Charro Beans

These tender pinto beans are a quick and easy side for any Tex-Mex main.

Charro Beans
Photo: Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist Christine Kelly
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
20 mins
Servings:
6

When it's time to pile your plate high with Tex-Mex food, don't be tempted to skip the beans, especially these rich, spicy charro beans from Mexican-born cookbook author and PBS TV show host Patti Jinich.

What Are Charro Beans?

Charro beans are believed to have been prepared over campfires by the cowboys or charros in the areas we know of as Texas and Mexico. Unlike creamy, mild refried beans, charro beans retain their texture, and have loads of flavor from fresh jalapeño, bacon, oregano, and smoked paprika.

The beauty of this charro beans recipe is that you can use any beans you like. Short on time? Use canned beans—just drain and rinse them. If you want to do things the old-fashioned (and cheaper!) way, soak then cook dried beans a day ahead of time, then proceed with this recipe.

Charro Beans Basics

This fast-fix recipe is a breeze to throw together on a weeknight, especially if you're starting with canned or cooked beans. Here's a quick look at what you'll need to whip up this recipe.

The Beans

For this recipe, you're starting with cooked beans—either from a can, or dried beans that you've cooked yourself. Be sure to rinse canned beans thoroughly in a colander to remove any liquid from the can, which can throw off the texture and seasoning of this recipe.

If you're starting with dried beans, follow the soaking and cooking directions on the package, or those listed below.

PRO TIP: If using dried beans, sort through them before soaking to remove any rocks or debris.

The Bacon

Bacon is the ultimate ingredient for punching up any dish with flavor fast. Cook it low and slow to render the flavorful fat, which infuses the onion and jalapeño with salty, smoky flavor.

PRO TIP: Use thick cut bacon; it will render more fat that makes these beans extra rich.

The Heat

Fresh jalapeños bring a crisp, green heat to these beans, helping to cut through the fat of the bacon and the starchiness of the beans.

PRO TIP: Remove the seeds and membranes of the jalapeños if your family is sensitive to spicy foods.

The Spice

Smoked paprika and Mexican oregano team up to add layers of smoke and woodsy, herbaceous flavors that add depth to these brothy beans.

PRO TIP: Any oregano will do, but Mexican oregano packs an extra intense punch.

How Do I Cook Dried Beans?

Cooking dried beans definitely takes some extra time, but their superior flavor and texture are well worth the wait. After rinsing and sorting the beans to remove any debris, place 1 pound of beans in a pot, and cover with 2 inches of water and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Let soak overnight, or bring to boil, remove from the heat, and let soak 1 hour. After draining the beans, return them to the pot, cover with 2 inches of water again, and simmer until tender, about 2 hours.

Can I Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker?

Yes, and without soaking! Simply add 1 pound of beans and 2 tablespoons of salt to the slow cooker, and cover the bean with 2 inches of water. Cover, and cook on low for about 6 hours, or until the beans are tender.

Editorial contributions by Josh Miller.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. bacon slices, cut into 1-in. pieces 

  • ½ cup chopped white onion  

  • 2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, chopped, and, if desired, seeded 

  • 1 lb. dried pinto beans, cooked (about 5 cups) or 5 cups drained and rinsed canned pinto beans  

  • 1 cup bean cooking liquid or tap water  

  • ¼ tsp. dried oregano 

  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika  

  • ½ tsp. kosher salt  

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high until beginning to crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and jalapeño; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cooked beans, cooking liquid, oregano, and paprika; reduce heat to medium. Cook until beans are moist but not soupy, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in salt, and serve hot.

This recipe originally appeared in our September 2022 issue.

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