Charro beans are pinto beans slow cooked in a flavorful broth seasoned with bacon, onions, tomatoes, jalapeños and Mexican spices.
Charro beans are a humble recipe of slow cooked pinto beans flavored with onion, jalapenos and bacon, seasoned with Mexican spices and brightened with tomatoes.
Growing up, it seemed like every occasion called for a pot of pinto beans. My dad made them regularly in his 1970’s crock-pot. I couldn’t wait to sample the beans, just as soon as they were ready.
I have a theory that you can tell how good a Mexican Restaurant is going to be based on their charro beans. Good beans means the food will be great, if the beans aren’t so good, chances are the food won’t be life-changing. So far, in my personal experience, my theory hasn’t been proven wrong.
This pinto bean recipe is made with simple and affordable ingredients.
- Pinto Beans – One pound of dry pinto beans. I haven’t noticed a difference in brands, I typically use HEB dried beans.
- Water – I like to cook my beans in water because the bacon adds plenty of salt. You can substitute chicken broth for the water, but you might want to reduce the salt.
- Bacon – Six slices of bacon. You can also use diced ham, chopped smoked sausage or a combination of meats.
- Onion – One large white onion diced.
- Jalapeno – I use two large jalapenos.
- Diced Tomatoes – A can of Rotel or fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles.
- Garlic – Two cloves of garlic or about 2 teaspoons of minced garlic.
- Spices: Cumin, salt
How to soak pinto beans
- Sort beans, removing any shriveled beans or foreign objects like small stones.
- Place beans in large bowl and cover with at least 3 inches of cold water.
- Let sit on the counter overnight (or up to 24 hours).
- After the soak, drain water and rinse beans in a colander. This helps remove some of the raffinose in the beans. You can remove any skins that have separated from the dried beans too.
How to make charro beans
One of the best things about making charro beans is they smell delicious as they cook.
On the stovetop
Step 1: After beans have soaked overnight in water. Discard water and rinse beans. Place in dutch oven or other large pan. Cover beans with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer; cook beans for 2 hours on low. Be sure that beans are covered in water, adding more if necessary.
Step 2: Chop bacon, jalapeno and onion. Cook bacon in skillet until fully cooked. Add diced onion and jalapeno to skillet with bacon; sauté until tender. Stir in garlic and cook for ~30 seconds.
Step 3: Add cooked bacon, onion, jalapeno and garlic to pot of beans. Stir in canned tomatoes, cumin and salt. Let simmer for one hour or until beans are soft and flavorful. Stir occasionally and do not let the pot get dry. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.
With canned beans
- Pour beans (53 oz. can or multiple cans) into large pot add a little water or chicken broth if needed to cover beans. Heat on low.
- While beans are warming, chop bacon. Cook in skillet until fully cooked. Add diced onion and jalapeno to skillet with bacon; sauté until tender.
- Add cooked bacon, onion and jalapeno to pot of beans. Stir in canned tomatoes, garlic, cumin and salt. Let simmer for until beans are heated thoroughly and flavorful. Stir occasionally and do not let pot get dry. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.
In the slow cooker
Step 1: After beans have soaked overnight in water; Discard water and rinse beans. Place pinto beans in crock-pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Cook on high for 5 hours.
Step 2: Cook bacon in skillet until fully cooked. Add onion and jalapeno and sauté until tender. Add cooked bacon, jalapeno, onion and garlic to slow cooker. Stir in tomatoes and spices. Cook on high for 2 more hours and then reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour or until beans are tender and flavorful.
- Turn them into borracho beans by adding 12 oz. of beer to cooking liquid. Shiner Bock is commonly used in Texas to make borracho beans.
- Make them spicier by adding a diced serrano pepper.
- Use ham or sausage in place of the bacon. If you don't eat pork this recipe can be made with turkey bacon.
- To make with canned beans, see instructions above.
Serving & Storage
How to serve charro beans?
Charro beans are the perfect Tex-Mex side dish for your favorite Mexican dinner such as fajitas, enchiladas or tacos. In Texas, charro beans are also commonly served as a side dish for BBQ meats such as brisket, sausage, and smoked chicken.
Serve beans in a small bowl or cup. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, if desired.
Other serving ideas include:
- Fill a tortilla with beans to make a burrito.
- Top a scoop of rice with beans for a complete protein.
- Put them on tortilla chips to make nachos.
- Put them in your breakfast taco.
- Make a bean and cheese quesadilla.
- Top with shredded cheese for a snack on a chilly day.
How to store cooked pinto beans?
Storage – If beans are steaming hot, place in a large dish and allow beans to cool slightly. Do not keep out for longer than two hours. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Freezing – Place cooked beans in a freezer safe container. I like to use these deli containers. Leave a couple of inches of space at the top. Securely place lid on the beans, date, label and store in the freezer. For quality purposes, best if used within three months.
Reheating frozen beans – Place beans in fridge till partly thawed. Pour beans into pan, warm beans until heated thoroughly to 165F. Add additional water or chicken broth as needed.
- 1 lb. pinto beans
- 6 slices bacon chopped
- 1 c. white onion diced
- ½ c. jalapeno seeded and diced (approx. 2 large)
- 1 – 10 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 2 tsp. garlic
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. salt
- Sort, wash and rinse dried pinto beans. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water; let sit for at least 8 hours.
- After beans have soaked overnight, discard water and rinse beans. Place beans in a large pot or dutch oven, cover with 2” of water. Bring beans to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 2 hours.
- Chop bacon, jalapeno and onion. Cook bacon in large cast-iron skillet until fully cooked. Add diced onion and jalapeno to skillet with bacon; sauté until tender. Stir in garlic and cook for ~30 seconds.
- Add cooked bacon, onion, jalapeno and garlic to pot of beans. Stir in canned tomatoes, cumin and salt. Let simmer for one to two hours or until beans are soft and flavorful. Stir occasionally and do not let the pot get dry. Adjust salt to taste preference. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired
Slow Cooker Instructions
- After beans have soaked overnight in water; Discard water and rinse beans. Place pinto beans in crock-pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Cook on high for 5 hours.
- Add cooked bacon, jalapeno, onion and garlic to slow cooker. Stir in tomatoes and spices. Cook on high for 2 more hours and then reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour or until beans are tender and flavorful.
What is the difference between charro beans and borracho beans?
Both are cooked pinto beans, the difference is that borracho beans aka “drunken beans” use a bottle of beer to flavor the liquid.
Are charro beans healthy?
Yes! Beans are an excellent source of fiber. This is a low-cost recipe that provides protein, fiber and various nutrients such as iron, magnesium, thiamin, calcium and zinc.
Can I used canned beans?
Yes this recipe can be made with canned pinto beans. I call that “doctoring them up”. You will want to use the large 53 oz. can or a multiple cans of pinto beans. See instructions above for how to make charro beans from canned, cooked beans.
How many carbs (carbohydrates) are in charro beans?
A ½ cup serving of charro beans has about 100 calories, 15 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber. That would be assuming there was some liquid included in the ½ cup measurement.
As an adult, I have truly come to appreciate simple recipes like these charro beans, which is why it's such a joy to share them with y’all. If you have patience, the longer they cook the more flavorful they get.