A single food can be  the springboard for an entire supper, and few ingredients have as much to offer as the humble bean. Pinto beans in particular are appealing because they have a creamy texture and mild flavor, are widely available, and dirt cheap.  You can turn a pot of pintos into a multitude of soups, salads,  plates of hearty rice and beans, and of course, tacos and tostadas.

While a sturdy pot set on the stovetop cooks beans just beautifully, the slow cooker allows you to do the job without minding the store, so to speak. It’s become a matter of course in our house to get the crock pot going with a pound of beans on Monday morning to use in meals throughout the week. While I’ve tinkered around with different techniques — soaking the beans, adding a chopped onion or cloves of garlic, playing around with various seasonings — nothing has been as successful as the bare bones approach by Mexican food affianado Deborah Schneider in her book The Mexican Slow Cooker.  The beans aren’t soaked in advance, everything goes into the slow cooker all at once, and the five-ingredient recipe calls for nothing more exotic than crushed red pepper.

Slow cooker pinto beans

The result?  One delicious pot of beans. They were so good, in fact, that Rosie did up a bowl for her after school snack (what could be more warm and nourishing?) and didn’t mind that those same beans were the centerpiece of our meal just a few hours later. I built tostadas on a base of corn tortillas crisped in a pan with a slick of oil, then topped with pintos, salsa, a chopped cabbage salad, and crumbled cotija cheese. What remained in the pot went into school lunches the next day and a breakfast of huevos rancheros the day after that. That’s my kind of cooking.

Adapted from The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider

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  1. 02.11.2013 at 8:20 AM #

    I’m making these Katie!

    • katiemorford
      02.11.2013 at 8:23 AM #

      Oh good…they were a hit around here.

  2. Pamela
    02.11.2013 at 8:35 AM #

    Great tip about the slow cooker and not having to soak the beans~~will do this soon!
    thanks again!

  3. 02.12.2013 at 10:53 AM #

    Perfect. I love to keep a container of them in the fridge all week–for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Great emergency food that can be dressed up or served simply. The slow cooker sure provides time for other kitchen projects!

    • katiemorford
      02.13.2013 at 7:56 AM #

      Hi Robin, What are some of your favorite resources for slow cooker recipes?

  4. 02.13.2013 at 11:43 AM #

    I LOVE beans in the slow cooker- you just can’t mess them up! My usual is black beans and I like to add a cinnamon stick or a couple star anise(the smell is wonderful) as well as a piece of Kombu to soften and thicken the broth. I will have to try the refried version I have been making the leftovers into soup. Do you boil the water before you add it to the crock pot because I heard this will cook them quicker but I wonder about them splitting? Also I was told to add the salt at the end because it hardens the beans… true or not. Thanks Katie, as usual a post that will widen my cooking repertoire!

    • katiemorford
      02.13.2013 at 12:31 PM #

      I think pre-boiling may split them but I’m not sure. I too usually salt at the end but they are delicious done this way as well

  5. Lori
    02.13.2013 at 1:37 PM #

    We are expecting colder weather this weekend and I will do these and homemade wheat flour tortillas. Yum–can’t wait!

    • katiemorford
      02.13.2013 at 2:49 PM #

      Perfect cold-weather-weekend meal. Hope you like it!

  6. 08.15.2013 at 10:36 AM #

    I love beans in the crockpot, and as a (mostly) vegetarian, I love that you don’t have a ham hock in yours! I add a little bit of Mexican oregano, a little bit of epazote, a chopped onion and some smashed garlic cloves to mine; I’ll have to try the red pepper. Love your site!

  7. vanessa gallagher
    09.02.2013 at 2:32 PM #

    thank you for this easy, delicious recipe! i have a very picky 3 year old who loved these beans. i’ve made them twice now, thank you!

  8. Becky
    09.07.2013 at 5:36 PM #

    Gotta be honest – I didn’t think this would work! I’ve soaked beans, boiled, simmered, you name it…..and they’ve never come out “right”. But, I figured I’d try it, what the heck. Sure enough, the most simple, no effort required recipe produced the creamiest and most delicious beans. I never would’ve known they had been dried! I added some bacon ends to them for some smokey flavor – this will be a recipe I use again and again!

    • katiemorford
      09.07.2013 at 8:40 PM #

      Thanks Becky. I sort of felt the same way when I was making these. Love the idea of a little bacon.

  9. Jessica
    10.28.2013 at 10:22 AM #

    I’m attempting this recipe right now! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  10. Tom in CA
    12.14.2013 at 12:53 AM #

    Superb. Cooked to instructions in crock pot but with only 1/4 the red pepper flakes suggested and added half of salt at beginning and the other half toward end of cooking. Truly superb.

    I too have cooked dried pinto beans in crock pot with chopped onions, garlic, bacon drippings, etc. – numerous ways and though all were very good these were the simplest and the best

    • katiemorford
      12.14.2013 at 1:55 PM #

      Great to hear. It’s a reminder that sometimes the simplest is the best!

  11. Big Bad John
    10.27.2014 at 2:08 PM #

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ll be making it this week. Thank you.

    • katiemorford
      10.28.2014 at 2:52 PM #


    • katiemorford
      10.29.2014 at 7:51 AM #

      Great! Hope you like them.

  12. Gracie
    12.19.2014 at 4:39 PM #

    Can I double the recipe and if so, how long should the cooking time be? Thank you.

    • katiemorford
      12.19.2014 at 5:43 PM #

      I would imagine doubling would work just fine, as long as you have a roomy crock pot. The cooking time should be the same.

  13. Gracie
    12.19.2014 at 4:41 PM #

    Would the beans be good if I double the recipe, and how long should they be cooked?


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