These delicious crock pot pinto beans, flavored with onions, jalapeños, garlic and spices, have become a staple in our home because they are effortless to make and very versatile. In addition to the slow cooker pinto beans recipe, we discuss whether to soak or not soak your beans, as well as how to cook this recipe in an Instant Pot and on the stovetop.
We eat these slow-cooker pinto beans probably every other week. Typically, they top a bowl of black rice with avocado and roasted butternut squash. They are fantastic over a baked sweet potato, where their spiciness perfectly balances the sweetness of the sweet potato.
For a quick lunch, top the pinto beans with some queso fresco or Monterey Jack and scallions. And when mashed, these crock pot pinto beans fill in for refried beans alongside your tacos or inside quesadillas or burritos.
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It is just so easy to let my slow cooker do all the heavy lifting for this pinto beans recipe. These pinto beans and their liquid take on the flavor of the onions, garlic, jalapeños, and spices, which they are cooked over several hours. Then, I freeze them in one-cup and half-cup portions using these Prep work Freezer Pods so that I have them for quick meals.
ingredients in these crock pot pinto beans
The star of this dish, pinto beans are a type of legume rich in fiber and protein. They have a creamy texture and a mild, earthy flavor. When purchasing pinto beans, choose dried beans that are uniform in size and free of cracks or discoloration.
Pinto beans are high in fiber, protein, and essential nutrients. Sorting and rinsing the beans will remove any debris or small stones before cooking. Soaking the beans overnight before cooking can help to soften them and reduce the cooking time.
The onion adds a savory and slightly sweet flavor to the dish. Yellow or white onions are the best choices for this recipe due to their robust flavors.
Fresh garlic cloves are used to add a rich, aromatic flavor to the beans. Mince or press the garlic for optimal flavor release. If you don’t have fresh garlic on hand, you can substitute with 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder per clove of garlic.
This spicy pepper adds a kick to the pinto beans. Remove the seeds and veins to reduce the heat if you prefer a milder flavor. If you don’t have jalapenos, you can substitute them with serrano peppers or canned green chilies.
chipotle in adobo
Chipotle in adobo adds a smoky, spicy flavor and deep red color to the dish. Chop the peppers finely to distribute the flavor evenly. Consider making chipotle paste! This great idea is from my friend Deb.
Guajillo or Pasilla chili
These dried chilies provide a mild to moderate heat and fruity, earthy flavor. Adding them is optional, but they will enhance the dish’s complexity.
Cumin is a warm, earthy spice that adds depth to the dish. Ground cumin is preferred, but you can also use cumin seeds, toasted and ground.
This spice adds a subtle smoky flavor to the beans. Regular paprika can be used as a substitute, but it will not provide the same smokiness.
Salt enhances the flavors of the beans and seasonings. Adjust the amount according to your taste and dietary needs.
Freshly ground black pepper adds mild heat and complexity to the dish. Adjust the amount to suit your personal taste.
chicken, beef, or vegetable broth or water
The choice of broth will affect the overall flavor of the dish. Chicken and beef broth will add a richer, meatier flavor, while vegetable broth or water will keep the dish lighter and vegetarian-friendly. Use more liquid for saucier beans.
Bay leaves impart a subtle, herbal flavor to the beans. Remove them before serving, as they are not meant to be eaten.
dried beans are healthier, more economical, and environmentally friendly
I have been buying dried beans in bulk for many years. Not only are they much more economical, but I am all about eliminating additives and preservatives from our diet. In addition, buying dried beans in bulk means less waste in our landfills.
do pinto beans have to be soaked before cooking in a crock pot?
There was a time when I was all in on soaking my beans before cooking them. But, I’ve slowly realized that that is not always necessary, especially with thin-skinned beans like dry pinto beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, and Great Northern beans. All this to say, there is no reason to soak pinto beans for this simple recipe.
BUT…and this is an important ‘BUT’…this is not a universal rule for all dried beans. Kidney Beans, White Kidney Beans, and Broad Beans contain a toxin called…are you ready?… Phytohaemagglutinin (PHA). While it is a toxin, I couldn’t find evidence of actual death in humans, but rather vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pains. So, after soaking your kidney and broad beans, boil them in fresh water for at least 30 minutes. Typically, the toxin is destroyed when boiled at 200ºF for 10 minutes, but scientists recommend 30 minutes to ensure the beans reach the proper temperature for the requisite time.
Other means of cooking reach this 200° quickly enough to destroy the PHA, but the nature of crock pots and slow cookers is that they don’t. No need to panic; just know that with Kidney Beans, White Kidney Beans (Cannellini Beans), and Broad Beans, you need to boil them for 10 minutes before you add them to your slow cooker. Knowledge is Power!
But, if you do want to soak your pinto beans before you toss them into the crock pot for this recipe, I’ve got you covered. Check out the chart below, under the instant pot and stovetop heading.
how long does it take to cook unsoaked pinto beans in a slow cooker
If you need them quickly, typically, these unsoaked pinto beans in a slow cooker will be done in five-ish hours if cooked on high. But if you need to make them earlier in the day, set them on low for seven to eight hours.
But there is one big caveat to this general rule of thumb! Well, actually two caveats.
- The age of your beans. If they have been sitting around for a while, your beans may be drier than the average bean and, thus, need to cook a bit longer to refresh. It is worth noting that really old and dry beans may never fully rehydrate.
- Your crockpot or slow cooker. I have two crockpots; one has three settings (warm, low, and high). I’ve never used the high because it actually boils on warm! My other crockpot seems to be better calibrated. All this to say, you know if your crock pot runs hot or cool, so take that into consideration.
what if you know your pinto beans are a little old
If I know my beans are pushing a year or more, I will help them out a bit by giving them a good soak. I will use 8 cups of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt per pound of dry beans and let them soak overnight or a minimum of eight hours.
how to cook these pinto beans in an instant pot or on the stovetop
While four hours is pretty quick for slow cooking, sometimes you need your pinto beans NOW! Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
You can make these pinto beans in the instant pot or on the stove top by following this chart, which also takes into consideration whether or not you soak your beans! So many options!
how can you tell when your crock pot pinto beans are done?
I’ve referred to the Tamar Adler book, An Everlasting Meal, before. It’s one of those books I like to re-read from time to time for inspiration. Here’s her guidance on testing the doneness of beans:
Beans are done when they are velvety to their absolute middles. You should feel, as soon as you taste one, as though you want to eat another. The whole pot is only ready when five beans meet that description. If one doesn’t, let the beans keep cooking…Tamar Adler
I use the chicken broth I can in this recipe. You can see that recipe and how to can chicken broth and other broths and stocks here.
substitution and addition suggestions
- Add a ham hock while cooking for a smokier flavor.
- Saute the onions, jalapeño, and garlic in three slices of chopped bacon
- Cook using vegetable broth to make these beans vegetarian.
- Diced Tomato
- Top with cilantro, scallions, and or queso fresco
for more easy slow cooker recipes
- My friend Sheila has a delicious Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup (Senate Bean Soup) that is just what you know you need for a cool winter night.
- My friend Kathleen shares her Copycat Outback Potato Soup Recipe, which can be made in both the slow cooker and the stovetop. Another soup that will warm you all the way down!
- This crock pot Turkey Chili is low fat, healthy, hearty, and the perfect ‘set and forget’ meal.
- This Hearty Beef Soup gets its flavor from vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, browned beef shanks, and stew meat. If you are looking for a hearty, nourishing, and delicious soup, then this is your recipe!
- This 15 Beans Soup with Smoked Turkey is easy to make in the slow cooker and can be made healthier by substituting Smoked Turkey Wings and/or Legs instead of Smoked Ham Hocks. Instructions for making this soup in the slow cooker, stovetop, or oven are included. Additionally, adjustments for soaking or not soaking your dried beans are discussed.
- This White Bean Soup with Ham and Vegetables is a lighter, brothier version of traditional bean soups.
- Healthy, Low Fat Turkey Chili is the perfect ‘set and forget’ meal. Whether it’s a game day, a ski day, a busy day, or just a cold night, this ground turkey chili will be a welcome meal come dinner time. A few minutes of prep time in the morning will yield a big batch of healthy and hearty turkey chili for dinner. Both crockpot and stovetop instructions are provided.
Crock Pot Pinto Beans
- 1 pound dried pinto beans sorted and rinsed
- 7-8 cups chicken beef or vegetable broth or water (more for saucier beans)
- 1 large onion diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 jalapeno seeded and diced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic 4-5 cloves
- 2 tablespoons oil olive oil, canola or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo chopped
- 1 dry Guajillo or Pasilla chili seeded and chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- Red pepper flakes optional
- Saute chopped onions, garlic, and jalapeno in oil until soft.
- Place rinsed beans and all remaining ingredients in the insert of your slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 6 to 7 hours.
how to store your pinto beans
I make a big pot of these slow cooker pinto beans and freeze them in one-cup and half-cup portions using these Prepwork Freezer Pods to have them for quick meals. They keep well for six to eight months in the freezer and three to four days in the refrigerator.
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