My latest cheap$kate homemade recipe is a long time coming. I cook with Pinto Beans more than any other legume, everything from chile-flavored Texas-style Beans to creamy Refried Beans. I enjoy making Mexican entrees often and Mexican-style Pinto Beans show up every time.
And I'm not too proud to use Pinto Beans from the can - they are cheap enough, taste fine, and are so convenient - the same way I always keep a couple cans of tomato sauce for pasta at the ready.
There's nothing better than the fragrance of slow-cooking beans on the stovetop. Like Marcel Proust's madeleine cookie, whose taste stimulates the unfolding of his series of novels "Remembrance of Things Past," the simmering smell of a pot of Pinto Beans soothes my soul with homey thoughts.
Dried pinto beans are tan, with leopard-like spots, which fade to deep brown when cooked for hours.
My mother comes from a small fishing village on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and we lived there with her parents, Big Daddy and Big Mama, for a year or so. Big Mama always had a pot of beans going. These legumes showed up for breakfast as Scrambled Eggs with Refried Beans; for lunch, it could be freshly made flour torilllas that we made into Ground Beef Tacos with Beans and Rice; and for dinner Mexican Rice with Shrimp served with Pinto Beans.
So you see how Mexican-style Pinto Beans can be paired with almost any Latin entree, and as a BBQ side dish with cool coleslaw or potato salad.
Pinto Beans are inexpensive at almost any grocery store, especially in Latin markets. This recipe is perfect for my fellow cult cheap$kate followers.
And it's a short and easy-to-get ingredients list, so you can make your own pot of beans no matter where you live. Dried Pinto Beans are carried everywhere. You can use fresh chopped onion and garlic - but there is nothing wrong with using shortcuts like dried onion flakes and garlic powder.
The spices are dried oregano, cumin, and a bay leaf - finishing up with salt and pepper.
My Mexican-style Pinto Bean recipe is tasty without meat. But if you are so inclined, then add smoky pork flavor with a few slices of bacon, some chopped ham chunks, or a ham hock.
It does take about 4 hours to tenderize pinto beans, so, you may want a book or magazine handy to help fill the time.
Some like their beans with a bit of texture, while others like them very tender. You know your friends and family, so it's up to you to decide how long to cook beans. Soak the beans overnight and cut down on the cooking time by an hour or so.
Once the beans are tender, it's a simple step to make Refried Beans, too. All you do is add a couple of cups of tender beans to a heating frying pan that has a tablespoon of oil. Next, pour in a few tablespoons of the bean broth. What you want is enough liquid to mix with mashed beans until the desired creaminess is reached. If you add too much liquid, then add more beans.
So while a big pot of Pinto Beans is on the stove, filling the kitchen with its fragrance, you can click on any of my following recipes that feature this filling and flavorful south-of-the-border legume: Scrambled Eggs and Refried Beans, Huevos Rancheros, Breakfast Burrito, Carnitas, Ground Chicken Tacos, Carne Asada, Mexican Rice, Chicken Tinga Stew, Charro Beans and a Frybread Taco.
Mexican-style Pinto Beans - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 2 minutes.
My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.
- 1 pound dried pinto beans - rinse and remove any debris, if necessary
- 1 onion - chopped. Yellow or white onion.
- 1 tablespoon garlic - chopped fresh or from the jar.
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 9 cups of water - For extra vegetarian flavor, add a cup or two of veggie broth (be sure to reduce water an equal amount.)
If you like bacon in your beans then start sauteing a couple of slices in a large pot.
For vegetarian Pinto Beans go right to adding a tablespoon of oil to a large pot with a cover.
Click on any photo to see larger.
Add one chopped onion and saute for 5 minutes until tender. Add chopped garlic and saute for another minute.
Sprinkle on ground cumin, dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Recipes call for Mexican oregano, but you can use any type, really.
Now time to add the beans. Rinse and remove any debris from dried pinto beans, if necessary. Cook beans in any large pot. I have a clay one that is especially used for cooking beans.
Add pinto beans to a large pot with 9 cups of water. Add one bay leaf.
*You can soak beans overnight or for a few hours first. I usually just go right to getting the water to come to a boil, without soaking them. It's up to you, soaking will speed up the cooking time, and you will save about an hour of simmering.
If you add veggie broth be sure to reduce the water amount.
Bring the pot of beans to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot of beans.
Cook covered until beans are tender, anywhere from 3-5 hours. You can start tasting them after a few hours to check for tenderness. Stir occasionally, so beans don't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.
And check beans from time to time to make sure the liquid doesn't cook out. Add water as needed. What you want is for some of the water to cook out, so you get a thick soup of broth with the beans.
As with any type of slow cooking, make sure to stir from time to time. Sometimes the beans will stick to the bottom of the pot, so scrape and stir before they burn.
To thicken bean broth, uncover and continue cooking the last half hour or so. You can also mash some of the beans to thicken the sauce.
Pinto beans can cook all day at a low temperature. This recipe works fine for a crock pot.
Soak beans in water overnight to cut down on cooking time by an hour or so.
The beans will taste even better the next day. Pinto Beans freeze well, so make plenty for later.
It's easy to make Refried Beans. Just add some cooked whole pinto beans to a frying pan with a little oil. Mash the beans with a fork or potato masher until mushy. Just stir and cook the beans until hot. You can add bean broth to make the Refried Beans texture as thick or thin as you like.