“I will never buy pinto beans in a can again!” I told Jack last week when I was enjoying spoon after spoon of pinto beans right in a pan on the stove. Maybe I exaggerated it (canned beans are damn handy after all), but I’ll definitely reach them less often than before. If the last year has taught me anything, it is that cooking pinto beans from scratch leads to creamier and tastier beans every time.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m after for the dry beans festival. A few years ago I tried to cook them, but without much luck. I now realize that the beans I had were too old and dried to get really soft (note: fresher beans are better beans – look for your own in a high-turnover store!). But at that time I decided that cooking dried beans was simply not for me.

What seduced me? Our neighborhood bar, Kite String Cantina, has started offering a weekly box of local food. In addition to marking fresh vegetables and SUPER delicious sauces from chef Renee, we started getting a bag of dry beans every week.

So in the last few months I have perfected my method of cooking pinto beans from scratch. This pinto bean recipe is incredibly simple and delicious. The beans are slightly spicy, aromatic and irresistibly creamy. Try it once, and you will never want to eat pinto beans again.

How to cook Pinto beans

This method of cooking Pinto beans from scratch takes a while, but do not be frightened! The process is super simple and almost completely out of your hands. Here’s how it happens:

  • First, soak the beans. Place them in a large colander and sift through them to remove stones or debris. Rinse them well and put them in a large bowl. Cover them with 2-3 inches of water and place to soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • The next day, cook the aromatics. Fry half an onion in a large saucepan or casserole over medium heat (you can also add a jalapeño if you like your beans spicy!). When the onion becomes soft, stir in cumin, drained and soaked beans, water, oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Then simmer. Cooking time depends on how fresh your beans are and how you like them cooked. I cook my pinto beans until they fall apart and the liquid around them thickens. I start checking after an hour, and after that every 15 minutes again.
  • Finally, season to taste. When the beans are cooked to your taste, season them with a pinch of lime juice, salt and pepper and chili powder to taste.

Pinto Beans Service Suggestions

When you are ready to eat, garnish the pinto beans with coriander and red pepper flakes. Make them a meal by combining them with coriander and lime rice, tortillas and a vegetable side dish like these fajita vegetables or sauteed greens. Garnish everything with pickled onions or pico de gallo for a touch of lively flavor, or add a scoop of guacamole for richness.

This pinto bean recipe is also a fantastic side dish. Serve it in a taco bar at home or with one of these Mexican-inspired recipes: