Once you’ve learned how to cook pinto beans from scratch, the canned type will never taste the same again. Creamy and flavorful, they are a delicious side dish.
“I never buy pinto beans in a can again!” I told Jack last week, when I was savoring spoonful after spoonful of pinto beans straight in a pot on the stovetop. Maybe I overdid it (canned beans are pretty darn convenient, after all), but I’ll definitely be looking for them less often than before. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that cooking pinto beans from scratch will result in creamier, tastier beans every time.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m late for the dry bean party. A few years ago I did try to cook them, but without much luck. I now realize that the beans I had were too old and dried to soften properly (note: fresher beans are better beans – look for yours at a high-turnover store!). But at the time, I decided that cooking dry beans just wasn’t for me.
What convinced me? Our neighborhood bar, Kite String Cantina, has started offering a weekly box of local produce. Along with noticing Chef Renee’s fresh veg and SUPER tasty sauces, we started buying a bag of dry beans every week.
So, over the past few months, I’ve been perfecting my method of cooking pinto beans from scratch. This pinto bean recipe is incredibly simple and delicious too. The beans are lightly spicy, aromatic and irresistibly creamy. Try it once and you’ll never want to eat pinto beans again.
How to cook pinto beans
This method of cooking pinto beans from scratch takes some time, but don’t let that scare you! The process is super simple and almost entirely without intervention. Here is how it goes:
- First, soak the beans. Place them in a large colander and pass them through a sieve to remove stones or debris. Rinse them well and transfer them to a large bowl. Cover them with 2-3 inches of water and let them soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- The next day, cook the aromatics. Sauté half an onion in a large pot or casserole dish over medium heat (you can also add a jalapeño if you like your beans spicy!). When the onion softens, stir in the cumin, soaked and drained beans, water, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Then let it simmer. The cooking time will depend on how fresh your beans are and how you like them cooked. I cook my pinto beans until they fall apart and the liquid around them has thickened. I start checking after an hour and again every 15 minutes thereafter.
- Finally, season to taste. When the beans are cooked to your liking, season them with a drizzle of lime juice, more salt and pepper and chili powder to taste.
That’s it! Find the full recipe with the measurements below.
Suggested serving sizes of pinto beans
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 veg side dish like these fajita veggies or sautéed greens. Top it off with pickled onions or pico de gallo for a touch of lively flavor, or add a scoop of guacamole for extra richness.
This pinto bean recipe is also a fantastic side dish. Serve it at a home taco bar or with one of these Mexican-inspired recipes:
More Favorite Bean Recipes
If you like this pinto bean recipe, try one of these delicious bean recipes below:
Serves 8 at 12
Try this pinto bean recipe once, and you’ll never have the canned kind again! Note that the cooking time here will depend on the freshness of your beans. Fresher beans cook faster and soften more evenly, so buy your beans from a high-turnover source if you can.
- 2 cups dry pinto beans
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil
- ½ white onion, chopped
- 1½ coffee spoons cumin
- 8 cups the water, more as needed
- ½ teaspoon Oregano
- 2 coffee spoons fine sea salt, more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon lime juice, more to taste
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- Chili powder, to taste
- Coriander, For garnish
Place the beans in a large colander and sort them to remove and dispose of stones or debris. Rinse them well and transfer them to a large bowl. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and discard the floating beans. Soak at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
In a large saucepan or casserole, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. If you like spicy beans, add the jalapeño with the onion.
Stir in the cumin then add the beans, water, oregano, salt and several pieces of pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender. The timing will depend on how fresh your beans are. I like to check mine from 1 hour and every 15 minutes thereafter. Add more liquid to the pot, if needed, to keep the beans submerged. I like to cook my pinto beans until they start 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 usually add an extra ½ to 1 teaspoon), more pepper, and chili powder, if desired. Garnish with cilantro, if using. Store beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze them for up to 3 months.