Traditional Tejano Pinto Beans (Slow Cooker)

These Traditional Texan Pinto Beans are the perfect blend of Southern and Mexican. A versatile side dish with a bit of a kick. These beans will make you feel like you are in Texas, and really, what more could you ask for?

Traditional Tejano Beans from The Food Charlatan

On Monday Eric and I brought the kids to Muir Woods in the Bay Area with his parents who are visiting. We went on a beautiful hike in the Redwoods, and pretended we were Luke and Leia blasting Stormtroopers with Ewoks. I mean, Redwoods are great, but Redwoods + Star Wars? Better. Definitely better.

For being a scrawny 4-year-old little girl, Charlotte is a pretty hardcore hiker. She did the whole 3-4 mile hike on her own, with no meltdowns and only minimal candy bribing. In other words, a complete success.


Actually, the only time she cried was when I squirted her in the face with a blast of cold water. Gotta keep these kids in line. Oh my gosh, I’m joking. It was an accident, I swear! I was trying to let her sip from my Camelbak. The minute I took the cap off it blasted her in the face. Of course I started busting up laughing and I had to hide my face while she sobbed into my shoulder. Such a sympathetic mother. Seeing someone get squirt in the face is funny, ok? Even if they are 4.

Traditional Tejano Beans from The Food Charlatan

Eric’s family is Swedish, and it’s been really fun to get into their food traditions over the years. Swedish Meatballs, Butter Pecans, Spritz cookies…so much good stuff. My sister Laura married into a family from southern Texas, and the only reason I’m not jealous is because she shares all their awesome Tejano recipes with me. (Tejano meaning Mexican-American-Southern-Texan cuisine.)

Over Christmas, my whole family got together at my parents house for a couple weeks…all 25 of us. On my sister Laura’s night to cook, she made us this awesome dinner with this Carne Guisada, guacamole, rice…and these beans. These amazing, delicious beans. We could not stop talking about them.

Traditional Tejano Beans from The Food Charlatan

The recipe is from my brother-in-law Adam’s grandma, who came from a long line of Tejanos, so it’s about as authentic as you can get. His whole family lovingly calls them “Grandma’s Beans.” I’m a little bit obsessed with them. The ham bone gives it that rich Southern pork-and-beans feel, but then you add the jalapeno, garlic, and lime wedges and it gives it this great Mexican twist.

They are meant to be a side dish, but if you want to slap them in a tortilla I won’t judge you. (I personally eat them with a shovel.) Hopefully you can tell from the photos that these beans are meant to be more wet than dry. They’re not the same consistency as refried beans. Adam’s family calls it “bean gravy.”


These beans are easy to make, and there is very minimal chopping, but they do take a while. There’s just no getting around the fact that beans take a while to cook, and using canned beans as a substitute just doesn’t give the same flavor. They are already cooked, and so there is no way for them to soak up the other flavors in the pot. I’ve provided 3 cooking methods below: stovetop, crock pot, and quick crock pot.

Stay tuned for the Carne Guisada recipe I mentioned–best burritos of my life. Coming soon. (Special thanks to Laura for putting up with my incessant texting the day I made this. You rock. Way to share the Tejano wealth.)

Do you guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?
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Traditional Tejano Beans

Yield: Serves 10-12


  • 4 cups dry pinto beans
  • 12 cups water (12 cups for stovetop version; see crock pot instructions for water amounts)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (or 1 tablespoon garlic powder)
  • 1 medium or large onion, very roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon good quality chicken bouillon
  • 1 or 2 jalapenos, left whole, but with a slit cut on two sides
  • 1 ham bone or ham hock*
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh lime wedges, to garnish


    Stovetop Instructions:
  1. Rinse the dry beans in a colander. Put them in a large stock pot and add 12 cups water.
  2. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a medium-low simmer.
  3. Add the garlic, onion, sugar, chicken bouillon, jalapeno/s, and ham bone. Bring to a boil again and then reduce the heat to medium low.
  4. Simmer on medium low with the lid on but vented. (Tilted so that it's not sealed) Stir occasionally.
  5. Cook for 2-3 hours. After about an hour and a half, add salt so that it can absorb into the beans as they finish cooking. I added somewhere between 2-3 teaspoons, but taste as you go. The beans will continue to absorb the salt as they finish cooking, so be cautious.
  6. Continue cooking until the beans are tender. Taste them ; if the beans are still hard or chalky, keep simmering. Don't wait until the liquid has cooked off so much that they look like refried beans--you want plenty of bean gravy.
  7. Remove the ham bone and discard (if there is any meat on it, chop it and add it to the pot).
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh limes.
  9. Slow cooker instructions:
  10. Rinse the dry beans in a colander.* Add to a crock pot, then fill the pot with water until it reaches 2 inches above the beans. Add all the other ingredients except the salt.
  11. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Start checking at 6 hours and taste. Add the salt for the last hour of cooking.
  12. Remove the ham bone and discard (if there is any meat on it, chop it and add it to the pot).
  13. Garnish with limes.
  14. Quick Slow Cooker Instructions:
  15. Fill your crock pot about 1/3 of the way with water. Turn the crock pot to high and put on the lid. Set aside.
  16. Put the rinsed beans in a large stock pot and add water 1 and 1/2 inches above the beans.
  17. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  18. Pour the beans into a colander and strain well.
  19. Add the beans to the crock pot with the heated water. Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the salt. When all the ingredients are added, check the water level. The water should be about 1 and 1/2 inches above the beans. Add or remove water accordingly.
  20. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, adding the salt for the last hour or so.
  21. Remove the ham bone and discard (if there is any meat on it, chop it and add it to the pot).
  22. Season with pepper to taste, garnish with limes.


If you are in a pinch you can use 6-8 slices of bacon (not chopped) instead of the ham bone/hock. Discard when the beans are done.

This makes a HUGE pot of beans, so 1 jalapeno does not make them very spicy, even left whole with the ribs and seeds. It just lends great flavor with enough spice to keep it interesting. 2 would definitely make it spicy.

*If you have had intestinal issues in the past from beans, then I recommend soaking them overnight (and discarding the soak water), OR boiling them and simmering for 30 minutes as described in the "Quick" slow cooker method.

Source: my sister Laura’s husband Adam’s paternal grandmother, who came from a long line of Tejanos. Adam’s dad ate these beans alllllll the time growing up.

Traditional Tejano Beans from The Food CharlatanYou don’t need to chop the jalapeno, just slit it on both sides like this and toss it in whole. Don’t fuss about dicing the onion, just slice it a few times. It will cook down.

Other awesome recipes you will love:

Here’s the Carne Guisada (Braised Beef for Tacos) recipe, it goes perfect with these beans!

Traditional Tejano Carne Guisada from The Food Charlatan

Corn Salsa with Lime:

Corn Salsa with Lime

 Cream Cheese Chicken Chili:

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili (Crockpot) from

Easy Sausage and Broccoli Kebabs with White Bean Salad:

Easy Sausage and Broccoli Kebabs with White Bean Salad

Beans from other bloggers:

Drunken Beans from Gimme Some Oven
Slow Cooker Charro Beans from Five Heart Home
Crock  Pot Cowboy Beans from The Two Bite Club





  1. Mary says

    These sound great! Does the whole pepper make these beans very spicy? Should I remove the seeds and ribs to keep them mild? Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Hey Mary! This makes a HUGE pot of beans, so in my opinion, 1 jalapeno does not make these beans very spicy, even left whole with the ribs and seeds. It just lends great flavor with enough spice to keep it interesting. 2 would definitely make it spicy. If you are quite sensitive to heat, better safe than sorry. You could split 1 jalapeno in half and remove some of the seeds, then throw it in. Hope you like it Mary!

  2. says

    Karen, I LOVE Muir Woods!!! I used to live in San Francisco back in 1999. . so have been there a few times. It’s beautiful . . Charlotte sounds like a trooper. . I have a 4 year old as well. . and I think Madeline would have done the same thing, burst into tears if water accidentally squirted her in the face. . more for the laughter and shock of it all. . :P love these beans!!! yummm . . gimme this with a side of rice or tortilla chips and I would be a happy camper! Happy weekend!
    Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom recently posted…Spicy Tofu RollMy Profile

  3. Dania Acosta says

    if you used a pressure cooker to make the beans tender it will be a whole lot faster it will only take about 45 minutes in the pressure cooker! this recipe sounds delicious. I make Cuban style beans all the time with the pressure cooker!

  4. Joseph says

    Thanks for the recipe. I’m making this for dinner except using smoked brisket. I am from and live in Texas and of course a couple of jalapenos just are not enough.

  5. Kendra says

    Hi there!
    I’m sorry if I missed this somewhere, but do the beans need to soak before being cooked using the slow cooker method?

  6. Kacey says

    these sound great! do you think you could leave out the ham bone to make them vegetarian? I know it will change the flavor, but do you think it would work?

    • says

      Hi Kacey! Yes, the beans will definitely cook, but you will be missing quite a lot of flavor. I don’t cook vegetarian very often, so I’m not sure what flavor you could replace it with, but let me know if you find something!

  7. Shirl says

    I am going to make these beans using my King City Pinks (my favorite bean) and instead of a ham bone I now use the smoked turkey legs. The turkey legs taste just like the ham even is pink in color and no fat. Seriously if you have not tried the smoked turkey legs instead of ham try it, I’m a convert. Thank you for posting will get all ingredients and make this weekend. Shirl

  8. Tiffany R says

    I did 8 hours in the crock pot and they came out super watery. Do I need to let them cook more so the beans break down more?

    • says

      Bummer Tiffany! I would transfer them to a pot, bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer until they are the consistency you like. I’m not sure that leaving them in the crock longer would make them less watery, because with a lid on there is no way for steam to escape. Next time add a cup or two less water I guess. I hope they still taste good!

  9. Angie says

    Made these beans today and they were wonderful! I cooked them too long so they started to look more like refried beans, so don’t make my mistake. I tasted around the 2 hour mark and they were tremendous! I will definately be making these again. :)

    • says

      Even overcooked, they still are awesome right? I’ve done this too :) My husband and I just had these beans in some quesadillas last night as a midnight snack. I’m a little obsessed! Thanks for coming back to comment Angie!

  10. josiejos1968 says

    Made the beans…they were the best beans I ever had….easy recipe had everything on hand….

  11. Jim says

    Great Recipe. I made the beans and they are delicious. One question, is the photo of beans you made? Mine were a bit more soup than gravy.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    • says

      Thanks Jim, glad you like them. Yes, this is a photo of the exact beans I make. If yours are soupy just turn the heat up a bit and leave the lid off to cook off some of that liquid, and they will be gravy like in no time. Thanks for commenting!!

  12. Jenna says

    2 cloves of garlic are nowhere near the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of garlic powder! So, for this huge pot of beans, did you really mean 12 cloves of garlic?

  13. Lance says

    I plan on making the beans soon. Please give me some more info on the chicken bouillon. do I use a teaspoon of granules or a teaspoon of the liquid?
    Thanks, Lance

    • says

      Hey Lance! Don’t use a teaspoon of chicken broth, if that’s what you mean. A teaspoon of the granules will do, or I much prefer the brand “Better Than Bouillon.” It’s more of a paste. Hope you enjoy!

  14. Lacie says

    These beans look delicious! What do you mean exactly by a very large crockpot? I believe mine is 6 quarts…is that big enough? Thanks!

  15. Stephanie says

    You start with dry, rinsed beans, but recommend soaking them if you’ve had stomach issues. Do you just start from that part of the recipe with the soaked beans instead of the dry beans?

      • Stephanie says

        I ended up doing the quick soak and then cooking them on the stovetop. I ate them in a bowl with shredded cheese, sour cream and some cilantro on top. I had a flour tortilla on the side and I just tore it up and kind of dipped it in as I ate them. They were fantastic! Thanks for the recipe. I will be making them again!

  16. stephanie says

    these are on my stove right now, and i am trying to keep my fork out of them until dinner but so far it has not worked, lol.

    i halved the beans & water for the two of us, but i used the full amount of all the other ingredients to ensure they were really flavorful. i also added 2 teaspoons of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of paprika as i’m going to whiz a portion of this up with my immersion blender and cook it down in some fat for bean dip :)

    i did have to add more water part way through because they needed a bit more time (partially because they weren’t quite done but partially because i wanted thicker beans and wasn’t ready for them to be done yet, heh). i let them go for 4ish hours total. i used a ham hock for the pork factor – the grocery store here sells them and i got a pack of 3 or 4 for less than two bucks and just froze the rest for next time. (there will totally be a next time!)

    • says

      Yeah, these beans seriously hard to leave alone, I hear you. And this would make the BEST BEAN DIP EVER! omg. I do the same thing, buy a few ham hocks and save for the next time I make them :) Thanks Stephanie!!

  17. says

    I made this vegetarian style for dinner tonight! I agree it would lack flavor without adding something to make up for the ham bone and sugar. I used veggie broth instead of water, cumin and extra garlic cloves and it is SO good!! I cooked it in the crock pot for 7 hours on low and simmered on the stove for 30 minutes to make it have some gravy to it! Put it in a bowl, topped with cheese, sour cream, and cilantro…oh my gosh!!! Definitely a keeper! I can’t wait to put it in a tortilla tomorrow! Thanks so much for sharing! <3 For those scared of the jalapeño, just one really only adds flavor. I'm adding two next time! :)

  18. Cathy Augros says

    I am cooking these beans as I write – they’re about half way done. My question concerns the salt. Is there a reason you don’t put it in at the beginning, instead waiting until an hour and a half before the beans are done?

    I made them according to your recipe with just one change. I don’t eat pork so I used 1/2 pound of uncured chicken bacon. I haven’t tasted the beans yet but the house smells great! I just love beans!

    • says

      Hey Cathy! I like the chicken bacon idea! I bet that would add great flavor. About the salt: beans are a a little funny about salt. If you add it too early, it slows down your cook time because salt hardens the outer edge of each bean and makes it harder to absorb the water that it needs to soften. Add it too late, and the salt won’t be absorbed at all into the center of the bean, meaning the flavor won’t be as deep. Does that make sense?? I’m not sure I’m even explaining this right, but that’s the general idea from what I understand. I hope they turn out well Cathy! Thanks for the comment!

      • Cathy Augros says

        I just finished my first bowl. Heavenly! This is a fantastic recipe! And, that makes perfect sense about the salt. That’s probably why it takes my beans 4 to 4 1/2 hours to cook thoroughly.

        I had the same issue as some others did with the bean gravy. Of course, I totally forgot to vent the pot. I may try a one cup less water next time. What I did this time was to take a couple of heaping ladelsfull and puree them in a little mini-food processor I have, then stirred them back in. That made it thicker.

        All in all, this was a tasty, nutritious, economical and very quick meal to prepare. Thanks!


  19. Brent says

    Very excellent recipe. We love a pot of beans around here in their various forms: cowboy, charro, barracho, etc but I struck by the plain-ness of this recipe.

    And I must say it’s the best. Guess what is the star? The beans for a change! With the ham hock and a cup of pork broth from the freezer, these were the best-seasoned beans I ever had. Basically kept your “light on seasonings” philosophy because I wanted to try something different.

    Simply fantastic. Did the beans in the crockpot as well–you instructions were great. Thanks a lot.

  20. Lisa says

    I finally have a bean dish I really like. I’ve been trying to find a bean dish I like but it’s been mostly a miss. This really does the trick; thanks for sharing it!!

  21. Mary says

    I have this pot of beans on the stove as I type this. Just one question do you chop up the same jalapeño and incorporate it into the beans when done or do you use a fresh jalapeño? It looks pretty green in the pic but maybe just for show? TIA! :-)

  22. Maria says

    Hi, I want to use a pressure cooker to make both the beans and the meat recipe. How much water would I use?

    • says

      Hey Maria! I’m not sure, I’ve never tried it! I’m only just starting to get into pressure cooking. I would follow the instructions in your manual for beans, if there is a recipe in there. Good luck!

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