Home » Cuisine » Mexican Food

Slow Cooker Charro Beans Recipe (Pinto Beans)

These delectable Charro Beans (Pinto Beans) are easy, economical and SO delicious! It is yet another of my favorite “intentional leftovers” recipes and it’s so easy to prepare. This yummy charro beans recipe can be served as a main or as a side dish or used as an ingredient in other recipes!

Slow Cooker Charro Beans recipe in a white ceramic bowl and garnished with sour cream, diced tomatoes, green onion and parsley
Post may contain affiliate links. See my Affiliate Disclosure.

When you taste them, you will never want to buy canned pinto beans, again! There’s just no comparison, in flavor, or in texture.

To make Charro Beans, dried pinto beans are slow cooked in a boldly flavorful broth with veggies, herbs and spices. They can be served on their own as a healthful, comforting bowl of soup or you can use them in dozens of delicious recipes. As a side dish they pair with all your Mexican and Southwest favorites. Prepare them for a Cinco de Mayo party or for just enjoying at home.

This recipe does require time, but that is easily solved by tossing everything in the crockpot and forgetting about it while you go about your day. Powerfully delicious perfection! These beans could easily become your favorite Mexican food!

Table of Contents

What are Charro Beans?

Charro beans are a popular Mexican side dish. They are named for the traditional cowboy horsemen (charros) who participated in Mexico’s version of rodeos (Charreada). You may have heard them called cowboy beans or even frijoles charros.

You’re about to see that my charro beans are definitely not traditional or the authentic Mexican version. But it DOES take the spirit of the traditional recipes very seriously. The rich flavorful broth is the secret to the classic pinto beans. And the pinto beans are steeped in deliciously flavorful broth.

Slow Cooker Charro Beans (pinto beans) recipe and the charro beans cooking liquid divided into separate containers
If I will use the beans over the week, I divide them & the broth into separate containers. Then, I can use as little or as much as I need from each one, for a variety of deliciously different meals and dishes. I package and freeze any that won’t be consumed in that week, for future use. The recipe produces 14 cups of cooked pinto beans and 9 cups of flavorful broth.

The main difference ( and I understand it is significant) between my version and classic charro beans (frijoles charros or cowboy beans) is that authentic Mexican charro beans recipes use meat as a part of their flavor base.

The other ingredient you’ll find missing in my recipe is tomatoes. One member of our family can’t eat tomatoes very well, so I choose to add them to individual servings, rather than cook them into the dish.

My pinto beans recipe celebrates the beans and bold, rich flavorful broth. That is very much in keeping with the traditional charro beans recipes. I promise you won’t miss the meat and you’ll never want canned pinto beans, again. They’ll become your new favorite Mexican side dish for Taco Tuesday!

Creating Nutritious, Delicious and Affordable Meals with Pinto Beans

dry pinto beans spilling out of a mason jar onto a wooden counter

Pinto beans have a beautiful creamy texture and can absorb flavors easily. Slow cooking them maximizes those great qualities and gives the flavors of what you cook them in a chance to seep deep into the beans.

Pinto Beans are also very nutritious. They contain high levels of carbs, protein, fiber, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and antioxidants. They’re simply a well rounded and balanced nutrient powerhouse.

My recipe was created to make a nutritious but affordable pinto beans dish. Beans are most often relegated to the status of a side dish, but these are entree-worthy, flavorful beans.

With meat prices soaring more and more, beans provide an excellent protein source with minimal cost. My goal was to capitalize on those healthful savings in my beans recipe.

Bean Dip with sour cream chopped tomatoes, sliced green onions, queso fresco with corn chips
This cold bean dip made from my Charro Beans (frijoles charros) is DELISH!

Pinto Bean Recipes are Economical

A 2 pound bag of dried pinto beans costs $1.84 in my area. It will make about 14 cups of cooked beans (or the equivalent of 7 to 8 cans of canned pinto beans). That’s an affordable side dish, entree, or ingredient; no matte how you do the math!

By adding some broth and a few veggies to dry beans, along with a handful of herbs and spices, I can create a flavorful and delicious dish that is pennies per serving. (The dried beans cost only about 1/3 the price of canned pinto beans, in my area.)

One 2 pound bag of beans has provided us with 6 servings of soup, a lusciously creamy bean dip to enjoy with corn chips, 10 cheesy beef and bean burritos and a delicious casserole!

I can’t name a single meat product that I can purchase for $1.84 and translate into that many servings of flavorful and nutritious meals. Can you? These easy Charro Beans (cowboy beans) are a boost to your grocery budget and to a healthy diet!

Soaking Dry Beans … Is it Necessary?

24 bags of assorted dried beans in 4 rows of 6 bags

Do dry beans have to be soaked before cooking? The short answer is, “No (Unless you cook them in a slow cooker.)” If I’m cooking beans on the stove top, I don’t always soak them, first. But, for low temperature cooking in a crockpot, I always do.

The Lectin Debate

The primary reason for soaking beans, prior to cooking is the existence of lectins on the bean skins. Lectins, however, are water soluble. So, they can be removed by soaking and then cooking or by cooking alone if the cooking temperature is high enough.

Dry beans need to come to an active boil for at least 10 minutes for lectins to be deactivated during the cooking process. So, this really only works for stove top cooking methods.

A slow cooker doesn’t reach a high enough temperature to boil and remove lectins during cooking. So we soak the beans, first. Three to four hours should be enough, but you can soak them up to overnight.

soaking dry pinto beans in a clear glass mixing bowl
Dried pinto beans soaking in cold water.

Soaking, or even a period of high temperature cooking, may not ever remove ALL lectins. But, the truth that isn’t being shouted in the media is that that may be okay. Eating large amounts of raw lectins is the problem and is also very rare. We cook most of the foods that contain them.

So, you can’t always take every news report at face value. Or even any blog post. Don’t rely on other people’s information or opinions. You have to do your due diligence and study the research and information available. Then make an educated decision about what’s right for you and for your family.

More Lectin and Dry Bean Info

If you would like more info on lectins, and soaking beans, I found these two articles extremely helpful.

  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/lectins/
  2. https://www.bluezones.com/2020/03/the-truth-about-lectins-why-beans-have-gotten-a-bad-rap/

Meat or No Meat?

Like American kitchens, Mexican kitchens put their own spins on delicious charro beans recipes. Where you eat them, and who prepared them, will have a big impact on the way they are made and the ingredients used in this tasty side dish.

Slow Cooker Charro Beans recipe in a white ceramic bowl and garnished with sour cream, diced tomatoes, green onion and parsley

The first time I ate charro beans (frijoles charros), they were offered as a substitute side dish in place of refried beans with my dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. The flavorful bowl of beans and broth that was carried to our table didn’t contain any meat and so, that was my first impression of the dish. I loved it and decided to recreate it at home.

I have since learned that what I received at that tasty dinner out was probably not a traditional charro bean recipe. Or perhaps they simply flavored the broth with a small amount of meat. Apparently, traditional charro beans are cooked low and slow in a flavorful broth that typically has bacon and may also contain ham and/or chorizo to create a rich flavor base.

That flavor is enhanced and concentrated by the addition of vegetables like onion, garlic or tomatoes, along with herbs and spices. They may also add bell peppers and chilies. The recipe can be as varied and unique as the person preparing it.

Slow Cooker Charro Beans recipe in a white ceramic bowl and garnished with sour cream, diced tomatoes, green onion and parsley

My charro bean recipe is a simple one. It’s brothy and loaded with bold flavor, much like the one I first ate in that Mexican restaurant. Though mine is more spicy than theirs. And it contains no meat.

How to Make It Vegan

My recipe can actually be made completely vegan by using vegetable broth, instead of chicken broth, and substituting avocado oil for the butter. And for delicious vegan garnishes, check out this Vegan Sour Cream from Gill and Nic over at Yum Vegan Food.

They’re all scrumptious options! And, I think you’re going to love these tasty pinto beans, whether you’re hosting a Cinco de Mayo dinner or just enjoying a relaxed Mexican food night at home..

The Ingredients

minced onion, bell peppers, jalapeno and garlic in a slow cooker with butter, bay leaves, cumin, salt and Southwest Seasoning for charro beans recipe
  • Dry Pinto Beans, soaked and drained
  • Red Onions, minced
  • Red Bell Pepper, minced
  • Jalapeno with seeds, minced (Adjust heat level by adding more or less of the seeds.)
  • Butter: No meat, means no fat. Add some for for rich flavor and silky texture in your broth. Sub avocado oil if making it vegan.)
  • Garlic, minced
  • Southwest Seasoning: (I used my recipe. You could buy a version of Southwest Seasoning, pre-made.)
  • Salt: This is important to flavoring the beans. I wouldn’t cut it. You are seasoning 14 cups of cooked beans.
  • Cumin
  • Bay Leaves
  • Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth (Your choice. If they don’t have a lot of flavor, you can add the optional Better than Bouillon Base.)
  • optional, 1 Tablespoon Better than Bouillon Chicken Base or Vegetable Base
  • optional Garnishes for serving: sour cream, queso fresco or shredded Monterey Jack cheese, diced tomatoes, diced red onion, sliced green onions, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped fresh parsley, avocado, lime wedges

FAQs About Mexican Charro Beans (Pinto Beans)

Slow Cooker Charro Beans in a white ceramic bowl and garnished with sour cream, diced tomatoes, green onion, parsley and queso fresco - Pinto Beans recipe
Charro Beans vs Refried Beans. What’s the Difference?

Charro beans (frijoles charros) are whole pinto beans cooked, and often served, in a flavorful broth. Refried Beans are cooked pinto beans that are mashed with some type of fat during cooking. The Mexican charro beans from this recipe can be made into deliciously spicy and flavorful refried beans. For a milder, more traditionally flavored refried bean recipe, check out my easy refried beans.

How long do Pinto Beans last in the fridge?

Stored in an airtight container, cooked pinto beans will last 3-5 days in the fridge. If you have more than you will use in that time, divide them into zip-top freezer bags, push out as much air as possible, seal and freeze. Cooked pinto beans can be kept in the freezer for six months, making them a perfect quick and easy solution for busy weeknight meals.

Why Add Butter?

stick of butter on a clear glass plate

Butter adds richness and flavor to any recipe. As a fat, butter also works to blend and meld other flavors in a dish. It can cut through sharp and acidic flavors and bring everything into balance.

In these Mexican charro beans, I have used no meat. So, the fat those would have contributed to make the broth flavorful, silky and unctuous are also missing. Including this small amount of butter puts that richness back in without adding too much extra cost.

To keep the recipe vegan, substitute an equal amount of avocado oil. While it won’t add anything to flavor it will add a pleasant richness and mouthfeel to the broth. And like butter, it will help to blend and meld all the other flavors.

Southwest Seasoning

Southwest Seasoning Blend in a jar and spilling out of a measuring spoon on a concrete counter top

My homemade Southwest Seasoning blend is what I recommend for this recipe. The other seasonings and salt in this recipe are portioned according to the salt and seasonings already in that blend.

You can purchase Southwest seasoning blends at the store. However, there will be a wide variance in salt and heat (spiciness) levels based on the ingredients a particular brand includes. Many will contain MSG and most will also include fillers and anti-clumping agents.

My Southwest Seasoning is a versatile recipe that can be used in tacos, enchiladas, burritos, nachos and all your favorite Mexican entrees and side dishes. Mixing up a batch of homemade Southwest Seasoning to keep in the cupboard is economical and convenient. Plus, you have the confidence of knowing all the ingredients.

I will include the recipe in the notes on the recipe card.

How to Make Charro Beans (Pinto Beans)

See the complete How to … video in the recipe card, below.

  1. In a large bowl, soak the beans in cool water with at least 2 inches of water above them. Let the beans soak at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. Rinse and drain the beans.
  2. Mince the onions, bell pepper and jalapeno.
  3. To make charro beans, in the bowl of a crockpot (at least 7 quart size) [affiliate link], add the minced vegetables, garlic, butter, southwest seasoning, salt, cumin and bay leaves. (You’ll need a large slow cooker to make this recipe. If yours is less than 7 quarts, you can halve the recipe.)
  4. Pour the rinsed and drained beans over the veggies.
  5. Pour the chicken broth (or veggie broth) over everything and stir to combine. (if your stock doesn’t have much flavor, this is also the time to add some extra chicken or veggie base.)
  6. Set heat to low and cook for 8 hours or until the beans are tender.
  7. Serve the beans or divide and store for future meals and recipes. Beans will keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator and six months in the freezer.

How to Serve Charro Beans

Slow Cooker Charro Beans in a white ceramic bowl and garnished with sour cream, diced tomatoes, green onion, parsley and queso fresco - pinto beans recipe

Charro Beans are certainly perfect to serve at Cinco de Mayo feasts and get-togethers. But, for our family, they’re perfect year-round.

We love pinto beans (charro beans) as a comforting bowl of soup. It is warming and flavorful without being too heavy. Perfect for a cool, rainy day in spring or fall evenings.

We sometimes eat the soup, as is, just the beans and broth.

Other times we’ve added a variety of garnishes that have included: diced tomatoes, minced onion, sliced green onions, diced avocado, sour cream, queso fresco, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley and lime wedges.

Any and all of them add even more layers of delicious complexity to the bold flavor when you make charro beans.

But you’re not limited to only soup with these scrumptious and nutritious pinto beans. Try them in:

Beef and Bean Burritos on a white plate with sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, parsley and lime wedges
  • Bean Dips (cold and hot)
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Quesadillas
  • Casseroles
  • use to make Refried Beans
  • Bean Burgers
  • Salads
  • Nachos
  • use them in chili, stews and soups
  • Casseroles
  • Baked Beans
  • Enchiladas
  • Burrito Stuffed Baked Potatoes

The Recipe

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Slow Cooker Charro Beans in a white ceramic bowl and garnished with sour cream, diced tomatoes, green onion, parsley and queso fresco

Charro Beans (Pinto Beans)


  • Author: Glenda Embree
  • Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 14 cups beans and 9 cups broth 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

These delectable Charro beans  (pinto beans) are easy, economical and SO delicious! Dried pinto beans are slow cooked in a boldly flavorful broth with veggies, herbs and spices. My delicious pinto beans can be served on their own as a healthful, comforting bowl of soup or you can use them in dozens of delicious recipes.   Be sure to read the post for all the delicious options!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 pounds dry pinto beans, soaked and drained
  • 2 red onions, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 jalapeno with seeds, minced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 teaspoons Southwest Seasoning, depending on your heat preference
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • optional, 1 Tablespoon Better than Bouillon Chicken Base
  • optional Garnishes for serving: sour cream, queso fresco or shredded Monterey Jack cheese, diced tomatoes, diced red onion, sliced green onions, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped fresh parsley, avocado, lime wedges

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, cover the beans in cool water with at least 2 inches of water above them. Let the beans soak at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. Rinse and drain the beans.
  2. Mince the onions, bell pepper and jalapeno.
  3. To make the charro beans, in the bowl of a crockpot (at least 7 quart size) [affiliate link], add the minced vegetables, garlic, butter, southwest seasoning, salt, cumin and bay leaves. (You’ll need a large slow cooker to make this recipe. If yours is less than 7 quarts, you can halve the recipe.)
  4. Pour the rinsed and drained beans over the veggies.
  5. Pour the chicken broth (or veggie broth) over everything and stir to combine. (if your stock doesn’t have much flavor, this is also the time to add some extra chicken or veggie base.)
  6. Set heat on low and cook for 8 hours or until the beans are tender.
  7. Serve the beans or divide and store for future meals and recipes. Beans will keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator and six months in the freezer.

Notes

Southwest Seasoning Recipe

  • 2 Tablespoons chipotle chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Take care to be sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  (It is definitely not necessary, but I like to use a blender or smoothie blender to blitz the spices together and make sure all the ingredients are a uniform powder consistency.)

Store Southwestern seasoning in an airtight container in a cool dry place.  It should last up to one year.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Category: Main Dish, Side Dish
  • Method: slow cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican American

Enjoy Charro Beans Favorite Mexican Dishes

glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

8 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Charro Beans Recipe (Pinto Beans)”

  1. This was an amazing side dish for our TexMex night – I love the Southwest seasoning and will have to save the recipe to make again! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Genevieve. I’m glad to hear that as I’m very proud of that seasoning blend and I love what it does for these charro beans, too. So happy to hear they worked well for your TexMex night!

      Reply
  2. These look delicious. I usually only make refried beans with pinto beans but I’m going to try this!

    Reply
    • Andrea, these actually are pinto beans and you’re going to love them. They can be made into refried beans, but also so many other dishes. It’s an excellent meal prep recipe!

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

SEEN ON

as seen on promo graphic

SEEN ON

as seen on promo graphic