I think one of the biggest changes in how I cooked beans came when I read from someone that you should treat beans like you were making a broth. If you’ve ever made a stock or broth, you know it’s fairly simple but using quality ingredients (and a lot of them) makes the broth. And so, I began to treat my beans like this. To this day, I still experiment with the ingredients and different varieties. I want to be able to feel as though I would happily eat the beans all by themselves (which with solid home-cooking techniques, it’s an easy task!)
Below is one of my favorite pinto recipes. It’s nothing too adventurous but these are the beans I use on grain bowls, tacos, and even nachos (like these ones I shared on instagram). Start with the dry bean and you won’t be disappointed!
Also, a note about the traditional recipe. These pinto beans closely resemble the classic charro beans (frejoles charros) that are pinto beans cooked with meat, onion, and chiles. Charro beans can be eaten as a soup or used in dishes (which is the great thing about the recipe!) Because I use these beans as a main and ditch the meat, I like to add toasted cumin and oregano to the mix. I used this recipe and this recipe for reference on charro beans.
An easy component that takes dried, bulk pinto beans and turns them into a delicious meal or base for another recipe.
1 cup uncooked dried pinto beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, mincd
1 poblano pepper, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin (see note)
½ to 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
- The night before making the beans, combine the one cup pinto beans with 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Let the beans soak for 8 to 12 hours.
- When ready to make the beans, heat a pan over medium heat. Add the diced onions and poblanos to the pan and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Drain the beans and add fresh water to the pot (see note) along with the cooked onion mixture, oregano, cumin, and salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce to the heat to a simmer and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the beans are tender (will change based on soaking time). Stir in the tomato paste, cook for a few more minutes, taste, and adjust seasonings as desired.
Tips & Tricks: Cumin: use the whole cumin seed and toast in a dry skillet then grind. You can use pre-ground cumin, the flavor just won’t be as prominent.
If you’re looking for an in-depth guide on cooking beans, I wrote up this information.
Spiced Pinto Beans
Spicy: Use the poblano with the seeds or toss in a spicier pepper or crushed red pepper.
Bean Variety: Swap out the pinto beans for black beans or kidney beans
Tomato-free: I like the extra flavor boost the tomato paste adds but you don’t necessarily need to add it.
How to use Spiced Pinto Beans
Bowls: Use the beans to top grain bowls with quinoa, rice, or even polenta.
Tacos/Tostadas: These beans are great for a taco or tostada topping, especially paired with avocado.
Enchiladas: Lightly mash the beans and spread in tortillas for a solid enchilada filling. Combine with vegetables or just cheese.
Nachos: Make vegetarian loaded nachos with these beans, avocado, minced red onion, and your favorite hot sauce.
Eggs: Either with or without grains, these beans make the perfect breakfast with eggs.
Dip: Puree the beans and make them into a dip. Top with cheese, bake, and have the perfect hot dip.