My Best Pinto Beans

Pinto beans have gotten us through quite a few lean times. They are filling, nutritious and most importantly very cheap. You don’t need much to cook them other than time. The end result is a yummy main dish that can also be stretched into several other meals (think bean burritos the next day). Here’s my best pinto bean recipe.

  • 1 pound dry pinto beans, about 2-1/3 cups
  • 2 quarts of tap water
  • 2 to 4 ounces margarine or bacon or salt pork or 1/4 cup bacon grease
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Soak the beans in 2 quarts of cold water overnight, or in 2 quarts of boiling water for an hour or two. After soaking, or the next day, bring the beans to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat, so the beans merely simmer. Cover and simmer for half an hour. Then add the margarine or bacon, salt and pepper. Cover again and simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour. The beans should be tender and fragrant. Bite into one to see if it is cooked though. When they are tender, they are ready to serve.

I always serve these beans with Corn Bread and Mixed Greens. This is just about my favorite meal in the whole wide world. Some folks squirt ketchup on these beans when they eat them, that is a fine southern tradition, although I prefer them without it. The small amount of bacon adds to the protein quality of the beans, and it also turns the bean broth into something called pot licker. That means the juice is so good, you want to lick the pot. Soak up the bean juice with your corn bread.

Babies of about a year old are fond of cornbread mashed up very smoothly in a little pot licker from the beans. Just make sure to cool it down and mash it very smooth. It was a favorite of all of my kids when they were learning to feed themselves.

Beans and Corn Bread

Got some leftover pintos? Turn them into refried beans or try one of the other yummy bean recipes.

Thrifty Bean CookbookThe Thrifty Bean Cookbook

Ready to cook some beans? Not only are beans a great way to add high quality nutrients to your family’s diet, but they are versatile too. You can easily adjust flavoring or start out with a big pot of pintos to have with corn bread the first night, then turn them refried beans for bean burritos the following night.

You can use them as a main dish by serving them over rice, with tuna or serve them as a side dish. Here are 35 savory bean recipes from simple frugal dinners to dishes you can make for company.

Get your copy of the Thrifty Bean Cookbook today and start cooking.

Homemade Pinto Beans
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry pinto beans, about 2-1/3 cups
  • 2 quarts of tap water
  • 2 to 4 ounces margarine or bacon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Soak the beans in 2 quarts of cold water overnight, or in 2 quarts of boiling water for an hour or two. After soaking, or the next day, bring the beans to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat, so the beans merely simmer. Cover and simmer for half an hour. Then add the margarine or bacon, salt and pepper. Cover again and simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour

 

 

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Rosemary Downs - June 27, 2009

Thank you for the cornbread recipe. I cook for a rescue mission and I needed a plain recipe since I can’t spend a lot of money for things like Rotel and cheese and etc to put in the cornbread.
Have you ever tried Anazazi (Sp) beans? They are a little different from pinto and so delicious. I have never seen them in the store. I have to order them mailorder. Thanks again. Rosemary Downs

Reply
    Nanci Rogers - August 13, 2012

    Rosemary,

    I know this is three years later but I love anasazi beans. I have not been able to find them at my local stores any more.

    Reply
      Charlene - November 11, 2012

      You can find the Anasazi beans on Amazon or at Bob’s Red Mill website.

      Reply
        Warren - February 10, 2013

        The Anasazi beans look very much like what we called “Shelly October” beans and are a little different taste than pinto beans. I love them and still get very excited at the mention of a pot of soup beans. I think it is an East Tennessee thang (near Tri-Cities area) but they always served them with cornbread, diced up sweet onions and a little bit Chow Chow. I don’t think I ever saw a Green until we moved to Northwest Florida, though. I LOVE the Anasazi beans and several internet sites sell them…can’t find ’em in the grocery in Mississippi but, then, Mississippi seems to be a real food desert.

        Reply
Scarlett Pencil Point - August 10, 2009

The correct term is not “pot licker,” but “pot liquor.”

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    Dar - November 27, 2011

    it is not liquor, it is licker

    Reply
      Dick Rees - December 4, 2011

      It is neither. It’s likker:

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/likker

      Reply
        The Hillbilly Housewife - December 4, 2011

        Yes, there are many variations of this term. You’ll find “pot liquor” on the same definition link offered. And just for a chuckle, here’s an interesting link that carries the debate even further… all the way to the United States Senate: Pot Liquor or Potlikker?

        Reply
          Steele - January 4, 2012

          Actually, I call it “soppers”.. you “sop” up the broth with the corn bread. [My family has lived in the Appalachian mountains since the 1700s and we’ve always called it soppers.]

          Reply
          Rosie - March 5, 2012

          I have heard of “pot liker” all my life and it is okay to use language colloquialisms!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Reply
    Jo - September 22, 2013

    while you gals all argue which term is proper (most likely whatever your family calls it)…I’ll be over there eating it up…. ;-D

    Reply
      Karen - January 18, 2015

      Well, I can disagree with ALL of you! :-) “Pot Liquor” is what we always called the liquid from the GREENS, NOT the beans! Don’t know if that’s a Texas “thang” or just my “family thang,” but there ya go. LOL! And we use our cornbread to soak THAT up right along with them thar pinto beans!

      Reply
Danielle Harrington - August 30, 2009

I love pinto beans and cornbread!
For Rosemary-the health food store I frequent carry Anazazi (Sp) beans. It is with their bulk items. You might price them at a health food store near you, and see if the price is right!!

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Steve - November 15, 2009

Hello: Your recipe is great and the truly secret ingredient for homemade pintos is certainly the bacon grease. Smooth and creamy! I enojoy them all the time. Thanks again!

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Jen - December 15, 2009

I have loved these alllll my life. My KY nana made them and we always eat them with corn bread and garnish with onion and sweet pickle relish. I skip the onion but load up on the relish… I am getting ready to make some with a ham bone I have left over from dinner last night.

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Kenneth - December 20, 2009

I grew up on corn bread & beans, and i have bean wantng to try and make them on my own thanks for the push to try it.

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Jacknhoo - January 3, 2010

Thank you, for your perfect recipe…just like my mother made for us, growing up. My mother used to say (she was the perfect lady, quite educated, well read, and raised with good moral and ethical values), “I am a hillbilly, and that is a good thing, and because I am a hillbilly, you know I am sincere.”

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Judi - January 5, 2010

The correct spelling is Anasazi. They were Natives that lived in the southwest and disappeared about 1,500 years ago. The beans have a very similar taste to pinto beans.

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    Jen - September 6, 2015

    Anasazi beans were grown for years in the S/W corner of Colorado near Cortez. For some reason I
    haven’t found out yet, they are getting hard to find, however, most of our markets carry them here.

    I’m a bean eater and love Anasazi beans over plain pinto’s. And yes to the above post, my mom
    is a Texan and pot-licker was my favorite; juice off greens with crumbled corn bread in it. yum!

    Reply
Amy - May 28, 2010

I’m so excited to see this recipe! My grandma used to always make “soup beans” and corn bread when I was little. I’ve tried to follow her method a few times, but she never measured or used a real recipe and I haven’t had any luck. I’ll be trying this soon!

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    Sharon Franklin - December 7, 2011

    My mom use to make soup beans and cornbread all the time…a very, very cheap meal, but we thought it was a treat! We’d put diced onions on top fo the soup and lots and lots of butter on the hot cornbread. Makes my mouth water!

    Reply
Ann-Marie - August 27, 2010

This recipe is so delicious (I make mine with bacon)! I have a friend that told me she & her family don’t like beans – I suspect it’s because they haven’t been cooked well and so I’m going to have them try these!

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    Jen - September 6, 2015

    For some reason (perhaps because it’s what my mom used) I always put salt pork in Anasazi/pinto beans.

    Reply
kristie - September 20, 2010

This sounds delicious! I haven’t made beans on the stove top but would like to try. Question: after soaking the beans in 2 qts. water overnight, do you drain the water and put the beans in 2qts. fresh water before cooking, or just cook them in the water they have been soaking in? Or does it matter? Thanks!!

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    Julee Pogue - March 3, 2011

    I use the same water, I think it gives more flavor, but it really doesn’t matter. Just don’t forget the bacon fat. Just keep adding water and the juice will be thick and creamy. Keep covered til beans are tender, then take the lid off and boil til the Juice is just right. If more juice is wanted, just add more water. Perfection!

    Reply
      Carolyn Bizzaco - May 12, 2011

      In the beginning I rince my beans until the water runs clear through my colander. (excuse any misspelled words) Then I soak them overnight in water twice as high as the beans with 1 heaping teaspoon of baking soda added to the water…this releaves much of the gas issues that come after eating beans. The next morning I poor off the water with the baking soda water (poor this water in a compost if you have one if not run water down the sink at the same time you poor it down the drain to prevent this water from standing in your pipes) then cover the beans in the cooking pot with clean water to about an inch above where the bean have swollen to in the pot. Then follow above recipe which is a very good basic bean recipe every kitchen should have.

      Reply
      Jane - March 7, 2012

      Ewww – never use the water the beans soak in – it’s full of the dirt, etc. that cling to the beans! If you don’t believe me go to http://missvickie.com/howto/beans/howtosoak.html Miss Vickie is a website devoted to pressure cooking. I often pressure cook my beans and they cook in much less time. The link above tells you why you and how you should soak beans. After you read this, you will never use that soaking water to cook your beans in. It’s gross. Also, if you can find Epazote it helps to dispel the gassiness caused by dried beans. I usually add a couple teaspoons of the dried herb to a pot of beans. You can find it at http://www.penzeys.com or at their stores or at Latin American stores. I use it and it helps with the gas.

      Reply
Samantha - September 30, 2010

@Kristie – yep, you drain the soaking water and replace with new. (this helps reduce the flatulence factor :) good luck!

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daniel park - October 4, 2010

Drain the beans. Soaking leaches oligosaccharides ( long sugar molecules) that you don’t digest but intestinal bacteria digest causing gas

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lily - October 25, 2010

why do my beans turn dark when cooking. The liquid is too dark and looks dirty

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    Mario A. C. - April 6, 2011

    Your beans are probably turning dark because you are probably adding in cold water while the beans are already boiling. Next time add in hot water if the water has gotten to low and the beans need extra cooking time.

    Reply
    Shari Dotson - August 1, 2012

    You can also get dark bean with cast iron…I have one dutch oven that is cast iron that always seems to make the beans dark. I switched to a thick stainless steel pot and the beans didn’t discolor in that…perhaps a chemical reaction with the iron from the gas in the beans?

    Reply
Mr.Crackers - November 7, 2010

I am Pennsylvania Dutch. I had a girlfriend that was from Tennessee. I made her a batch of my bean soup, she called it soup beans. She said mine tasted better than her moms. My bean soup uses 1 bullion cube for each cup of water, bacon (or ham), beans, an onion, celery stalk, two carrots, and two potatoes.Give it a try!

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Shawn - November 7, 2010

I remember being a boy of 2 or 3 and looking at a pot of beans cooking on my grandparents wood stove and thinking yummy.
They were okies and had 8 kids and would make beans cornbread and fried potatoes,Guess what I am feeding my family tonight?

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Deborah - November 29, 2010

To help cut down on the flatulence factor you can also add a little baking soda to the water when you presoak the beans. Be sure to rinse the beans and start with fresh water for cooking.

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    bates - December 31, 2010

    if u live in the south,,its pot licker!!!! my granddaddy always called it that and spelled it too.

    Reply
      naynay - May 29, 2012

      Nothing like the ‘potlicker from turnip greens , or pinto beans
      Northern folk don’t know like a down home southern cook . It’s healthy eating and not expensive.
      in fact, I’ve got a pot of pinto beans cooking now . I’m a Northener , but mom is southern born and raised.

      Reply
        naynay - May 29, 2012

        Hamhocks gives any ‘bean’ a more ‘ soulful’ flavor. I like salt pork too ,
        and would you believe olive oil is ‘NOT BAD’ instead of fat back , but any smoked meat
        gives richer flavor.

        Reply
          Deb King - May 29, 2012

          Any kind of fat smoked meat will do. I have put hog jowls or knuckles. Great flavor. My husband (born and raised in NC) can remember that by the time they were at the bottom of the pot, they could drink the juice. with cornbread on the side, YUM!!!!!

          We called it pot licker (any of the spelling variations) but there is yet another name. Believe it starts with an “s”…Can’t for the life of me remember…Help!!

          Reply
Jim McBride - January 2, 2011

Grew up a poor hillbily, now @ age 65 have started to eating as we did growing up in Va. Lot’s of bean’s, tater’s and green’s! It don’t get any better than that.Do 4 meal’s for less than 4 dollar’s. Then I am doing good.

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jeanie - May 6, 2011

My friend, whose pinto beans are her specialty and her pride, uses only distilled water in her pintos. She says it keeps them light in color, whereas the minerals in tap water darken them. Also, the distilled water she adds as the beans boil down has to be boiling, as cold water bursts the skins.

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    The Hillbilly Housewife - May 7, 2011

    Interesting tips, Jeanie. I’m going to give this a try. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
DebraRuegg - May 18, 2011

1. I’ve cooked beans in the same water,the way I was taught,and in fresh water,and by far the beans made with the same water makes the best POT LIKER!! 2. I have an ileostomy due to Crohn’s,Beano and/or Zantac. Enough said.

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    sara - August 23, 2011

    I have Crohns as well…and the doctors tell me to steer clear of beans but I LOVE PINTO BEANS AND CORNBREAD! I hope you are well. I just made it to 3 months ‘remission’.
    Sara

    Reply
Sarah - July 10, 2011

Potlikker vs Pot Liquor – from The NY Times, February 23, 1982 (I was eleven days old when this was published!!)

http://www.nytimes.com/1982/02/23/us/pot-liquor-or-potlikker.html

The folks of the internet/world say that potlikker is the liquid left over from cooking greens, not from beans, but if you make this recipe correctly…the juices that remain *are* delicious. :)

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angelina - October 20, 2011

I tried this recipe last night, let me say first that the flavor was fantastic! I did however have a problem that I was wondering if anyone else had. I soaked my beans overnight as always. My people drain the soak water, which I did. Then followed the recipe as printed. My beans would NOT soften!! I cooked them for close to 3 hours. I added more water but made sure it was hot enough not to stop the simmer. What did I do wrong?

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    Sharon Franklin - December 7, 2011

    Probably nothing…you may have had “old” beans that weren’t properly stored. They do need plenty of water (liquid) though to soften.

    Reply
Ruth S - November 4, 2011

Angelina, you may have done nothing wrong. Lately my sister and I have had the same problem and we’ve been cooking them for years. I think the beans are too old, myself. I generally throw out any of those I have left , and buy new. I also use my pressure cooker if time is an issue. 15 pounds of pressure for 40 minutes, let cool, remove lid and if you like a thicker soup, I use a potato masher to mash a few and add back in.

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Lee A. - December 30, 2011

I was raised in these good eats also but, I have never cooked them. The question I have for the Beans is do you use raw bacon oor do I need to cook it and use the grease and the bacon ? Told you I never cooked them before. ha also, where do I get that corn bread recipe and the greens recipe ? Thank you guys, P.S. Hurry and answer Im starving !

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    Steele - January 4, 2012

    Personally, if I use regular bacon or fat back, I dice and fry till done [but not TOO crispy, but limpy] and then add the bacon and the grease to the pot.

    You can also use smoked pork hocks, smoked pork necks or ham if you want.

    Personally I use bacon grease and smoked pork hocks or necks.

    Reply
    pavia - February 5, 2012

    i have enjoyed beans and cornbread all my life. Momma from Kingsport TN you get the best of the southern dishes growing up. You can use the salt pork or fat back raw or cooked – if your making greens also, cook the fatback and you can use the meat in both or the meat in the beans and the grease in the greens for flavor. Same deal with the bacon, but if it’s cooked first you get a stronger flavor. oh yum… i also make beans and barley using the same ingredients or ham. the barley replaces the need for rice.

    Reply
gail h - January 11, 2012

I cook my beans with nothing but salt and water. The fresh beans my husband and I shelled out was just plain beans, water and a little salt. You have to keep adding water but they turn dark brown and the soup really gets thick and good. I use no seasoning but the salt. When I fry hamburgers I fry them in water only. TRY it, you will like it.

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mynda fryer - January 29, 2012

can you freeze cooked pinto beans

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    Kathy - March 7, 2012

    Absolutely, I keep containers of beans in my freezer like cans on the shelves. I make a big batch of whatever type bean I want from dry beans and then freeze them for later. Saves money and is healthier.

    Reply
Brenda - February 1, 2012

Yes, you can freeze cooked pinto beans. New Year’s Day, I put my soaked pinto beans in the crockpot with a hambone, and let them cook all day. They were the best I’ve ever had. This morning, I put Navy Beans in the crockpot with onion and salt pork. Can wait to see how they’ve turned out when I get home from work!!!!!

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Kathy - March 7, 2012

Soaking beans for a long time, even 24+ hours is a good idea and not reusing the water even for compost. The agent that causes gas due to being undigestible is a natural protective chemical to keep the bean from rotting or sprouting before it’s time. You can google it and get a much better scientific explanation than I can give. I have started doing this and not only do I not have a house full of natural gas but I think the beans taste better. Hard to believe you can make this simple dish even healthier.

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Barbara Speidel - March 7, 2012

SUGGESTION FOR LEFTOVER CORNBREAD

Add some coarsely crumbled cornbread to a very cold glass of milk/buttermilk. My dad grew up eating this, and we learned to eat it, too. It is delicious. If my dad were alive, he would be 102.

In our family, we also liked to end the meal of pinto beans, cornbread, onion, and fried potatoes with a piece of buttered cornbread with syrup poured on it. It was our dessert.

Thanks for the suggestion of frying hamburger meat in water. I have to try it.

I love this website and the discussions. Y’all are real cooks who know how to flavor and cook great food.

Thanks for all the wonderful information.

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Minnie Pearl - March 7, 2012

HOWWWW-DEEE!

Y’all really got in on this one! I am much obliged for all of the interesting comments and good recommendations that I have read.

Y’all stop by the cornfield and you’d be welcomed to sit a spell and rest yourselves and we’ll visit over some beans, cornbread, and greens and we’ll have us some sweet tea, too!

MMMMMM—MMMMMMM!

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Darlene - March 8, 2012

Love Love Love Pinto beans made this way! The only thing I do a bit different is add a bay leaf. Gives a deeper taste imo.

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Alex - April 8, 2012

So, when you add the bacon into the beans…is the bacon raw, or should I cook it before adding?

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Aquaria - May 9, 2012

Alex: You add the bacon when you add the water and spices. You can fry it up then add it, or just add it as is.

The way my grandmother in East Texas made pinto beans was to use beans, cumin seeds, chili powder, S&P and some salt pork (also know as back bacon, fatback, or pork belly). She didn’t cook the salt pork first. Just put it in. Cumin and chili powder give the beans some zing, and the salt pork gives it just the right smoky bacony flavor. She would have shot you if you’d tried to use grease or–horrors!–margarine in pinto beans. Just not done.

She also used salt pork to season turnip greens and spinach. Until I was an adult, I couldn’t eat anyone else’s turnip greens, because the flavor was always “off.” Only when I finally eagle-eyed her in the kitchen when she made her greens did I realize that salt pork was the magic ingredient.

I have a hard time finding it outside of Mexican markets here. It was just about a staple for grocery stores in East Texas and Mississippi.

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Tobi - July 31, 2012

YUM!!!! Thanks for this recipe – Soup Beans, Cornbread, and Fried Potatoes. Haven’t had it since I was a kid. Making it for supper tonight for my dad (born & raised in WV). He will be sooooo HAPPY!

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Joan - November 10, 2012

This is my first visit here. A lot of my questions about cooking pinto beans have been answered by you charming southern born or raised cooks! Thank you very much! My beans are simmering late into this night, and will be wonderful for us tomorrow. I’ll have collards and corn bread, too. Does anyone cook cornbread in a cast iron skillet on the stove top? I’d like to try.

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    Janie - January 19, 2013

    You can make corn cakes (using your cornbread batter) in an iron skillet on the stove top just like you make pancakes. Use plenty of shortening or butter or a combination of both. This gives you crispy edges on your corn cakes. My husband loves these. They go great with your pinto beans and fried taters and greens.

    Reply
Debbie - February 22, 2013

I just made these today. Cornbread muffins, too (not the boxed, sweet kind, just buttermilk cornbread in muffin tins) & spinach (the only greens I had on hand but I also love collard, turnip or mixed greens). I’ve always made pintos with a ham hock which I think makes them too smoky/meaty. I was looking for a clean, simple pinto recipe when I stumbled across this one. I chopped 4 or 5 slices of bacon and cooked it until crisp. Then added it to the beans along with the rendered bacon grease. Yummy, yummy, yummy. My husband agreed…best pot of pinto’s I’ve ever cooked. Thanks for my new go-to bean recipe. So simple. So delicious. So gonna go get some leftovers…right now. :-)

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Amy - May 28, 2013

Loved this recipe! I actually did it in my crockpot by cooking them on low for 10-12 hours. Absolutely delicious!

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Bryan - June 28, 2013

I was wondering how long would it take me to make these in a slow cookery (Crock Pot). I know above I assumed you was cooking them on a regular cooking stove.

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henryetta - October 21, 2013

I serve mine with cornbread and with fried potatoes and I also add bread and butter pickles when serving.

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    gen - April 5, 2016

    same, fried taters, b&b pickles, or my favorite – beet pickles. YUM

    Reply
Barbar - January 9, 2016

I came looking for an answer.I put on a pot of pinto beans today, and after cooking for a while, I noticed that the water (soup) turned black looking. The only thing I have done differently, is I put just a bit of baking soda in and instead of white or yellow onions, I used purple ones. Could that be the culprit for the super dark looking soup?
I will eventually add pre-fried smoke sausage and a new sausage I wanted to try. Usually I use Andouille sausage, but this time I’m using a chicken sausage with a bit of pineapple added. The sausage tastes wonderful when cooked. (I pre cook the sausage just enough to get the excessive fat out. I hate skimming fat off my beans the next day.) Then a can of RoTel tomatoes for a bit of zing. Serve with fried potatoes and onion, and maybe I’m going to try some fried cabbage too. Not sure about that.
But back to my purple onion causing my soup to be so dark. Anyone seen this before?

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    Hillbilly Housewife - January 9, 2016

    My guess is that yes, it’s the purple onion. I hope it still tastes ok.

    Reply
      Barb Morris - January 11, 2016

      Well, whatever the cause of the really dark soup, the beans tasted great!
      And the chicken sausage with that tiny amount of pineapple was a nice change from the Andouille.
      Unfortunately, I didn’t get back to the store for potatoes. But that sure didn’t stop me from having 2 large bowls of the beans. OH! One other question came up while cooking the beans. I have read and tried mashing up some of the beans to make a thicker soup. But it seemed like I was going to run short on beans if I did that. So, I used a heaping tablespoon of refried beans mixed with some of the soup for flavoring the canned stuff. Worked out well.
      So glad I found this website! Thanks so much. :-)

      Reply
    Christine - January 26, 2016

    I came here looking for an explanation as to why my ham and pinto beans turned dark. I did not even use any onion, or baking soda–or anything else (I’m cooking it the way my boyfriend’s grandma did for him). Last time we made this–it wasn’t dark at all. This time the only difference is I used a different slow cooker (no cast iron as the reply above suggested) and the beans blew up much larger than they did last time. What gives? Is it tainted now? OH and I threw in a frozen Ham hock when it went in the slow cooker.

    Reply
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