Yes, you’ll need to soak the beans, but it’s so easy. And yes, it takes them a little to cook, but there’s only 6 ingredients and one of those is water. You can do this. Let’s get started…
Oh, wait. To make a better pot of beans, we need a little help. Let’s break this down…
Do I have to soak my beans?
The best thing about this recipe is that it works perfectly for nearly any other dried bean. The soak time and cook time might change a bit for larger beans like large dried limas, but the flavors work perfectly regardless. Black beans, lima beans, large lima beans, kidney beans, even black eyed peas.
Now, the packages of most dried beans say to soak them before you cook them to rehydrate them and reduce the cook time. There are quick soak methods where you briefly boil them and then let them rest and overnight soak methods.
The truth is that you don’t HAVE to soak the beans. I talk a lot about soaking beans over on my Lima Bean recipe. Soaking just helps reduce the cook time a bit.
Can I use my crock pot?
If you want to use your slow cooker or crock pot, you just dump everything right into the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. There’s no need to presoak in this case. Just keep in mind that the texture of the beans will be different. This method produces beans that are super tender and almost fall-apart, whereas the stove top method with overnight soaking allows the beans to keep their shape a little better.
If you like them to be nearly mushy and want to use the stovetop method, simply add about 30 minute to the cook time and just cook them until they’re tender to your liking.
What liquid should I cook my beans in?
I really prefer the flavor of the beans when I use bouillon cubes and water as the liquid. That said, you can replace the water and bouillon with chicken or veggie stock or broth. It’s totally up to you.
I know not putting an exact salt measurement can be a little frustrating for some folks, but there’s a reason it’s vague. Different brands of bouillon cubes have varying amounts of sodium, so you’ll want to add enough to taste. The other thing is that you may need a different amount of salt if you swap the bouillon and water out for broth. So how do you know how much to add? You taste it. Cook the beans for 30 minutes or so and then taste the broth. If it tastes salty, but not too salty, you’re good. Add a little salt at a time until you get it where you want it. You can always add more, but it’s super hard to get it back out. 🙂
Should I put meat in my beans?
The majority of the flavor in these beans comes from the smoked ham hock. That has always been my favorite way to add some smoky flavor to things like beans, greens, etc. But I realize not everyone can get their hands on ham hocks, so keep in mind that you can use other smoked meats as well. A big ham bone, some sliced smoked ham, 3 or 4 pieces of bacon, a smoked turkey wing or leg, or even 3 or 4 tablespoons of bacon grease will work. You can also go for some ham base or ham-flavored concentrate. The goal is just to get that smoky flavor in there somehow.
Now go make some beans!
Southern Pinto Beans
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- 8 cups water
- 1 smoked ham hock (or substitute - see notes)
- 3 chicken bouillon cubes
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- Inspect the beans to remove any small rocks or debris. Rinse well.
- Place the beans, 8 cups of water, ham hock, bouillion cubes, and chopped onion in a large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add salt to taste. I usually add about 1 teaspoon, but the exact amount of salt needed will vary based on the sodium level in the brand of bouillon and your taste.
- Cook over medium low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until tender to your liking. Remove the ham hock, shred the meat, and return it to the pot, if desired.
Nutritional values provided are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.
Linda K Horton
I love making beans, any beans, this way. It’s getting difficult to find smoked ham hocks so I tried smoked hog jowls. Sounds a little odd but the favor added to the beans is amazing. Not too expensive and I cut the ones I got into smaller portions and froze them. Yummmm
Yes! I’m a big fan of the jowls, too.
Stacy, I made pinto beans tonight using your suggestion of adding the onions and chicken broth cubes. Outstanding! I normally use a country ham hock and the water but this was so much better. I cooked in the instant pot using 7 cups of water, no soaking. Did not add any additional salt and they were perfectly seasoned. Thank your for sharing your delicious recipes!
So glad to hear they turned out great for you!
Cooking my pintos this evening! Yum!
Thanks for the excellent tips.
My mother and grandmother would say for the meal, you need to have some buttermilk handy to dip your cornbread in!
That’s not a taste I acquired, but I know plenty who love it!
Hello!! I would like to get your opinion on adding cilantro and diced tomatoes to this recipe. Would I add them at the beginning, or wait until the last 30 minutes or so before adding them? Thank you so much for all your great recipes!!!
Personally, I’d add them in the last 30 minutes. Hope you enjoy!
Love pinto beans so much! They are grown here in Texas and the beans most everyone here uses. I never thought to use bouillon cubes with the water. I’ll have to try that. And I never remember to buy a ham hock so I usually throw in a couple slices of bacon or bacon fat. There’s a brand of spices called Fiesta out of San Antonio. Are they sold outside of Texas? They have one I love called Pinto Bean Seasoning which includes garlic and cumin as well as other spices in it. It’s so good.
I’m not sure about Fiesta. It sounds familiar, but I can’t be positive.
Just an FYI….I purchased the Fiesta Brand Seasoning for pinto beans on Amazon. It is the best!!!!! Thank you for all your awesome recipes.
I’ve got to try it! Thanks for letting me know!
My grandma just rolled over in her grave! She never thought to use bacon instead of the ham hock and she would have LOVED that idea. Another point for Stacey….. and another delicious meal for my kiddos.
Have a happy day!
Ha! Thanks, Jenny!!
As with all of your recipes, I’ veganized it. Which works fine. I used some smoked paprika and liquid smoke in place of the hammock. I did soak overnight, used pintos. Delicious.
Thanks for those great tips!
Thank you so much for this recipe. perfect for the up coming winter
Elizabeth, Silverdale WA
Sure hope you’ll enjoy them!!
I cook the braise meat first and remove some of the salt from the meat Please be careful of salt intake . The smoked meat and the broth both contain sodium. So be careful. I use 4 med size pieces of ham hocks or smoked meat for 1 bag of beans
If you want a vegan recipe or can’t cook with salt but still want smoky flavor, I use smoked paprika also chiles in adobo sauce.
Great tip! Thanks for sharing!
I love a roast and pinto beans in a crockpot YUM!!????
This sounds great. Love pintos or big limas with cornbread, but what kind of neck bone is referred to here?
Pork. I love your recipes, writing and the occasional “kill ’em with kindness” responses.
Thanks, Russanna! I use a ham hock which is actually a leg joint. You can use other cuts of smoked pork or even smoked turkey as well.
When cooking the beans, if I use bacon instead of ham hock, should I pre cook the bacon? Looking forward to making this!
No, there’s no need to precook the bacon. Hope you’ll enjoy it!!
I always use my Instant Pot for cooking pintos! Bag to table in less than hour! I use most of your same ingredients except I use Chicken Base instead of boullion cubes. Now you have my mouth watering for pintos and cornbread!
Thanks for sharing your method, Jane! How long do you cook them for and manual or quick pressure release?
Hi. Yeah!! I have everything to make this except a ham hock. I have some ham and some ham bouillon. Since my mom passed away recently, I have to admit this is the first time I am making beans. How much of the ham bouillon should I use? Thanks so much!!
Unfortunately, I don’t know an exact amount. I kinda of just usually do it to taste.
Can this recipe be converted to the instant pot?
Sure! Reduce the water to 6 cups and cook for 45 minutes with manual pressure release.
I live in small town USA and have to buy meat at wallyworld. Looking through the meat case for smoked ham hocks and bemoaning the price they now charge a lady standing next to me said “try the smoked neck bones, it has more meat” and it was much cheaper. Made my beans the next day with the neck bones and was absolutely amazed at the amount of flavor and most of all the immense amount of meat that came off them. You do have to pick them carefully as there is lots of bones in these but well worth the end product. Side note – Smithfield hams sold, lock stock and barrel to China with this caveat – Smithfield will raise the hogs, ship them to China who will slaughter and package, then they will be sold in the US as “Raised in the USA”. And that is why we are seeing higher prices on pork. Having this for dinner tonight as I bought the neck bones yesterday and soaked the beans last night so the recipe was timely. Thanks.
Thanks for the tip, Margi! Hope you enjoy those beans!! But I do want to point out that fortunately the statement about the hogs being shipped to China then back here is not true. While a Chinese company does now own Smithfield, their hogs are raised here, slaughtered, and sold here in the US. They do ship hogs to China, but they are for use and consumption in China. They are not then shipped back here. This might help. I know it’s a little confusing. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/smithfield-foods-china/
I had no idea our pork was being handled in China! So glad I saw your message. I will not be purchasing Smithfield brand any longer.
It’s actually not. Be sure to read my reply to Margi.
I ????… Thank you so much! Kind regards, Chandra Leigh
Hope you’ll enjoy these!
Stacey, we love all of your recipes so far!! I have your cookbook and the pages are dog eared and starting to fall out from over use lol!!! Looking forward to your next one!!
Nothing makes me happier than hearing my book is well used and well loved! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Hi Stacey- love your blog. I just wanted to clarify something you have stated-some beans do need to be soaked or fast soaked before cooking. They produce toxins that can be quite harmful if you don’t-broad beans, white kidney beans and red kidney beans all need to be soaked and the water discarded then use fresh water to cook. The unsoaked beans produce phytohemagglutinin. You can check this out on this website – https://www.statefoodsafety.com/Resources/Resources/toxic-beans
Thanks so much, Vickie! I appreciate your clarification!
It’s not necessary to soak them – boiling water deactivates the toxins during cooking. Just don’t eat them raw or undercooked. My Mexican family eats beans every day and we never have soaked.
You are 100% correct! Cooking them eliminates this problem.