How to Cook Pinto Beans on the Stovetop

4.93 from 57 votes
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Learn how to cook pinto beans using the soaking and stovetop simmering method. This versatile ingredient packs in protein and fiber to any side dish like refried beans, or chilis, soups, and stews.

How to Cook Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a staple in Latin cuisine, and you can find them in a variety of dishes. These small brown speckled legumes swell to more than double in size when cooked, and they’re an affordable option to feed a crowd or meal prep throughout the week. Pinto beans have great health benefits and yield super creamy centers with a nutty earthy taste.

There are various ways to cook pinto beans. The slow cooker makes them ready by dinnertime when you’re not in a rush. The Instant pot pressure cooker function prepares then in just an hour without the need for pre-soaking. But this guide will teach you the traditional preparation method on the stovetop. Although, I’ll show you a quick-soaking option to significantly reduce cooking time if serving on the same-day.

Dried pinto beans in a bowl

Sort and wash

Look for broken beans by sorting and tossing away any cracked pieces. Rinse the beans in a colander using cold water before soaking to get rid of any dirt or debris on the surface due to processing.

Soaking beans (overnight or quick soak)

If soaking the beans overnight, add them to a large bowl with water and salt. Let them sit on the counter at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. If quick soaking the beans, add them to a large pot. Bring the water to a boil for 2 minutes to quickly heat up the water. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the beans soak for 1 hour.

Pre-soaking beans in hot water kick start the hydration process, dropping soak time to just 1 hour instead of 8 to 24 hours overnight. Regardless of the method, drain and rinse the soaked beans before cooking to prevent them from tasting too salty.

Beans and salt in a large pot

Cooking on the stovetop

Add the beans to a large pot or dutch oven. Add 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook over a consistent simmer. Make sure to stir every 30 minutes to make sure none of the beans stick to the bottom of the pot.

Cover and simmer, make sure to stir the beans every 30 minutes as they cook. When tender and creamy in texture, they are ready, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Serve seasoned with salt and pepper, or incorporate them into other dishes as desired.

Pinto beans simmering in a large saucepan

How long does it take to cook pinto beans?

  • Standard Soaking: 8 to 24 hours in cold water and salt
  • Quick-Soak Method: 1 hour covered in hot water
  • Stovetop: Post soaking; 1 to 1 ½ hours
  • Crock-Pot: Post soaking; 4 hours (High), 6 to 7 hours (Low), 8 to 10 hours (High, no pre-soak)
  • Pressure Cooking: About 1 hour, no soak needed

Ways to boost the flavor

Make a sofrito to add depth of flavor to the beans by sauteing chopped onions, bell peppers, minced garlic, or hot peppers (for a spicy kick) in olive oil, then simmer the beans. Add in some earthy spices and herbs like paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, thyme, oregano, or bay leaves.

Dice up some ham hock or bacon and saute it to add a smokey richness to the beans. It’s best to incorporate acidic ingredients like diced tomatoes, vinegar, lime, or lemon juice at the end of cooking the beans. The acid makes the skin stay tough, never letting the water transfer inside to soften the centers. Nobody likes hard beans!

Spoon lifting cooked pinto beans out of a pot

The role that salt plays

No matter what method you choose, the taste of beans is improved when you soak them in water and salt. The outer skin also becomes more tender and the middle creamier. Briny flavors are created as the sodium and water molecules move into the legume.

How to Cook Pinto Beans

Learn how to cook pinto beans using the stovetop simmering method. Perfect for making refried beans, or chilis, soups, and stews.
4.93 from 57 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients 
 

Quick-Soaking Beans

  • 1 cup pinto beans
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 8 cups cold water

Cooking Beans

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions 

Soaking Beans

  • Pick over and discard any broken dried beans. Add them to a colander and rinse with cold water for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Overnight: Add beans, salt, and water to a large bowl. Cover and allow to sit for 8 to 24 hours before cooking. Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.
  • Quick soaking beans (same day cooking): In a large saucepan or dutch oven add beans, 1 ½ tablespoons salt, and 8 cups water, stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and cover the beans for 1 hour of soaking. Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.

Cooking Beans

  • In a large saucepan or dutch oven, add the soaked beans, 4 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Stir the beans occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot, about every 30 minutes.
  • Gently cook beans over low heat until tender and creamy, 60 to 90 minutes.
  • Drain, then serve the beans warm.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: One cup of dried beans yields about 2 cups of cooked pinto beans.
  • Serving Size: ½ cup 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 167kcal (8%)Carbohydrates 30g (10%)Protein 10g (20%)Fat 1g (2%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Sodium 151mg (6%)Potassium 672mg (19%)Fiber 7g (28%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin C 3mg (4%)Calcium 55mg (6%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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23 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Emily says

    I am going to try this recipe today! So excited. Just to clarify, the seasonings are added after the beans are cooked?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Soak the beans in salt, then drain and rinse. Then add 1 teaspoon of salt with the drained soaked beans and fresh water.

  2. Tricia McC says

    I live in North Carolina and here we don’t drain our beans once they’re done we cook them till they’re very soft and eat them with cornbread I do soak my beans in water overnight and we add meat what they call fatback or bacon

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for sharing, Tricia! I will need to try eating the beans with some cornbread and bacon!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great questions! For beans, the acid can bind to the seed coat of the bean, making it hard for water to seep through to cook the starches and proteins inside. The acid can also toughen the coat, so it won’t be as soft. It’s best to wait to add acid later to flavor the beans.

  3. Marcella D Winters says

    I had a package of stew meat and a 2lb bag of pinto beans. So I made a pot of bean soup. I what to beans in water to soak for 8 hours. In my pain I saute onions in oil until tender. I like to cut it up my stew meat into smaller pieces and I add a box of beef broth a package of Lipton Onion Soup, salt and pepper and I let that come to a boil and then turn it down and cook until the meat is tender. I usually add one or two bottles of water. Then rinse my beans add them to the pot and Let them simmer a couple hours then make a batch of cornbread and call me happy! Hope you like it!

  4. Krystal Mena says

    I absolutely loved these beans. I used them for refried pinto beans. I just cooked them for 3 hours, adding additional water and stirring them every 30 minutes. Thank you so much for this recipe!!

  5. Pamela Miller says

    Thank you Jessica for the information. I live in New Mexico and I know the altitude can play a part in cooking successfully. I am going to try your suggestions!

  6. Lori Brogan says

    How about cooking beans in a instapot,I am trying this for the 1st
    …wish me luck,i.will.send you the results…Have a great day!!

  7. Randi Foster De Quintana says

    Great tips on cooking beans! I didn’t know about the trick for a one hour soak; this will save the day when I forget to pull them out the night before. One thing my husband taught me that his family do when cooking beans is adding half an onion and chicken bouillon while boiling.

  8. Dana McCurdy says

    I grew up cooking with my Mom and pintos were at the table often. I remember she called it “looking” the beans to catch any bad ones. Thanks for sharing this recipe it made me think of my mom.

  9. Jackie says

    Jessica:

    That method works in lower elevations but in higher ones it takes more than soaking at night. What we do is put our beans on and bring it to a boil Then we drain them and add more water. Then we let them soak overnight and cook them in the morning. We learned that hint from a friend when we first moved to New Mexico. She said that was how many of the Native Americans did and most of the Hispanic people. (I am not trying to make feel bad by the names I used but that was the way I was raised but my father made sure I knew that they were equal to me). We do not add bacon to our beans but I make chili with them and my husband eats them with his meals. Since we moved to New Mexico we have learned to us so many other beans and we like to mix them all. We cook them and use them that way and it sure makes a wonderful pot of chili.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your insight and for sharing your experience with cooking beans at high elevation. I know it will help others!