Slow cooker pinto beans

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.

 The result?  One delicious pot of slow cooker pinto 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.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

Yield: About 6 cups

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

These pinto beans couldn't be easier to make in a slow cooker. Any that you don't use within a few days can be stored in a container or resealable bag and kept in the freezer. To turn whole pintos into a healthy version of refried beans, saute a little onion and garlic in olive oil until tender, add the beans and some of the cooking liquid, and cook for a few minutes. Then, mash with a fork or puree in a blender.


  • 1 pound dried pinto beans (2 1/2 cups), rinsed, picked over for tiny stones
  • 7 1/2 cups wter
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Put the beans, water, crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper into the slow cooker and stir. Cover and cook on low until the beans are tender but not falling apart (7 to 9 hours). The time will vary depending on the size and age of the beans. Once cooked, turn off the slow cooker. If you leave the beans in the slow cooker for a while, they will continue to absorb the liquid as they cool, making them more tender and creamy.
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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?

  14. Sophie
    09.13.2015 at 8:19 PM #

    Will this work well with other types of beans?

    Do you have other other beans recipes you could share in addition to this one, that you really liked? I’m not really a beans person but for the great benefits I read about, liver being one of them, I am going to try eating some everyday but need recipes that will keep me motivated.


  15. Susan
    09.27.2015 at 6:27 PM #

    I have cooked beans in the crock pot for years. I will put ham or ham bone in them and cook them 24 hrs. They are not overdone and there is no gas associated with them.

    • katiemorford
      09.27.2015 at 8:52 PM #

      Love the idea of a ham bone in there!

      • Simone
        11.05.2015 at 8:17 AM #

        Just read about a toxin, phytohemagglutinin, that is present in beans if not cooked properly. It will make people sick. Please investigate further to be self-informed and relate to your subscribers! Thanks!

        • katiemorford
          11.05.2015 at 3:26 PM #

          Hi Simone

          Thanks for the comment. I’m familiar with that toxin. The biggest concern is with kidney beans, which have the highest level of phytohemagglutinin and are toxic if raw or undercooked. It is my understanding that it is not recommended to cook kidney beans in a slow cooker. Pinto beans, however, don’t present this same issue.

  16. stacy
    11.13.2015 at 6:36 PM #

    We just had the beans tonight for dinner. What an easy recipe and we both liked how the beans had a subtle “kick” to them. I added just a tiny amount of real maple syrup to them,too. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • katiemorford
      11.15.2015 at 8:48 PM #

      So glad it worked for you. I love that little “kick” too…probably a great balance with that touch of maple syrup. Thanks for chiming in.

  17. R Smith
    01.18.2016 at 2:28 PM #

    Easy recipe I add water, salt and a,couple of tablespoons of sugar the MOST DELIOCIOU BEANS,EVER

    • katiemorford
      01.19.2016 at 8:02 AM #

      I’ll have to try your spin on things. This is a favorite in our house too. Just used the same method on a pound of lima beans. Delicious, too.

  18. angelitacarmelita
    01.23.2016 at 3:00 PM #

    I love, LOVE beans, and I found your recipe a fews years ago and am sorry that I’m only commenting now. I live in VA, and we have approx. 30 inches of snow on the ground today. I thought to myself “what sounds good?” and your recipe came to mind immediately. I absolutely love yours over literally any other simple bean recipe I’ve ever used. No presoak, it takes the salt early so they are perfectly seasoned, and its literally the best and easiest method I’ve ever seen or used. I’ve made them as written and now tweak them a little, I add the beans, salt, a chopped small onion, chopped jalapeno (in place of the red pepper flakes), and some fresh cilantro. So good with some cornbread and exactly what I’m having all day tomorrow! Some seriously good beans, thanks to Deborah for the recipe and to you Katie for sharing it with us!

    • katiemorford
      01.25.2016 at 9:13 AM #

      So glad this came in handy when you were snowed in. I like your recipe tweaks. Thanks for sharing. Stay warm!

  19. Jamie
    03.13.2016 at 8:24 PM #

    These are so delicious. I never thought I would love to eat beans but I love these, and they could not be simpler (or cheaper). We make them all the time, we freeze leftovers, and it has led to some seriously good healthful and cheap meals in this house. Thank you VERY much!

    • katiemorford
      03.14.2016 at 7:50 AM #

      You are so welcome. I think beans as one of the true superfoods, and so economical, too. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Lana
    04.17.2016 at 8:35 AM #

    This is so simple and delicious – thank you! I was craving some pinto beans yesterday but I was too impatient to wait 12 hours. So I did the same bean-to-water ratio but cooked them on high for about 6 hours,and they came out perfect! I added equal parts cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, chili powder, and salt (the latter at the end due to stories I’ve heard that salt will toughen the beans if added early; not sure if that’s true). They were so delicious!

    • katiemorford
      04.17.2016 at 9:00 PM #

      Lana, thanks for the comment and sharing your spice riff. I’ve done this same technique with white and black beans and it’s always a success.


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