Pinto beans are best kept simple, so in this savory pinto beans recipe we’ll do just that.
Some recipes, like what some people call “cowboy beans,” call for loads of sugar and other ingredients, when at its simplest, a good pinto beans recipe doesn’t need anything more than salt, pepper and some sort of fat (bacon, etc.).
I add a few extra ingredients in this recipe to give it a little spice and depth, but most of the ingredients are optional. Change it up however you like.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes (not including soaking the beans)
- Cook Time: 2-3 hours
- Serves: 8
What You’ll Need:
- 2 pounds dried pinto beans
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 pound smoked pork hocks
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf – remove before serving
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper – Optional
- 1/2 cup green chiles – Optional. Fresh are best, frozen are second best, but canned will work too if its you’re only option. Try to get Hatch Green Chile if you can find it in your area.
- Salt – to taste (Careful with the salt. most cured meat will have enough salt already, so you may not need to add any at all.)
As always, if you’re making this recipe on a camping trip, it’s a lot easier if you prep at home, throw everything in Ziploc bags or plastic containers and take it with you.
- Sort through your pinto beans and pick out any rocks or debris. Rinse them in your sink, then toss them in a plastic container to soak for a minimum of six hours, or even better, overnight. The beans will swell to about twice their size, so make sure your container is big enough or the lid could pop off and you’ll end up with beans everywhere.
- Dice your onion and toss it in a Ziploc bag.
Set up your dutch oven to boil. About 18 charcoal briquettes underneath.
Put your beans (toss out the water you soaked them in), onion, pork hocks, black and cayenne pepper, garlic, and bay leaf into your dutch oven.
Add enough water to cover your ingredients by at least an inch. Don’t worry about adding too much, you can always boil it down, but if you don’t add enough, you’ll have to add more during your cook, which can drop your temperature and make it take a lot longer.
Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally.
You’ll want to cook your pinto beans for a minimum of two hours, but as your first set of coals starts dying down (in about 30 minutes) only replace them with enough coals to keep your beans at a simmer (about 6-8 coals).
As your beans cook, keep a close eye on your water level. As long as your beans aren’t above the water and drying on top, you should be fine.
If you’ve got too much water, just take the top off for a bit while you’re cooking to let some evaporate. If you need to add water, you might find it helpful to heat a pan of water to boiling over your fire before adding it. That way you don’t cool your pinto beans off too much and prolong the cooking time.
Just a couple of minutes before serving, toss in your green chiles. If you cook them in your beans for too long, they’ll virtually dissolve and you’ll barely notice the flavor.
Lastly, before you take your beans off your coals, give them a taste to see if they need additional salt. Most likely they wont since you’re flavoring them with cured meat, but a little may be in order depending on how the meat was cured.
Whatever you do, just taste it before adding salt. Over-do it and the whole pot of beans will be ruined. Under-do it and you’ll only need to put out the salt shaker.
Once your pinto beans are done, they’re best served simply.
No need to garnish with sour cream and chives or cheese. That stuff looks good in a picture on a website, but it isn’t needed with a good, simple, pinto beans recipe.
If you really want to dress up your pinto beans, grill a nice thick rib-eye over your camp fire and put it on the same plate as your beans.
It doesn’t get any better than that.