Once you learn how to cook pinto beans from scratch, the canned kind will never taste the same. Creamy and flavorful, they’re a delicious side dish.
“I’m never buying pinto beans in a can again!” I told Jack last week, as I savored spoonful after spoonful of pinto beans straight from a pot on the stove. Maybe I was exaggerating (canned beans are darn convenient, after all), but I’ll certainly reach for them less often than I used to. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that cooking pinto beans from scratch will yield creamier, more flavorful beans every time.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m arriving late to the dried beans party. A few years back, I did try cooking them, but without much luck. I now realize that the beans that I had were too old and dried out to soften properly (note: fresher beans are better beans – look for yours at a store with high turnover!). But at the time, I decided that cooking dried beans just wasn’t for me.
What won me over? Our neighborhood bar, Kite String Cantina, started offering a weekly box of local foods. In addition to scoring fresh veggies and Chef Renee’s SUPER flavorful sauces, we started getting a bag of dried beans each week.
So over the last few months, I’ve perfected my method for how to cook pinto beans from scratch. This pinto beans recipe is amazingly simple, and it’s delicious, too. The beans are lightly spicy, aromatic, and irresistibly creamy. Try it once, and you’ll never want to eat pinto beans any other way.
How to Cook Pinto Beans
This method for how to cook pinto beans from scratch takes some time, but don’t let that scare you! The process is super simple and almost entirely hands off. Here’s how it goes:
- First, soak the beans. Place them in a large colander and sift through them to remove any stones or debris. Rinse them well and transfer them to a large bowl. Cover them with 2-3 inches of water and set them aside to soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
- The next day, cook the aromatics. Sauté half an onion in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat (you could also toss in a jalapeño if you like your beans spicy!). When the onion softens, stir in cumin, the soaked, drained beans, water, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Then, simmer. The cooking time will depend on the freshness of your beans and how you like them cooked. I cook my pinto beans until they’re falling apart and the liquid around them has thickened. I start checking after an hour and again every 15 minutes after that.
- Finally, season to taste. When the beans are cooked to your liking, season them with a squeeze of lime juice, more salt and pepper, and chili powder to taste.
That’s it! Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
Pinto Beans Serving Suggestions
When you’re ready to eat, garnish the pinto beans with cilantro and red pepper flakes. Make them a meal by pairing them with cilantro lime rice, tortillas, and a vegetable side dish like these fajita veggies or sautéed greens. Top it all off with pickled onions or pico de gallo for a pop of bright flavor, or add a scoop of guacamole for richness.
This pinto beans recipe is also a fantastic side dish. Serve it as part of an at-home taco bar or with any of these Mexican-inspired recipes:
More Favorite Bean Recipes
If you love this pinto beans recipe, try one of these delicious bean recipes next:
Serves 8 to 12
Try this pinto beans recipe once, and you’ll never get the canned kind again! Note that the cooking time here will depend on the freshness of your beans. Fresher beans cook more quickly and soften more evenly, so buy your beans from a source with high turnover if you can.
- 2 cups dry pinto beans
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- ½ white onion, chopped
- 1½ teaspoons cumin
- 8 cups water, more as needed
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, more to taste
- 1 jalapeño, stemmed and diced
- Chili powder, to taste
- Cilantro, for garnish
Place the beans in a large colander and sort through them to remove and discard any stones or debris. Rinse them well and transfer them to a large bowl. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and discard any beans that float. Soak at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. If you like spicy beans, add the jalapeño with the onion.
Stir in the cumin and then add the beans, water, oregano, salt, and several grinds of pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender. The timing will depend on the freshness of your beans. I like to check mine starting at 1 hour and every 15 minutes after that. Add more liquid to the pot, as needed, to keep the beans submerged. I like to cook my pinto beans until they’re starting to fall apart and the bean liquid around them has thickened.
Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Season the beans to taste with more salt (I typically add ½ to 1 additional teaspoon), more pepper, and chili powder, if desired. Garnish with cilantro, if using. Store the beans in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze them for up to 3 months.
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