Slow Cooker Pinto Beans | Pickled Plum
Get ready to sink your teeth into the best slow cooker pinto bean recipe! Slow-cooked perfection!
My Japanese Mother loves to make beans.
You see, I grew up in Quebec, where cold winds blow for a disproportionately long time each year. And my mom took breaks from making perfect onigiri and making dashi from scratch to cook American dishes too.
Yes, he loved making homemade food classics for my brother and me, like the best tuna salad sandwich (ever) and, my favorite: rustic ham and beans. I wanted to see if I could make a pinto bean recipe in the slow cooker that could approximate my mother’s ham and beans, while keeping it completely vegetarian.
The result is a simple slow cooker pinto bean recipe that is filling and comforting. The flavors are pretty subtle, so I suggest doing a taste test once the beans are cooked and season them to your liking.
These days, making pinto beans in
a clay pot is totally my thing
What are pinto beans? Pinto
beans are the
most popular bean in the United States and parts of Mexico!
addition to being commonly used in stews and chili, pinto beans are also the legumes used to make refried beans, the ubiquitous mashed Mexican beans that are served along with rice and tortillas at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
These speckled brown beans are plentiful, nutrient-dense (more on that in a second), and the perfect choice for this easy slow-cooker pinto bean recipe.
Do you have to soak the beans before cooking?
Now, full disclosure: I have usually subscribed to the school of thought overnight. Although it’s not scientific by any means, I’ve found that soaking overnight is right at the sweet spot between long enough and not too long. It seems to improve their texture and make them more appetizing.
However, there are some general thoughts about soaking beans that I will share with you here. Your mileage may vary.
- Overnight soaking: Rinse your dry pinto beans and place them in a large bowl. Cover the beans with water (2-3 inches of water above the top of the beans). You can add some kosher salt if you wish. I usually don’t. Soak between 6-12 hours, rinse and cook.
- Quick soaking: Rinse your pinto beans and place them in a pot on the stove. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let your beans soak in the hot water for about an hour and a half. Rinse again and cook.
- Do Not Soak: Did you know that your beans don’t actually require a soak to cook? It’s true. You can rinse and cook immediately. They will usually require a longer cooking time to achieve cooking. And, in the past, I’ve found beans that weren’t soaked to be lightly in the texture department.
All of these methods are fine for preparing pinto beans for the slow cooker.
I still say, if you’re on the fence, biting your nails and wondering how you make the BEST beans, give them a soak!
How to cook beans
While a simmering pot of pinto beans on the stove is a wonderful thing in the views and smells department, for this slow pot pinto bean recipe I went with the clay pot. Using the slow cooker gave the flavors time to fully develop and infuse all that tasty goodness into the center of the pinto beans.
- After overnight soaking and final rinsing, place your pinto beans in the slow cooker
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cook 4 cloves of chopped garlic, a finely chopped onion and 4 stalks of chopped celery for about 6-7 minutes.
- Once the vegetables are ready, add them to the pinto beans in the slow cooker along with smoked paprika, chili powder, and dried thyme.
- Add 2 bay leaves (remove just before serving), a pinch of coarse sea salt and cover everything with 4 cups of water.
Easy, right? And now just let the slow cooker do its thing.
How long does it take to cook pinto beans in a slow cooker?
Since I used a simple slow cooker, there was really only a high and low setting. I tried it both ways just to see if there would be a difference in taste or texture with the final dish.
- On low heat it took about 6-7 hours for the pinto beans to be perfectly cooked. Ideal for those moments when you just want to set it and forget it.
- At the top, 4 hours seemed to be the sweet spot for cooking pinto beans with more intense heat.
Bottom line: everything went well with both scenarios. The settings you use will really come down to how fast you want to dine!
<img src="https://pickledplum.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/slow-cooker-pinto-beans-ingredients.jpg" alt="Slow cooker pinto bean ingredients"
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Are these slow cooking pinto beans vegetarian?
Actually, this recipe for thick and salty pinto beans is completely vegan.
I worried that the omission of meat or broth might result in washed flavors, but that worry was in vain! The garlic, onion and celery I used as aromatics worked in tandem with the bold smoked paprika, chili powder and thyme to build layers of satisfying almost smoky flavor.
This easy-to-make vegan pinto bean recipe has quickly become one of my favorite bean recipes of all time.
What can replace pinto beans?
I find pinto beans to be perfect for this slow cooker recipe. So pinto beans are my last recommendation, no doubt. However, in a pinch, you can substitute other beans that show general similarities.
- Borlotti beans (also known as blueberry beans or Roman beans) have a very similar appearance to pinto beans. Ideal in soups and stews, these beans are mainly used in Mediterranean cuisine.
- Red beans are a decent substitute for pinto beans in that their internal texture is similar. However, a word of warning: the skin of beans is harder than that of pinto beans. That can influence the texture of the dish as a whole.
- Anasazi beans (also called Aztec beans) belong to the same family as pinto beans, and are used in many Latin American dishes. While this ancient bean is a decent alternative to pinto beans, keep in mind that it cooks much faster.
Even though these are some great alternatives to use in a pinch, I would still say that, when it comes to this delicious
slow cooker pinto bean recipe, head to the store and grab pintos if
What to Serve with Slow Cooker Pinto Beans Serve
these hearty beans as part of a warm winter feast, or as a mid-summer barbecue side dish at the al fresco meal. They are super versatile! They work with anything from these vegetarian stuffed peppers to baked fries with paprika and salt and… Well, almost anything. You get the idea 🙂
And here are some other delicious bean recipes
- tomatoes and thyme
- Vegan Jajangmyeon – Korean Noodles with
three-bean salad Coconut and bean rice pudding Hearty Tuscan bean stew with
Black Bean Sauce
Did you like
this slow cooker pinto bean recipe? Are there changes you made that you’d like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!