There is no way to know how many pots of pinto beans I have boiled over the years. Well, let me think. If I multiply once a week for 30 years, that would be well over 1,500 pots. I can’t even imagine how many individual pinto beans that is. As infinite as the stars in the sky…
Occasionally people will ask me how I make pinto beans, which I would compare to asking me advice on how to walk. I forgot when I learned, and the process is so automatic now that I simply perform the routine out of habit.
Classic Texas Pinto Beans Take Time
Making your own pinto beans is time consuming, but it forces you to hang around the house for several hours while they cook. I usually bury myself deep in some domestic chore like cleaning (ugh) or paying bills (even more ugh) while I wait for the pinto beans to simmer to perfection.
I know there are different variations such as frijoles a la charra or borracho beans, but this recipe for pinto beans is very basic. Plus, bear in mind this is half the amount I usually make.
Because beans take so long to boil, I usually make a double batch, but there is no problem consuming them. Entertaining on the ranch (which we do often) always includes pinto beans, as they can inexpensively feed a crowd. If we are not entertaining, then we freeze half for later, once the beans have completely cooled. It is always a welcome recollection knowing we have home made back-up beans waiting when we need them.
And yes, pressure cookers and insta-pots shorten the bean cooking time. But I like my old clay bean pot, and there is a sense of comfort in seeing it perched on the hob once a week. Why should we always be in a rush? Hanging around the house while the beans cook is good for me.
Check out my video where I make beans over a mesquite fire, which takes about 3 hours to boil. If you are having a hamburger cookout where you only need a small fire for 30 minutes of cooking time, consider pre-boiling your beans for 2 hours, and then finishing them on the fire. Or, you can simply reheat your cooked beans over a mesquite fire, and they will still pick up some of the mesquite aroma. In the video, I am using Anazasi beans, which taste the same as pinto beans, but with more defined markings on their skin.
Pinto Beans are deliciously slow cooked
Of course, you can buy canned beans. Of course. But you can also buy canned milk and canned vegetables too. It is your choice. However, you would miss out on that delicious home time when you can center your thoughts, and let your family know that the simplicity of being still has value. Making your own beans is a sweet little habit that permeates your home with an aroma that signals love and domestic togetherness.Print
Classic Texas Pinto Beans
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings
- Category: Vegetables and Legumes
- Method: Boiling
- Cuisine: Latin American
1 lb. dried pinto beans (500g)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, cored and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt to taste (start with 1 tbsp./12gr)
Handful chopped cilantro
2-3 strips bacon, chopped
2-3 fresh jalapeños
The pinto beans need to be inspected and picked over to check for small bits of dirt before cooking. Afterwards, place the sorted beans in a colander, and rinse thoroughly.
Place all of the ingredients in a 4 qt. (4lt.) clay pot, stock pot or saucepan and cover with approximately 3 qt. (3lt.) Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the beans boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cover, leaving the cover slightly tilted to allow the steam and pressure to escape.
Check the water level and stir the beans every 15-20 minutes, adding water 2 cups at a time if the water level seems low.
Simmer the beans for a total of 2½-3 hours. After boiling for 2 hours, test the beans by making sure they are tender and soft by tasting one. Continue to cook for 30 more minutes if the beans taste undercooked. Adjust the salt if needed. Once the beans are completely cooked, remove the beans from the heat, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
I get asked all the time about lead in clay cooking pots. I sold them for many years in my store, and have had endless conversations with experts and artisans, so I feel fairly educated on the subject.
Because clay is a natural material, it always has a small amount of naturally occurring lead. Unglazed clay pottery has lead, but some glazed potteries have just a little bit more, as lead is a component of some of the cheaper glazes used in Latin America.
Professional cooks love clay cookware as the resulting dish is always superior to the result of metal cookware. Clay is an insulator and not a conductor, so clay delivers heat to your food in a gentler fashion. Imagine clay cookware as a jacuzzi spa for your food. The beans have a mellow, tender texture.
Using clay cookware is a personal choice. The types of clay cookware that the USDA and FDA will allow for import for food use in the United States are strictly regulated. Stricter regulations exist for clay cookware in the European Union. Clay cookware is never lead free, but what is legally available in U.S. markets is regulated.
So I feel confident in recommending La Chamba cookware if you are looking for a clay bean pot from Latin America. These unglazed, burnished pots are manufactured with natural clay in Colombia, and are approved for food use by the USDA.
Again, using clay cookware is NOT required for making a batch of pinto beans. You can get very good results from metal cookware. But if you would like to use a clay pot, I am adding the link to the cookware that I would recommend.