Simple to make, so flavorful and tender, crock pot pinto beans are convenient and versatile. Unsoaked or soaked dry pinto beans are seasoned with onions, salt, smoky paprika and your favorite Mexican Salsa Recipe to make the perfect side, component or main. This recipe is vegetarian, vegan and easily gluten free.
Crock Pot Beans: Convenient and Economical
Cooking pinto beans in a slow cooker is my preferred preparation. If you’re familiar with my How to Cook Black Beans recipe, you know it’s my favorite method for black beans too. The slow cooker produces the creamiest beans with a rich and flavorful broth.
This slow cooked pinto beans recipe is a family recipe from my Ma. It’s a long time favorite in our home and a recipe we can all agree on when the family’s together as long as it’s served with Cheesy Jalapeño Cornbread. As a bonus, Ma makes her slow cooker pinto beans vegetarian, sans chicken broth or ham hock, which of course wins brownie points for the vegetarian in the family.
Dry beans have a long storage life and are cheap. With four kids, Ma had to be intentional with meal prep and make the grocery budget stretch, so she frequently made pinto beans in the crock pot. For me, it’s one of the most economical, easy and comforting meals I make.
Quick Guide: How to Cook Pinto Beans in a Crock Pot
Cooking pinto beans in the slow cooker is one of those back pocket recipes. Crock pot beans are reliable, delicious and easy to make. With just a few ingredients, you can serve up a delicious, healthy and economical meal. While soaking is recommended, you can cook pinto beans in crock pot without soaking. Here’s how to cook dried pinto beans (see recipe card for details):
First, soak pinto beans (optional but recommended) in water for 8-12 hours.
Next, drain and put the pinto beans in the crockpot. Add water, veggie broth, salt, bay leaves and your favorite Mexican salsa (or add the salsa 30 minutes before serving – see cooking beans with tomatoes) to the slow cooker. Lid and cook pinto beans…
- Soaked, Cook on High: cook for, 4 – 6 hours
- Soaked, Cook on Low: cook for, 6 – 8 hours
- Unsoaked, Cook on High: cook for 6 – 8 hours
- Unsoaked, Cook on Low: cook for 8 – 10 hours
Cook times are a reflection of my particular slow cooker which reaches up to 205 Fahrenheit on Low and 290 Fahrenheit on High. Depending on the crock pot employed and age of bean, cook time will probably vary. Be sure to check your manufactures owners guide for guidance.
Cooking Beans with Tomatoes*
I’ve read about cooking dry beans with tomatoes and how their acidity can toughen bean skin. While this hasn’t impacted the way I usually prepare dry beans, I put this idea to the test.
What I Did: I made two batches of beans. One with all the ingredients added at the beginning of cooking (as pictured), and another holding out the salsa until 30 minutes before I served the beans; both with the same cooking time, soaked and on high.
The Results: Both batches tasted delicious, but the broth with the salsa added at the beginning was a bit richer with deeper flavor. However, the beans with the salsa added at the end of cooking yielded more in tact bean skin with fewer split beans.
Verdict: The results are subtle probably because the tomato to broth/water ratio is low. For pretty beans or concerned otherwise, add the salsa towards the end of cooking. For richer broth, add the salsa at the beginning.
To Soak or Not to Soak Dry Pinto Beans
There seems to be such a debate on whether or not we need to soak dry beans before cooking them. I’ve learned it’s really about the end goal. The reason why beans are soaked is two fold: A. to reduce cook time and B. to neutralize phytic acid (an anti-nutrient) and to break down difficult to digest complex sugars.
As far as reducing cook time, there’s a few hours difference depending on the temperature (low or high). This may be something to consider if you’d like to have dinner on the table at a certain time. If soaking dry beans to optimize nutritional value, soaking for at least eight hours reduces phytic acid and boosts other nutrients (Sources: Dr. Axe and Nourishing Traditions).
I like to soak my beans to optimize their nutritional value, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I either forget or just don’t plan ahead. So, I’ve included both methods in the recipe with recommended times.
What to Share with your Crockpot Beans
Pinto beans are versatile in that they can be shared as a main, side or component. Here are some ideas to get you started:
As a Component: Slow cooker pinto beans Mexican food is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. Stuffed into a burrito or Sofritas Burrito Bowl, they can be subbed in just about any recipe that calls for black beans like in these Tacos Rancheros (with a little less rancheros sauce). Enjoy them in a Vegetarian Chili Tater Tot Hot Dish or this Vegetarian One Pan Mexica Quinoa. And during fall poblano season, you gotta give my Stuffed Poblano Peppers a go!
Make Refried Pinto Beans: Like in my Black Refried Beans recipe, you can also use your pinto beans to make refried beans, simply by draining the beans and reserving one cup of bean broth. Return the beans to the crock pot and mash using a potato masher. Add broth back to the beans a little at a time to desired consistency. If they get too brothy, you can turn the crockpot back on to steam off some of the moisture.
A Few Recipe Notes
Because of slow cooker variables and tomatoes added at the beginning or end of cooking, use this recipe as a guide to cooking the most flavorful, creamy and delicious crock pot beans, keeping these things in mind as you discover what method produces the best results for you.
- About the Broth: This is a brothy recipe by design. After-all, Cheesy Jalapeño Cornbread or Gluten Free Cornbread is a delicious vehicle for soaking all that delicious bean broth.
- How to Freeze Your Beans: Cool the beans completely before freezing then, freeze beans and cooking liquid in Mason jars leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top for expansion. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then rewarm gently on stovetop.
- Find the freshest dried pinto beans you can get your hands on. Buying in bulk is economical, and stock is usually refreshed often. Sometimes you can find them at your local farmers market. Prepackaged Rancho Gordo Heriloom Pintos are excellent too.
- Salt at the beginning of cooking for best flavor!
Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave a comment and recipe rating below as it helps others considering making this recipe. If you’re on Instagram, be sure to take a picture and tag me @VanillaAndBean so I can see and share in my stories!
Slow Cooker Pinto Beans Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups (280 grams) Dry Pinto Beans sorted and rinsed
- 2 cups (480 grams) Vegetable Broth
- 2 cups (465 grams) Water
- 1/2 cup (80 grams) Yellow or Red Onion diced small
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt or less to taste
- 1 cup (250 grams) Mexican Salsa homemade or store bought*
- Pickled Jalapeños, Cilantro, Chopped Red Onion
- Optional: Soak the beans in enough water to cover them by about two inches for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature. Drain the beans.
- Transfer the beans to a crock pot. Add the broth, water, onion, paprika, bayleaf and salt. Stir. Add the salsa now or you can wait until 30 minutes before serving the beans** (see note).
- Put the lid on the slow cooker cook for***: Soaked, Cook on High: cook for, 4 – 6 hoursSoaked, Cook on Low: cook for, 6 – 8 hoursUnsoaked, Cook on High: cook for 6 – 8 hoursUnsoaked, Cook on Low: cook for 8 – 10 hoursIf you held out the salsa, add it to the slow cooker about 20-30 minutes before turning the cooker off. The beans are done when they're tender, not mushy, yet you can easily squish a bean between two fingers. Taste for salt adjustment.
- To Store: Store the beans in a lidded container for up to three days in the refrigerator. Freeze Your Beans: Cool the beans completely before freezing then, freeze beans and cooking liquid in Mason jars leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top for expansion. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then rewarm gently on stovetop.