How to Cook Pinto Beans (Plus Ideas for Toppings)

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I grew up in the South where pinto beans and cornbread was a dinner staple. The beans were cooked long and slow with ham or bacon for added flavor and then when the beans were creamy and tender, they were served over buttery cornbread. It is still one of my favorite easy meals and brings back so many memories! Whether or not you choose to make your beans vegetarian, or you are like my mom and insist on adding some part of the pig, pinto beans are so easy to cook! They are great served as the main dish, but also make a great addition to any meal. The ongoing debate of "to soak" or "not to soak" will never be settled, but I have found that both methods work beautifully, and it all depends on the time you have to cook your beans. What I love is that with a few spices, pinto beans can be turned into Mexican charro beans, barbecue baked beans, or can be left simple and topped with a little hot sauce and raw onion. The possibilities are endless!

(Image: Leigh Ann Chatagnier)

Things You'll Need

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 4 to 6 cups of water or stock
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Ham hock or 6 slices of bacon (Optional)

Tip

  • Additional ingredients for toppings can include, but are not limited to: cilantro, avocado, green onion, raw onion, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, and cheese.

Step 1: Cover Beans with Liquid

Rinse the dried beans in a strainer. Add the beans to a large pot and add enough water or stock until they are covered by about 2 inches of liquid. You can alternatively soak the beans in a large bowl the night before and simply rinse before adding to the cooking pot and covering with the liquid. Season with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Add your bacon or ham hock at this point if using.

(Image: Leigh Ann Chatagnier)

Step 2: Bring the Beans to a boil

Bring the beans to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let the beans cook for one hour and then add the other tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Continue to cook until the beans are tender, about another hour, removing the lid. Taste the beans and adjust the salt and pepper accordingly.

Tip

  • If too much liquid evaporates while the beans continue to cook, simply add more water or stock so that the beans stay covered.

(Image: Leigh Ann Chatagnier)

Step 3: Serve the Beans

Simply serve the pinto beans as is, or add additional toppings to create new flavors.

(Image: Leigh Ann Chatagnier)

Ideas for Toppings

Add diced raw onion and a few dashes of hot sauce.

(Image: Leigh Ann Chatagnier)

For Mexican style pinto beans, add cilantro, green onion, cojita cheese, and avocado.

(Image: Leigh Ann Chatagnier)

For easy barbecue baked beans, drain the liquid from the beans and add barbecue sauce. Simple place the beans into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an additional 30 minutes uncovered until the baked beans are done. Top with green onion.

(Image: Leigh Ann Chatagnier)

Not only are there endless possibilities with ways to flavor the pinto beans, but they are also an inexpensive way to feed your family. Enjoy!

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