Pinto Beans

Once you learn how to cook pinto beans from scratch, the canned kind will never taste the same. Creamy and flavorful, they're a delicious side dish.

Pinto beans

“I’m never buying pinto beans in a can again!” I told Jack last week, as I savored spoonful after spoonful of pinto beans straight from a pot on the stove. Maybe I was exaggerating (canned beans are darn convenient, after all), but I’ll certainly reach for them less often than I used to. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that cooking pinto beans from scratch will yield creamier, more flavorful beans every time.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m arriving late to the dried beans party. A few years back, I did try cooking them, but without much luck. I now realize that the beans that I had were too old and dried out to soften properly (note: fresher beans are better beans – look for yours at a store with high turnover!). But at the time, I decided that cooking dried beans just wasn’t for me.

Dry pinto beans in a jar

What won me over? Our neighborhood bar, Kite String Cantina, started offering a weekly box of local foods. In addition to scoring fresh veggies and Chef Renee’s SUPER flavorful sauces, we started getting a bag of dried beans each week.

So over the last few months, I’ve perfected my method for how to cook pinto beans from scratch. This pinto beans recipe is amazingly simple, and it’s delicious, too. The beans are lightly spicy, aromatic, and irresistibly creamy. Try it once, and you’ll never want to eat pinto beans any other way.

Recipe ingredients

How to Cook Pinto Beans

This method for how to cook pinto beans from scratch takes some time, but don’t let that scare you! The process is super simple and almost entirely hands off. Here’s how it goes:

  • First, soak the beans. Place them in a large colander and sift through them to remove any stones or debris. Rinse them well and transfer them to a large bowl. Cover them with 2-3 inches of water and set them aside to soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
  • The next day, cook the aromatics. Sauté half an onion in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat (you could also toss in a jalapeño if you like your beans spicy!). When the onion softens, stir in cumin, the soaked, drained beans, water, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Then, simmer. The cooking time will depend on the freshness of your beans and how you like them cooked. I cook my pinto beans until they’re falling apart and the liquid around them has thickened. I start checking after an hour and again every 15 minutes after that.
  • Finally, season to taste. When the beans are cooked to your liking, season them with a squeeze of lime juice, more salt and pepper, and chili powder to taste.

That’s it! Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Pot of beans with wooden spoon

Pinto Beans Serving Suggestions

When you’re ready to eat, garnish the pinto beans with cilantro and red pepper flakes. Make them a meal by pairing them with cilantro lime rice, tortillas, and a vegetable side dish like these fajita veggies or sautéed greens. Top it all off with pickled onions or pico de gallo for a pop of bright flavor, or add a scoop of guacamole for richness.

This pinto beans recipe is also a fantastic side dish. Serve it as part of an at-home taco bar or with any of these Mexican-inspired recipes:

Pinto beans recipe

More Favorite Bean Recipes

If you love this pinto beans recipe, try one of these delicious bean recipes next:

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Pinto Beans

rate this recipe:
4.96 from 46 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Soaking Time: 8 hours
Serves 8 to 12
Try this pinto beans recipe once, and you'll never get the canned kind again! Note that the cooking time here will depend on the freshness of your beans. Fresher beans cook more quickly and soften more evenly, so buy your beans from a source with high turnover if you can.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • ½ white onion, chopped
  • teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 cups water, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste

Optional additions

  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and diced
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  • Place the beans in a large colander and sort through them to remove and discard any stones or debris. Rinse them well and transfer them to a large bowl. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and discard any beans that float. Soak at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. If you like spicy beans, add the jalapeño with the onion.
  • Stir in the cumin and then add the beans, water, oregano, salt, and several grinds of pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender. The timing will depend on the freshness of your beans. I like to check mine starting at 1 hour and every 15 minutes after that. Add more liquid to the pot, as needed, to keep the beans submerged. I like to cook my pinto beans until they’re starting to fall apart and the bean liquid around them has thickened.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Season the beans to taste with more salt (I typically add ½ to 1 additional teaspoon), more pepper, and chili powder, if desired. Garnish with cilantro, if using. Store the beans in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze them for up to 3 months.

43 comments

4.96 from 46 votes (34 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Sam
    01.29.2024

    This looks great! Do you have an instant pot version of this?

  2. Laurette
    01.26.2024

    5 stars
    Super easy and delicious paired with my scratch cornbread.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Alecs
    09.01.2023

    Are we using crushed cumin?

  4. Maxine
    08.15.2023

    Delicious and foolproof! I make this at least once a month. When I double the recipe, it tends to need less water than stated.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.16.2023

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed them!

  5. Joy
    07.15.2023

    5 stars
    I made these beans today and they are absolutely delicious. Thank you for sharing

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.17.2023

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  6. Sarah
    04.23.2023

    5 stars
    Made these beans tonight, they turned out so good. My family absolutely loved them! Even my picky 4 year old gobbled them down. This recipe is a keeper!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      04.27.2023

      I’m so glad the beans were a hit!

  7. Laurel Rose
    04.22.2023

    Every time I google a recipe, I find myself on your site & end up choosing your recipes over all the others I read!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      04.27.2023

      Love hearing that! So glad you’re enjoying the recipes.

  8. 5 stars
    I grew up on beans and cornbread,fried potatoes, etc. and learned how to cook from my Grandmother Neater Heffley (my Moms mother). That lady could cook better than anyone else I knew or know and God Bless her, she never heard of cooking healthy. But I can and even with her recipes I can make anything healthier just by tuning it up a little.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      04.27.2023

      Love that story! So glad you enjoyed the beans.

  9. Ashley Miller
    11.23.2022

    Could you make these in a crockpot?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.24.2022

      Hi Ashley, you probably can, I’m just not sure of the timing.

    • Ashley you can use a crockpot but I can never make pinto beans come out right using one. The juice seems never to really thicken up like it’s supposed to, maybe someone else knows a trick to fix that.😊

  10. Rich
    09.27.2022

    Just about to make this today. I soaked the beans overnight and discarded the water. It seems unlikely that I will need to add 8 cups of water since the beans have already been soaked…..wondering how it will turn out.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.28.2022

      Hi Rich, you could start with less (say 6 cups) and add more water if it starts to evaporate before the beans are tender.

    • Rich
      09.28.2022

      I did need the water because I didn’t realize that the pot was uncovered to let the water boil off….I covered it near the end to get the beans cooked fully and not burn the bottom.

  11. Peter
    09.06.2022

    3 stars
    I am shocked with this flavor thanks for this recipe, go well with coconut rice

  12. Jocelyn
    07.30.2022

    5 stars
    Love this recipe. It was great.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.31.2022

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  13. Sandy
    07.17.2022

    5 stars
    I cooked these beans for lunch today. I added garlic salt and a little tomato juice as well as carved ham and two slices of bacon. I cooked jiffy cornbread to go with them. My husband said they were okay but needed one more ingredient and he wasn’t sure what. I’m gonna kill him. Somebody hold my spoon.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.19.2022

      Ha ha, I’m so glad you loved the beans!

  14. kaa1200
    05.28.2022

    5 stars
    great recipe. didn’t want to go to the store, so made some replacements that worked for me:
    1> leeks for onion, and
    2> salt pork for bacon
    Love the beans.
    served with kielbasi and blueberry cornbread muffins

  15. Kerri
    05.05.2022

    5 stars
    Finally a tasty recipe for a good old fashioned pot of beans. Yum! I decided to make taco soup for dinner tonight and it called for black beans, I wanted something a little different so I saw your recipe and thought YESSS! I cooked about 2 cups of beans exactly as written. Thank you so much for sharing your very tasty bean recipe – the first recipe I have found with the best seasoning combination. My taco soup turned out amazing because of your recipe. Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.07.2022

      Hi Kerri, I’m SO glad you loved the beans, we’re so obsessed with these. There’s not always a lot of love for beans cooked from scratch but I think they’re so worth it 🙂

  16. Brenda
    05.03.2022

    Hi, I really like this recipe but when I go to make then refried beans, my beans are always water. I even decreased the water amount I add at the beginning. Can you give me in tips to help?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.04.2022

      Hi Brenda, if they’re not thick enough, you could either add even less of the cooking water, or cook the refried beans longer and the liquid will reduce more. Hope that helps!

      • Eddie
        07.28.2022

        Take a fork and smash some of the beans into the bottom and sides of the pot. This will thicken the juice and adds to the taste also. That’s the secret from my deceased aunt.

  17. Austen
    04.12.2022

    5 stars
    So good! I swapped out homemade chicken stock instead of water, and added Aleppo and Poblano peppers instead of jalapeño. And some rendered bacon to saute all that in.

    Woof!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.13.2022

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them!

  18. Suzanne
    01.17.2022

    Hi! Can you make these beans in the Instant Pot?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.18.2022

      Hi Suzanne, yes, I would, make them according to this Instant Pot Black Bean Recipe: https://www.loveandlemons.com/instant-pot-black-beans/

      The only thing you don’t get with the instant pot beans is the thick creamy bean liquid that’s so delicious. But the IP cooks great beans, you just might have to strain some of the excess liquid off after they’re cooked.

  19. Phillip Minyard
    01.03.2022

    When you specify chili powder, do you mean a powder of red chile peppers or chili seasoning blend? That makes a big difference.

  20. Mickey
    10.14.2021

    Yooooo these beans are fn dope!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.