These Traditional Tejano Pinto Beans are the perfect blend of Southern and Mexican pinto beans styles. Tenderly slow cooked with a ham hock and jalapeños, the lime adds a little twist. Perfect for a burrito, these beans will make you feel like you are in Texas, and really, what more could you ask for?

Originally posted February 20, 2015

Traditional Tejano Beans (Twist on Mexican Pinto Beans)

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.

Sunlight shining in the redwoods with mother and daughter

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 squirted in the face is funny, ok? Even if they are 4.

Mexican Pinto Beans

Traditional Tejano Pinto Beans

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.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

How to make these Southern + Mexican Pinto Beans

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.”

Crock Pot Pinto Beans

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.

Sliced jalapeño and chopped onions

To add the heat, you don’t need to chop the jalapeño, 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.

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

More great south of the border style recipes you will love:

Beans, Beans, and more Beans!

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Traditional Tejano Beans

Serves Serves 10-12     adjust servings

These Traditional Tejano Pinto Beans are the perfect blend of Southern and Mexican pinto beans styles. Tenderly slow cooked with a ham hock and jalapeños, the lime adds a little twist. Delicious as a side or perfect for a burrito!

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

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.

Slow cooker instructions:

  1. 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.
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Start checking at 6 hours and taste. Add the salt for the last hour of cooking.
  3. Remove the ham bone and discard (if there is any meat on it, chop it and add it to the pot).
  4. Garnish with limes.

Quick Slow Cooker Instructions:

  1. 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.
  2. Put the rinsed beans in a large stock pot and add water 1 and 1/2 inches above the beans.
  3. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Pour the beans into a colander and strain well.
  5. 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.
  6. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, adding the salt for the last hour or so.
  7. Remove the ham bone and discard (if there is any meat on it, chop it and add it to the pot).
  8. Season with pepper to taste, garnish with limes.

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