powder, cilantro or oregano. To make refried beans, take the cooked pinto beans, drain of all juices and cook with a little oil until the beans reach the desired consistency.

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