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Whip up a pot of this flavorful pinto beans recipe, simmered with aromatic veggies and smoky spices. It’s perfect as a satisfying side dish or simple main dish!

Pinto Beans Recipe

There’s something so satisfying about a simple pot of beans: it’s full of protein, super economical, and an easy way to make a healthy meal. Cooking dry beans is something we used to do often, but we’ve fallen out of practice lately. So we’re resolved to get back on the train! All you need is a bit of forethought to simmer up the beans into an irresistibly creamy, savory-spiced pot of beans that works as a side dish or simple main protein. Here’s what you need to know about how to cook pinto beans from scratch!

What you need for this pinto beans recipe

Pinto beans are simple to whip up, and a great way to infuse plant-based protein and fiber into your every day. Sure, canned beans are convenient (and we use them often). But cooking dry beans is much more delicious and cheaper! They come out perfectly seasoned with smoky spices, and you can adjust seasonings to your taste.

This pinto beans recipe has a creamy sauce that works when serving them as a side dish or main. You can also skip the sauce if you’re simply using them in a recipe that calls for canned pinto beans. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Dry pinto beans
  • White onion (or yellow onion)
  • Garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • Cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika
  • Butter (or vegan butter or olive oil)
  • All-purpose flour (or cornstarch)
Pinto Beans Recipe

How to cook pinto beans

This pinto beans recipe is simple and mostly hands-off, but you do have to remember to soak the beans the night before! This is the traditional method for cooking dried beans, though there is some contention over whether it’s actually necessary for modern cooks. However, in our tests we’ve found that soaking the beans overnight helps them to cook more evenly. Here are the basic steps for how to cook pinto beans:

  1. Soak the beans overnight: Place the beans in a large container with a cover with 2 inches of room temperature water and stir in 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Cover and allow to soak at room temperature.
  2. Add seasonings: When ready to cook, drain the beans from the soaking liquid. Place them in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Add kosher salt and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Add peeled quartered onion and peeled garlic.
  3. Simmer 1 to 2 hours: Simmer uncovered for 1 to 2 hours until the beans are tender (taste test as you cook; the exact timing will depend on the age and brand of beans). Once tender, season with additional salt to taste, cumin and chili powder.
  4. Thicken the sauce: If desired, make a creamy sauce for the beans: remove 2 tablespoons of the liquid to a small bowl. Stir in the flour until a paste forms, then return it to the pot. Add the butter and stir until combine. Simmer 5 minutes until the liquid is thickened slightly.

Making the creamy sauce

This pinto beans recipe is quite versatile: you can make the creamy sauce if you plan to serve them as a side or main dish. Or, you can omit this step if you plan to use the beans in a recipe that calls for canned beans that are rinsed.

We highly recommend making the creamy sauce, since it’s so flavorful and perfect for making the beans work as a cohesive dish! If you eat gluten-free, you can use cornstarch for thickening.

Pinto Bean Recipe

Is the overnight soak required?

There is some contention among modern chefs and cooks about whether it’s required to soak dried beans. We’ve tried it both ways, and we prefer the texture of the beans when you soak the night before. They generally cook more evenly than if you don’t soak them, when some can end up crunchy and others are falling apart.

However, you can omit the overnight soak in a pinch! You may need to cook the pinto beans slightly longer and add a hint more salt in the final seasoning.

Storage for pinto beans

Cooking 1 pound of dried beans yields about 6 cups cooked beans. Store leftovers refrigerated in their liquid for 3 to 5 days. For any beans you won’t eat before 5 days, store them frozen for up to 8 months in a sealable storage container.

If you’re using these cooked pinto beans in a recipe that calls for canned, keep in mind that 1 ½ cups pinto beans = 15 oz can.

Other flavor options

There are lots of other ways to flavor pinto beans! The recipe as written is vegetarian and vegan (with olive oil or vegan butter). Of course, many people love to add bacon to their beans, which you can also do! Here are a few more ideas for flavoring this pinto beans recipe:

  • Add sauteed chopped bacon to the pot.
  • Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid from a can of chipotle chilis in adobo for smoky heat.
  • Add a few pinches red pepper flakes for a zing.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste for a tangy, full-bodied sauce.
  • Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce for extra salty flavor.
Pinto Beans

Ways to serve this pinto beans recipe

This pinto beans recipe can be used as a substitute for canned beans, but we like it best on its own as a side dish or a simple main dish! Serve it with rice and a salad for a cozy meal, or it’s versatile enough to work with a long list of main dishes. It’s especially nice to add protein to a meatless meal! Here are a few ideas:

More bean recipes

Love cooking dried and canned beans? Here are a few more recipes to try:

This pinto beans recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan an dairy-free. For gluten-free, use cornstarch.

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Pinto Beans Recipe

Easy Pinto Beans


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 to 2 hours
  • Total Time: 43 minute
  • Yield: 12 ½ cup servings 1x

Description

Whip up a pot of this flavorful pinto beans recipe, simmered with aromatic veggies and smoky spices. It’s perfect as a satisfying side dish or simple main dish!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound dry pinto beans
  • 1 white onion (or yellow onion), peeled and quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or vegan butter or olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, whisked into liquid (optional; or use cornstarch) 

Instructions

  1. Soak the beans overnight: Place the beans in a large container with a cover with 2 inches of room temperature water and stir in 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Cover and allow to soak at room temperature. (If you omit this step, you can still cook the beans; you may need to cook slightly longer and add a hint more salt in the final seasoning. The overall texture is better with the overnight soak, but you can omit it in a pinch.)
  2. When ready to cook, drain the beans from the soaking liquid. Place them in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Add the kosher salt and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Add the onion and garlic.
  3. Simmer uncovered for 1 to 2 hours until the beans are tender (taste test as you cook; the exact timing will depend on the age and brand of beans). Add a bit of water if necessary to keep the beans covered with water while cooking. Once tender, season with additional salt to taste, along with the cumin and chili powder.
  4. To thicken the liquid, remove 2 tablespoons of the liquid to a small bowl. Stir in the flour until a paste forms, then return it to the pot. Add the butter and stir until combine. Simmer 5 minutes until the liquid is thickened slightly. (You can skip this step if you’re planning to use the beans in a recipe that calls for canned pinto beans that are drained and rinsed.)
  5.  Enjoy the beans immediately. Store leftovers refrigerated in their liquid for 3 to 5 days, or frozen for up to 8 months in a sealable storage container. (For reference, 1 ½ cups pinto beans = 15 oz can.)
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegetables
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Pinto beans, pinto beans recipe, pinto bean recipe, pinto bean

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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2 Comments

  1. thank you, I eat these with eggs every morning, and they’re always out of a can, so an inspired from scratch pinto bean recipe is very welcome!

  2. Never mind. Apparently, I have looked at a lot of your recipes that haven’t been reviewed. I did see some comments on others that I hadn’t looked at before.