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.