Incredible Pinto Beans! (Crockpot or Instant Pot)

Incredible Pinto Beans! (Crockpot or Instant Pot)

You won’t believe how simple these from-scratch Pinto Beans are — no soaking required! These beans are deeply savory with a smoky flavor and have the best creamy texture!

Prepare these pinto beans as a delicious side dish and then re-purpose leftovers in a number of ways outlined below — this recipe has so many possibilities. This recipe was tested in both a slow cooker and Instant Pot.

Overhead image of the pinto beans in a bowl

Overhead image of the pinto beans in a bowl

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

I am so excited about this recipe! It’s a slightly more involved (but overall simple) side dish, but a total time saver in the long run. We have been using these beans as a way to “cook once” and then enjoy meals with them all week long.

The first night we enjoy them as a side dish and after that, we use them in different meals throughout the week. They’ve made dinner prep a cinch–and there is no compromise when it comes to flavor. In fact, having these ultra-flavorful pinto beans makes meals *much* more flavorful than cracking open a can of pinto beans!

I’ll share all the ways we’ve used these pinto beans, as well as how to convert this recipe into refried beans (without the re-fry). You’ll never want to go back to canned refried beans again! 

Two views of the dried pinto beans used in this recipe.

Two views of the dried pinto beans used in this recipe.

Slow Cooker versus Pressure Cooker

I love using the slow cooker because it keeps the beans at the perfect temperature — just below a simmer — which results in incredibly creamy and tender beans. That said, I have also tested this recipe in the pressure cooker (AKA Instant Pot®),  and the beans are amazing prepared that way as well. They do end up with slightly more liquid in the Instant Pot, but it’s very easy to get these beans to your ideal liquid-to-bean ratio. More on this later!

Whichever one you use, it may take a bit of experimenting your first time. All slow cookers and pressure cookers cook slightly differently, but once you’ve figured out the time for your specific machine, you’ll no longer have any guesswork.

Process shot: cook bacon; remove with slotted spoon; add peppers and onion to bacon fat; add garlic and jalapeño; measure out the seasonings.

Process shot: cook bacon; remove with slotted spoon; add peppers and onion to bacon fat; add garlic and jalapeño; measure out the seasonings.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans Preparation Tips

  • It may be tempting to throw everything in the slow cooker and let it go, but sautéing the veggies in the rendered bacon grease is where we get tremendous amounts of flavor. It adds layers of flavor to these beans.
  • Season to taste. Depending on how salty the chicken stock used is, and the actual type of salt you’re using (not all salts season the same!) you’ll want to adjust the amount of salt to personal preference. If the beans taste flat, it’s probably as easy a fix as adding in some more salt!
  • Preparation short-cuts. These beans should be simple to make, and while the chopping can take a good amount of time, you can save time by chopping all the veggies in a food processor. Using store-bought chicken stock is also a time-saving shortcut; we’re adding loads of flavor without extra work. (By the way, why use both chicken stock and water? We tested all different ratios of water to chicken stock and found 1:1 to be the perfect complement to the beans without overpowering the flavor.)
  • Don’t soak the pinto beans. Another shortcut with this recipe is that we do not need to soak the beans before cooking. The amount of liquid in this recipe is ideal to get the beans ultra-tender, without spending hours soaking ahead of time. 

Process shot: add seasonings; sauté; add tomatoes; sauté again; pour into slow cooker with the bacon and beans; add chicken stock and water.

Process shot: add seasonings; sauté; add tomatoes; sauté again; pour into slow cooker with the bacon and beans; add chicken stock and water.

Adjusting this recipe to your personal preference

These beans are easy to adjust to your personal preference. We like them with plenty of liquid because they thicken up so much overnight and make for incredibly creamy and thick beans the next day. If you’d prefer less (or no) liquid, simply drain out excess once the beans are cooked. Somewhere in between? Drain out the liquid, but reserve it. Add liquid back slowly until beans are at your desired consistency.

  • Pinto beans without liquid: Simply drain out the liquid after cooking the beans.
  • Creamy pinto beans: (our favorite way to serve these!) Remove 3 cups of beans and liquid after cooking, blend this mixture in a high-powered blender, and stir this mixture back into the slow cooker or pressure cooker. (Note that they may seem a bit thin,  but they thicken a lot after standing at room temperature for about an hour and even more so in the fridge overnight.) I tested this recipe with less liquid, but we preferred the creamier texture that 6 cups of liquid brings.
  • Refried beans: Drain out all of the liquid, and reserve it. Blend all of the beans. (Either transfer to a blender or use a hand mixer right in the pot.) Gradually add back the bean liquid until you’re at the desired consistency. Remember, these too thicken a lot overnight, so you may want more liquid than you think initially.

The photos in this post are the beans after being stored overnight — our favorite consistency to use in tacos, tostados, and burritos. See more ideas below for repurposing leftovers!

Process shot: Stir and cook the beans until tender; transfer a portion to a blender and process; return to the pan; season and serve.

Process shot: Stir and cook the beans until tender; transfer a portion to a blender and process; return to the pan; season and serve.

Repurposing Pinto Beans into meals for the week

These humble beans become the springboard for multiple meals. That’s particularly appealing since pinto beans are widely available, extremely inexpensive, and offer a mild flavor and creamy texture. Here are some of the ways you can use  Pinto Beans in meals throughout the week:

  • Pinto Bean Tacos or these Bean Tostadas both are incredible with these pinto beans (and whip together so quickly with pinto bean leftovers!)
  • Baked Pinto Bean tacos: Layer hard corn tortilla shells in a 9×13-inch pan. Bake (toasted shells won’t get as soggy) at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Then fill each shell with about 1/4 cup pinto beans, 2-3 tablespoons diced rotisserie chicken, and 1-1/2 tablespoons sharp Cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with your favorite taco toppings.
  • Pinto Beans and rice: Spoon the beans over steamed rice (or even better, cilantro-lime rice!). If you’re feeling extra sassy, drizzle on some cilantro-lime sauce (recipe on this shrimp tacos post).
  • Add beans to bulk up a soup or chili. (They’d be amazing in this vegetarian chili.)
  • In a taco salad: Replace the black beans in this Chicken Taco Salad.
  • Add to a wrap, quesadilla, or tostada.
  • Use in this 7 layer bean dip:  Replace the refried beans with Pinto Beans.
  • Add to bean and cheese burritos.
  • Or: Refrigerate or freeze these beans in individual 1.5 cup portions so you can use them instead of canned beans for any recipes calling for pinto beans.

Freezing leftover Pinto Beans

  • Begin by labeling air-tight freezer bags. Let beans cool completely and then scoop beans into prepared freezer bags. Leave plenty of space in the bags for expansion. Seal and transfer to the freezer until you need them. Beans keep in the freezer for about 6 months.
  • Thawing: You can add frozen beans directly to recipes like chili or beans and rice. (They thaw quickly in the pot.) For recipes where you need to start with thawed pinto beans, pull them out the night before and let them thaw in the fridge, or for a quicker thaw, add the sealed bag to a large bowl of cool water until thawed through.

Overhead view of a bowl of Pinto Beans.

Overhead view of a bowl of Pinto Beans.

More delicious side dish recipes

Pinto Beans

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You won’t believe how simple these from-scratch Pinto Beans are — no soaking required! These beans are deeply savory with a smoky flavor and have the best creamy texture!

Pinto Beans

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You won’t believe how simple these from-scratch Pinto Beans are — no soaking required! These beans are deeply savory with a smoky flavor and have the best creamy texture!

Ingredients

  • 4 slices (~4 oz.) thick-cut bacon, thinly sliced
  • 1 and 1/3 cup (180g) diced yellow onion
  • 1 large (~1 cup; 147g) diced red pepper, optional
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (~4 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons minced jalapeños (~1 jalapeño)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound (~ 2 and 1/2 cups) dried pinto beans (NO need to soak!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: dried oregano and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons EACH: ground cumin, ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder Note 1
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 3 cups (682g) chicken stock (we love Swanson)
  • 3 cups (640g) water
  • Optional: 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro, extra- sharp Cheddar cheese (See Note 2)

Instructions

  • PREP: For a quicker prep, give the onion and pepper a quick coarse chop and add along with the jalapeños (be sure to remove the ribs and seeds before adding if concerned about heat) and garlic to a food processor and pulse to chop.

  • BACON: Thinly slice the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to a large cast iron skillet and cook, over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the bacon begins to brown and the fat is rendered. Use a slotted spoon to remove all the bacon from the skillet to a paper-towel-lined plate. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and keeping the heat at medium-high, add in the diced onion and pepper. (If you added all the veggies to the food processor, just add them all in here!) Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7-9 minutes.

  • VEGGIES: Add in the minced garlic and jalapeños. Stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Add in all the seasonings and cook for 1 minute. Finally, add in the crushed tomatoes (undrained), and cook for one more minute, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Use a spatula to scrape every bit of this mixture into a slow cooker or instant pot.

  • ADD BEANS AND COOK: Rinse the beans in a strainer and pick through them, discarding any debris or pebbles. Add the rinsed beans, chicken stock, and water to the slow cooker or instant pot. Add in the cooked and reserved bacon. Finally, season (to taste) with salt and pepper. ( I add 2 teaspoons fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, but add to preference.) Stir everything together. Cover and cook on high for 7-9 hours in the slow cooker or until beans are very tender (this is 8 hours in my crockpot). INSTANT POT: Seal the pot turn and cook on manual mode for 45 minutes (it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to pressure). Once finished, allow for a natural release for 25 minutes before releasing the rest of the pressure manually.

  • BLEND PORTION OF BEANS: See Note 3. Once the beans are tender, remove 3 cups of the beans and liquid and add to a powerful blender. Blend until smooth, stirring as needed in between blending (if needed, add more liquid from the slow cooker or instant pot to more easily blend). Pour blended beans back into the slow cooker and stir.

  • FINISHING: Taste and adjust seasonings. (I typically add another 1/4 teaspoon up to a full teaspoon fine sea salt here– it really just depends on how salty the chicken stock used is; add slowly until flavors sing.) Add optional cilantro and stir through. Serve as a side dish (See Note 2) or use in another recipe. Beans will continue to thicken as they sit and become more flavorful as they’re stored in the fridge overnight.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Chili powders can vary greatly in heat; we use McCormick® which is mild.
Note 2: If serving these as a side dish, we love adding a little sharp Cheddar cheese on top. Typically we’ll enjoy these as a side dish the first night they are made and then use the leftovers (that thicken quite a bit!) in other dishes throughout the next few nights. The sky is the limit with refried beans — read the post for lots of suggestions for using these beans. (Basically, cook once and enjoy delicious meals all week long!)
Note 3: There are several ways to finish these beans. How we like them best is to blend the 3 cups of beans and stir that back into the beans. They thicken a lot as they stand at room temperature and even more as they’re chilled, making them perfect to use the next day in meals. However, if you’d prefer just regular pinto beans (like what you’d get from a can): Don’t blend any of the beans/liquid. Drain all or most of the liquid (leave some liquid if you’d like them a bit soupy over rice), or use a slotted spoon for serving and drain the beans at the end before storing. For refried beans: drain all the liquid except for 1 cup (if there isn’t a lot of liquid anyway, you can use water). Scoop the beans in a blender and blend until smooth in batches. Alternatively use a potato masher and mash to desired consistency. Gradually add in the reserved liquid or water until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Don’t forget to season at the end with additional salt and pepper!
Note 4: Calories are for a 1/2 cup of pinto beans.
Note 5: To make vegetarian: omit the bacon and sauté veggies in olive oil instead. Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 409kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 252mg | Potassium: 1566mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 551IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 135mg | Iron: 5mg

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