How to Cook Pinto Beans on the Stovetop

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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.

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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.
Pin Print Review
4 from 9 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
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 

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Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Pinto Beans
Amount Per Serving
Calories 167 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 151mg6%
Potassium 672mg19%
Carbohydrates 30g10%
Fiber 7g28%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 10g20%
Vitamin C 3mg4%
Calcium 55mg6%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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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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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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