Find more from our All About Beans series here.
I couldn’t forget the humble pinto bean, though. Like many of you observed in the first post, cooking dried, soaked beans in a crockpot works really well because of the long, slow simmer. I usually use a stovetop burner for every bean except pinto. It’s just a weird personal preference. There’s something about a pot of beans simmering on the stove that makes me feel incredibly domestic, in a south-of-the-border kind of way.
When I’m cooking dried pinto beans, though, I always use my crockpot because 1) I don’t have to keep an eye on them and 2) I like to cook them down until they are super soft before mashing them into the consistency of refried beans.
Why don’t you just buy cans of refried beans, you ask? The first reason, of course, is price. I can buy a pound of dried pinto beans for less than a buck (I paid .67/pound for these). That will give me approximately 6 cups of refried beans. If you really like pinto beans, Costco sells 25-pound bags for just over $12. You’d have a hard time finding a high protein, low-fat main dish that is cheaper than that.
The second, and more important, reason is quality. Two years ago, I bought a can of refried beans at a local grocery store. Inside, I found little black rubbery pieces mixed in with the beans. Pieces off a conveyor belt? The bottom of someone’s shoe? Who knows. I wrote the company, complained, received an apology & a coupon, and tried buying the same brand again at a different store. Same. Thing. Happened. Little black rubbery pieces!
That was all the convincing I needed to start making my own, and I have never looked back. You won’t either once you realize how easy and economical they are to make at home. Not to mention, they actually taste like pinto beans. What a novel concept.
The soaking and cooking steps are essentially the same as we have already covered. I include some basic ingredients to bump up the flavor, but you can keep this as simple as you want. Growing up, my mom always served this dish over Fritos or tucked into tortillas and topped it with shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and avocado, salsa and/or sour cream. We called it Chalupas; it is probably to real Mexican food what the Olive Garden is to authentic Italian, but boy, is it good.
Crockpot Pinto Beans
1 lb. pinto beans
2 lb. pork or beef roast (optional)*
3-6 cloves garlic
1 T. chili powder
1 t. oregano
1 T. cumin
salt to taste
- Pour the beans onto a rimmed baking sheet. Sort out any debris or wrinkled, cracked beans. Don’t skip this step. Last time, I found four small stones. You don’t want a cheap dinner to turn into an expensive dentist visit.
- Dump the beans into a large bowl (use your crockpot bowl for fewer dishes to wash) and cover with cold water. Let it sit overnight, 6-8 hours.
- Pour off the water and rinse the beans before putting them back in the crockpot bowl. Cover with 1-2 inches of water.
- Add any additional ingredients your family enjoys. You could also add onions or peppers for more kick. * If you want a heartier main dish, add a roast to the crockpot. It is a very tender, flavorful addition that shreds when you mash the beans.
- Cook for 8-10 hours on low.
- If you like your pinto beans whole, you’re done! If you want to mash them into the consistency of refried beans, scoop out some of the cooking liquid and mash the beans with a potato masher. Add back enough liquid to reach the desired consistency. If you like a smoother consistency, scoop the beans into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour in some of the cooking water to achieve the consistency you like. Add salt, if needed.
- Tuck into tortillas or serve over chips topped with shredded cheese, diced avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, and/or salsa. These beans will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the freezer for several months.
Looking for a new slow cooker? Amazon carries this portable Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6-Quart Slow Cooker with a lid that seals to prevent spills. It has a mid-range price tag and many great reviews.