A quick glance out my window tells me I’m going to be spending a lot of time inside this weekend. In case you are too, I have a tasty proposition to make the most of our indoor captivity: Crock Pot Pinto Beans! This easy recipe for healthy crock pot pinto beans is going to make you rethink every can of beans you’ve ever purchased. Not only is the flavor superior—the texture is incredible.
You can use this easy, healthy crock pot pinto beans recipe for burritos, nachos, as a healthy side dish, or anytime a recipe calls for canned pinto beans.
BONUS: You can mash them to create easy slow cooker refried beans too. One recipe, so many tasty possibilities.
Let’s get to it!
How to Cook the Best Crock Pot Pinto Beans
- To give these healthy crock pot pinto beans mega flavor, this recipe begins with sautéed onion and jalapeno. Don’t be tempted to add them to the slow cooker raw. Sautéing is what will enhance the flavor and make the beans unstoppably delicious.
- If you’d like to make the crock pot pinto beans with bacon grease, the saute step is the place to do it. Begin the recipe with a few slices of chopped bacon. Cook the bacon until crisp in the pan, then remove it from the pan and reserve a tablespoon of the rendered fat to cook the vegetables. When the beans are finished in the crock pot, you can stir the reserved pieces in at the end if you like.
- If you like your crock pot pinto beans with ham, based what I’ve seen in the way of Southern pinto beans recipes, I believe you could add a ham hock to the beans as they slow cook. Soak the ham in water for several hours first to make sure your pinto beans don’t become too salty. (I haven’t tried this yet, so if you do decide to play around with ham, I’d love to hear how it goes!)
Personally, I love the slow cooker pinto beans vegetarian, which is how the recipe is written. Try them both ways and let me know what you think.
Do You Have to Soak Pinto Beans Before Cooking in the Crock Pot?
No you do not! It was important to me that this recipe be as convenient as possible (we are already receiving mega kitchen points for cooking our own beans from dry, so why complicate our lives further?). Thus, I adjusted the cook time and liquid ratio so that you can cook the pinto beans in a crock pot without soaking.
Now that we cleared that soaking question up, let’s get back to how to cook dried pinto beans:
- Once the veggies are sautéed, add them to the crock pot along with the dry pinto beans, some spectacular spices, and chicken broth. Stir.
- Crank the crock pot to high and COOK, BABY COOK. Or rather slow cook. This recipe does take some patience.
- Once the beans are finished, you can either enjoy them right away or mash them to create Slow Cooker Refried Beans. I have directions for you for both!
How Long Do You Cook Pinto Beans in the Crock Pot?
- 8 to 10 hours on HIGH. Yes, it really does take that long. I promise it will be worth the wait. Start the pinto beans in the morning, and they’ll be ready by dinner. If you are comfortable leaving your slow cooker plugged in, you can even cook them overnight.
The total cooking time will also vary based on your slow cooker model (this model is similar to the one I own and used to test the recipe). If you aren’t sure, check the pinto beans early. You can always continue cooking them longer as needed.
Consider your first batch of these pinto beans a tasty experiment. Once you’ve made these Mexican pinto beans crock pot-style, you’ll forever know how long your slow cooker requires.
How Do I Season Pinto Beans?
- In addition to the sautéed onion and jalapeno, I season my pinto beans with classic southwest spices like cumin and cayenne to create a flavor that reminds me of the Mexican pinto beans I’ve had in restaurants.
The recipe as written is flavorful but not spicy. Feel free to add additional spices to suit your taste.
How Do I Make Instant Pot Refried Beans?
- So glad you asked! Check out my recipe for Instant Pot Refried Beans. They have a similar flavor profile and hands-free approach but are made in the Instant Pot instead. You can also check out these Instant Pot Black Beans if you’d like further options.
Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans—Which is Healthier?
Every time we visit our favorite local Mexican restaurant, I’m forced to choose between black beans and pinto beans. Part of why I have a hard time picking is that I’m wondering if black beans or pinto beans are healthier.
In writing this recipe, I decided to actually look it up! Here’s what I found:
- Both black beans and pinto beans are a rich source of protein and fiber.
- Both have a similar calorie count.
- Pinto beans contain slightly more carbs and are a bit higher in fat than black beans.
- THAT SAID compared to other foods, both black beans and pinto beans are super duper low in fat. Both are filling, healthy options and an excellent addition to your diet.
More pinto beans for all!
Can I Double This Recipe for 2 lbs of Pinto Beans?
- Readers have reported doing this with success! I’ve only made the 16 ounces of pinto beans the recipe lists, but I did recently have someone report making 2 lbs of pinto beans in the crock pot. Since the double the liquid would overwhelm the crock pot, she added what fit comfortably, then checked the beans periodically to add more as they needed it.
How to Use Crock Pot Pinto Beans
- Over nachos (these Healthy Chicken Nachos are a personal favorite).
- Wrapped inside a burrito, quesadilla, or fajita.
- Slow cooker pinto beans and rice—an easy side that with the boost of a fried egg and avocado on top can become a filling, fast vegetarian dinner.
- In chili.
- Over a baked potato with cheese, salsa, and any of your other favorite Tex-Mex fixin’s.
- On their own as a dynamite side.
- Turn them into refried beans with the help of a potato masher (more notes on this in the recipe below).
This crock pot pinto beans recipe is ultra freezer friendly and yields a large amount. I reason that if I’m going to wait 10 hours for my pinto beans to be ready, I’d like to reap the benefits. I have freezer tips for you in the recipe below too.
Recommended Tools to Make Crock Pot Pinto Beans
Crock Pot Pinto Beans
- 1 pound dry pinto beans 2 cups
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion chopped into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 jalapeno cored, seeded, and finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- 3 cups water
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth; divided
- For serving: queso fresco or shredded Monterey jack cheese diced tomatoes, diced red onion, chopped fresh cilantro, avocado (optional)
- Place the pinto beans in a large colander. Thoroughly rinse them. Pick the beans over, removing any damaged or clearly misshapen beans and discarding them. Transfer the rinsed beans to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
- Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and let cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the sautéed vegetables, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and remaining teaspoon salt. Pour the broth and water over the top.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 8 to 10 hours, until the beans are tender. All slow cookers are different and can heat things differently, so if yours tends to run hot, check it earlier on. Depending upon your model, there may be some liquid still in the slow cooker. Discard the bay leaves.
- FOR REGULAR PINTO BEANS (not refried): Drain the liquid if you like, or leave the liquid in the crock pot and serve the beans with it (I like them a bit soupy over rice), or use a slotted spoon for serving and drain the beans at the end prior to storing. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- FOR REFRIED BEANS: Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the beans, and return them to the slow cooker (if you don't have that much liquid in your slow cooker, you can use regular water instead). With a potato masher or pastry cutter, mash the beans until they reach your desired consistency, adding some of the reserved liquid as needed. (You can also scoop the beans into a blender in batches and puree them that way—be sure to let the beans cool somewhat first so that they do not splatter). Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- Sprinkle with any desired toppings, serve, and enjoy!
- Refrigerate leftover beans or freeze for up to 3 months.
- For easy portions: Let the beans cool COMPLETELY, then portion them into ziptop freezer bags labeled with the date. Seal the bags, removing as much air as possible, and squish the beans so that the bag lays flat. Freeze flat and remove from freezer as you need them. Let the beans thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat gently on the stove with a splash of water or broth as needed to thin them back out.
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