This pinto beans recipe made with dried pinto beans is super easy on the stovetop and makes the most flavorful, delicious, and creamy pinto beans.
Opening a can of beans is one of the easiest ways to get more plant-based, healthy protein in your diet. But cooking beans from scratch might be the tastiest, eaten by the spoonfuls on their own, added to salads like this Tuscan white bean and tuna salad. They’re an excellent source of protein and fiber and the perfect answer for a meatless meal.
My recipe for pinto beans comes together nice and easy on the stove with the same method I use for my cannellini beans, and are so creamy and full of great savory flavor, as well as nutritious. They start with an overnight soak of the dried beans, then a hands-off slow simmer on the stove. Using dried beans allows you to discern the texture you prefer most—beans with a bit of bite or smashed and mashed—and how to flavor them—keeping them vegetarian, or not (did I hear someone say “bacon”?)—makes home cooked beans a simple comfort food favorite.
What’s in Cooked Pinto Beans
A few basic ingredients are all you need to make the best pinto beans.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Dried pinto beans—you could use canned, but I prefer the firmer texture you get from dried beans
- Bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Optional: Chicken stock—I use homemade if I have it on-hand, or try veggie stock to make this recipe vegetarian. If using store-bought stock of either kind, I recommend deeply flavored Better Than Bouillon Base added to the water.
Pinto Beans Are Good For You!
Pinto beans are a healthy source of fiber and protein, and are also full of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals like vitamin B1, magnesium, and iron.
The Big Ask: Do Pinto Beans Have to be Soaked Before Cooking?
Some cooks soak their beans, some don’t bother. For me, soaking the beans overnight ensures I always end up with a great pot of just-how-I-like-them cooked beans. Soaking the the beans first rehydrates the beans to ensure they cook evenly and quicker. Some believe soaking the beans before cooking relieves the beans of the sugars and breaks down the fiber that causes gas and bloating.
How to soak beans:
- Place the beans in a large bowl or pot.
- Pick out and shriveled or discolored beans and discard.
- Cover with 3 inches of cold water.
- Set on the counter uncovered for 8-24 hours. There’s no need to refrigerate beans as they soak.
- Discard soaking water and rinse beans throughly in cold water.
TIP: Freeze ahead. Presoaked beans can be drained and frozen in a freezer safe ziplock bag.
How to Cook Pinto Beans
Cooking beans from scratch may seem like an easy step to skip, but once you try this method, you’ll find yourself passing over the can opener and reaching for a bag of dried beans instead.
Add onion, smashed garlic cloves and olive oil. Depending on the time I have on hand, sometimes I sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil before adding the beans and water, and sometimes I don’t. A hearty dose of olive oil adds a richness to the cooking stock and helps the beans become creamy as they cook. If preferred, cook a quartered onion in the cooking liquid rather than chopped to still get the flavor but make it easier to fish out of the beans once done cooking.
Simmer and Build the Flavor
Add two inches cooking water to the soaked beans. Cover the beans with water to be absorbed as the beans cook.
For more flavor, add stock. You can also add 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock to the water.
Season with kosher salt as you go. Add kosher salt to the beans as they cook for the beans to slowly absorb the flavor.
Simmer, but do not boil the beans continuously while cooking. Trying to rush the cooking process by boiling dried beans rather than cooking at a slow simmer will cause the beans to split and fall apart. Skim the cooking water with a small strainer as needed.
More Bean Broth Flavor Enhancers
- Sauté chopped bacon or pancetta with the onions and garlic
- Instead of yellow onion, try shallots or red onion
- Sprinkle in red pepper flakes for a bit of heat
- Toss the rind of a Parmesan cheese wedge into the simmering beans to flavor and thicken the broth
- Add a dash of soy sauce or amino acids for another layer of umami
- Simmer smashed anchovy paste with the stock
- Diced tomato or tomato paste
What to Serve With Pinto Beans
- The BEST Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Easy Mexican Coleslaw Recipe
- Slow Cooker Mexican Pot Roast
- The BEST Carnitas
- Chopped Mexican Kale Salad
- The BEST Spanish Rice Recipe (Mexican Rice)
- Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
- The BEST Easy Chicken Fajitas
More Recipes With Beans
- Cannellini Beans
- Mediterranean Shrimp Salad With Cannellini Beans
- The BEST Easy BBQ Baked Beans
- Roasted Chickpeas With Parmesan
- 20 Recipes You Can Make with a Can of Beans
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