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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!

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. 

Both are 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

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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

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

  1. 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

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