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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
- 1 cup (194 g) pinto beans
- 1 ½ tablespoons (24 g) kosher salt
- 8 cups (1.9 l) cold water
- 4 cups (0.9 l) water
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) kosher salt
- 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.
- 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.
- Recipe Yield: One cup of dried beans yields about 2 cups of cooked pinto beans.
- Serving Size: ½ cup