Learning how to cook pinto beans, sometimes called “soup beans” is super easy. They make an excellent side dish for any “barbecue style” meal, especially when using leftover smoked chuck roast or some amazing pulled pork to the pinto bean recipe. The fats coming from the meat really smooth out the flavor profile of the beans.
What’s great about this pinto bean recipe are the options. I love this recipe as is, but feel free to make adjustments to the spices. If you like a little more heat for example, add more of the adobo sauce. Less heat, forgo the adobo sauce all together — more on this later.
My point is, this is one of those foundational recipes like my smoked mac & cheese that’s perfect the way it is, but a blank canvas for experimentation. Because dry pinto beans are so cheap, it’s not a huge deal if you mess up and have to start over.Jump to Recipe
Do You Have to Soak Pinto Beans?
When making pinto beans from scratch, soaking them definitely speeds up the cooking process. While soaking, you’ll notice how much water the dried beans absorb. So, be sure to soak them in enough water to cover the beans by at least two inches.
If you forget to soak the beans, or need to speed up the process there are ways to do so. First, cover the beans by at least two inches of water, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover them. In about an hour the beans will be roughly as tender as they would if they were soaked for six to eight hours.
Second, you can also use the canned pinto beans which don’t require soaking at all. They are more expensive, and most of them are already seasoned, so I prefer to start with dried beans. But, in a pinch they are an option for sure.
How Long Do You Soak Pinto Beans?
Dry beans should soak for at least six hours, but overnight is perfectly acceptable. Don’t go more than 24 hours though, at the longest.
When soaked for too long the beans will go bad. They’ll start to smell funky and get sort of slimy and just…gross. My grandmother used to say the beans were “sour” at this point. I don’t know if sour is the right word, but funky and gross they are.
Should You Cook Beans in The Water They Soaked In?
In short, NO! I mean, you can, but be prepared for the consequences. By consequences I mean some serious stomach gas with clear the room level flatulence.
Not that I’ve ever cleared the room after a bowl of beans, that’s just what I’ve heard. Interestingly, by discarding the soaking water and boiling the beans in fresh water, this is greatly reduced, and even eliminated. It all has to do with “sciency” stuff you can read if you’re interested.
How Long Do You Boil Pinto Beans?
After you’ve soaked your beans for six hours or overnight, it only takes about 2-3 hours of actual cooking time. You want to ensure the beans are tender, but not turn them to mush, so be mindful of that as you boil them.
After about two hours, I generally turn off the heat and cover the beans. They continue to slowly cook and stay warm for a couple hours after that. Perfect for serving warm.
What Goes With Pinto Beans?
Unlike my smoked baked beans, (which are always a crowd favorite) these beans don’t have a sweet flavor profile. Instead, they are more of a hardy, smoky, and slightly spicy profile, perfect companion to just about any grilled or smoked meat, or some jalapeño cheddar corn bread.
About The Ingredients For This Pinto Bean Recipe
Chipotle Pepper in Adobo: These little cans of flavor and deliciousness can get hot, quick. So, if you’re not a huge fan of the heat, be careful with these. I find the recommended amount in this recipe is perfect for even those that are heat sensitive.
Cumin: This is where the sort of “earthiness” flavor comes from in these beans. Cumin goes really well with cinnamon so while the cinnamon is optional, I highly recommend it.
Cinnamon: Not much plays better with cumin than cinnamon, I rarely use one without the other to be honest. Cinnamon can be overpowering though, so go easy on it.
Meat: I LOVE the addition of smoked meat in these pinto beans. The fat is perfect for the beans and it’s a great way to use any leftover smoked beef or pork. If you don’t have any leftovers, you can substitute in a smoked ham hock; available at most grocery stores.
When To Add Seasoning to Pinto Beans
When learning how to cook pinto beans, you’ll find various opinions on this topic. Some advocate for adding the seasonings right away, I disagree with this approach. When seasonings boil for too long, I feel like the flavor is almost cooked out of them.
So, I recommend adding your seasoning during the last 30 minutes of cooking time. This allows plenty of time for the seasonings to meld together with the beans, but doesn’t cook the flavor out of them.
How To Cook Pinto Beans From Scratch
Active Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 2-3 hours | Serves 10-12
1 lb dry pinto beans
1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-2 chipotle chili peppers (in adobo sauce) diced
1 tbsp adobo sauce (from the chili)
1 green pepper, roughly chopped
2 cup chopped smoked beef or pork (optional)
Step 1: Pour beans into a large bowl, and sift through with your hands to ensure any small rocks are removed. Fill the bowl with enough water to cover the beans by at least two inches. let the beans soak for six hours to overnight.
Step 2: Strain the water from the beans, pour beans into a large dutch oven and fill with enough water to again cover the beans by two inches. Add the chopped onion and cover, leaving a small crack between the lid and the pot.
Bring to a low boil over medium low heat, and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes to prevent any beans from sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot.
Step 3: With 30 minutes of cook time remaining, add the spices, green pepper, and optional meat. Stir well to combine.
Step 4: Remove beans from heat, and either serve immediately, or cover and keep warm for up to two hours before serving.
- 1 lb dry pinto beans
- ½ medium yellow onion roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp fresh black pepper
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1-2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce – diced
- 1 tbsp adobo sauce from the canned chilis
- 1 green pepper roughly chopped
- 2 cup chopped smoked beef or pork optional
- Pour beans into a large bowl, and sift through with your hands to ensure any small rocks are removed. Fill the bowl with enough water to cover the beans by at least two inches. let the beans soak for six hours to overnight.
- Strain the water from the beans, pour beans into a large dutch oven and fill with enough water to again cover the beans by two inches. Add the chopped onion and cover, leaving a small crack between the lid and the pot. Bring to a low boil over medium heat and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes to prevent any beans from sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot.
- With 30 minutes of cook time remaining, add the spices, green pepper, and optional meat. Stir well to combine.
- Remove beans from heat and either serve immediately or cover and keep warm for a couple hours before serving.