This Pinto Beans Recipe with Ham Hocks is a true Southern comfort food delicacy! Dried pinto beans are soaked, then simmered with meaty ham hocks and flavors galore reaching tender thick perfection! They make a hearty meal that’s perfect to indulge in as the temperature dips. Southern pinto beans are made with simple ingredients and cooking them is mostly hands-off leaving you time to work on other things!
This is one of those dishes that reminds me of my childhood. I can still smell the aroma of pinto beans cooking on the stove and recall the taste of them with a buttered piece of cornbread for dipping!
If you’re used to relying on canned beans, these homemade, cooked from scratch pinto beans are something completely different! Cooking them on the stove gives them plenty of time to soak of up all the flavors from the ham bone and the seasonings in the broth.
Why You’ll Love These Southern Pinto Beans
- Hearty, comforting, and delicious. A long-simmered pot of pinto beans simply warms the soul.
- Perfect texture. They’re cooked until nice and tender, with an almost creamy consistency.
- Easy to make ahead. Beans are perfect for the freezer! So make a double batch to enjoy later on and save yourself time in the future!
- Perfect for serving a crowd. Need an easy meal to feed a group of people? This is it! A bag of beans easily serves 6-8.
- Budget-friendly. Even with the ham hock, making pinto beans from scratch are a way to save money at the grocery store.
Ingredients to Make Pinto Beans
Making pinto beans and ham requires only a handful of simple, wholesome ingredients to prepare. Here’s what you will need:
- Pinto beans: Any brand will work but make sure they haven’t been on the shelf or in your cabinet for too long. Beans are shelf stable but the longer they sit around the longer they take to cook.
- Chicken stock: Creates a rich, more flavorful broth than using water on its own.
- Onion: This simple aromatic flavors the broth as the beans cook slowly on the stove.
- Smoked ham hock: You can find these in the meat section at most grocery stores. They have a bit of meat on them which you can pull off after cooking but really they infuse the beans with a smoky, meaty flavor that’s irresistible.
- Herbs and spices: All you need are bay leaves, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt to season your pinto beans and ham.
How to Make Pinto Beans
Aside from soaking, the rest of the cooking process is a breeze. Here’s a look at the highlights:
- Throw the beans in a pot along with an onion, smoked ham hocks (the key ingredient), a couple of bay leaves (optional), and some liquid (I used a combo of chicken stock and water).
- Cook until they’re tender at which point the halved onion bulbs are practically melted into the cooking liquid and the entire pot is full of flavor from the smoked ham hock and bay leaves.
- Add the garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix them up and then taste to adjust any seasonings to your own tastes.
Tips for Making the Best Pinto Beans and Ham
- Cook just above a simmer for a creamier texture. This amount of heat causes some of the beans to break down, adding more body to the liquid and giving the dish more creaminess.
- Don’t forget the meat on the ham hocks. After cooking you can pick the meat from the bones to stir into the beans for you and your guests to enjoy the full flavor.
- Sort your beans. You’re looking for any beans that are shriveled, super dark, or otherwise appear off. You should also be on the lookout for any small rocks or other inedible debris that might have found its way into the bag.
- Soak your beans. It’s important for more even cooking and also better for digestion.
Popular Substitutions & Additions
- Swap the ham hocks in this pinto beans recipe for smoked turkey wings instead. Make sure they are nice and meaty.
- Vegetarian: If you prefer to make vegetarian pinto beans you can skip the ham hock and use vegetable broth instead. You may want to increase the seasonings at the end and consider adding some smoked paprika or liquid smoke if you want a smoky flavor.
- No broth? It’s ok, you can also cook your beans in all water. I just find the broth gives them more flavor.
- Use ham bones instead of hocks. I find the hocks are more flavorful and smoky but if you have a leftover ham bone, don’t let it go to waste and use it to flavor your pinto beans.
What to Serve With Southern Pinto Beans
- Cornbread is perfect for ladling these hearty, flavorful beans over the top! Try it with brown butter honey cornbread, hot water cornbread, or this sweet potato cornbread.
- Serve your juicy pinto beans over rice for a homemade pinto beans and rice bowl.
- Add a spread of other classic Southern dishes such as chicken gizzards, corn muffins, and a pot of collard greens or mustard greens for a down-home meal you will absolutely love.
- Don’t forget a Southern dessert such as peach cobbler or cream cheese pound cake.
How to Store & Reheat Pinto Beans
Cool the beans completely and then transfer them to an airtight container to store in the fridge or freezer. To reheat, thaw them out in the fridge overnight and then put them in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until heated through.
How long will pinto beans last in the fridge?
When cooled and stored properly, cooked beans will last about four days in the fridge.
Can I freeze pinto beans and ham?
Yes, of course! Just be sure to put them in a freezer-safe container and you can store them in the freezer for up to three months.
Frequently Asked Questions
In my personal opinion, it’s best to soak beans at least overnight, or 8-12 hours. Soaking dried beans leads to a shorter cooking time and makes them easier to digest. In my research, you can cook them without soaking them first if you wish, but be prepared for them to take longer to cook (various sources say it could take anywhere from a few extra minutes to a couple of hours).
If you forget to soak them overnight, you can use the quick soak method. Pour hot boiling water over the top of your beans and let them sit for an hour. The beans will absorb some of the liquid and plump up as they sit. Just note they may need to cook slightly longer than beans soaked overnight.
I love to cook pinto beans the more traditional way on the stove. But, occasionally, when I’m short on time or energy I will take a shortcut and bust out the slow cooker. I won’t lie, you will lose a bit of flavor this way but it’s still gonna be delicious! To make southern-style pinto beans in a crock pot, add all of the ingredients to the pot and stir until fully combined. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until the ham is tender and falling apart.
These hearty pinto beans with tiny bits of ham and a rich broth are comfort food in a bowl! Since they cook up mostly hands-off or can easily be made ahead of time, they’re perfect for busy weeknights.
If you’re looking for a definite crowd-pleaser for cooler days, this pinto bean recipe is it!
More Bean Recipes
*Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating and leave comments below!* Post a photo of how your version of the recipe came out on Instagram (using #grandbabycakes)!!
The BEST Southern Pinto Beans
- 1 (11 ounce) package pinto beans picked through and soaked in lots of water overnight
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 quart water
- 1 onion halved or roughly chopped
- 2 halves smoked ham hock (about ¾ pound total)
- 2 bay leaves optional
- 1 tsp black pepper plus more to taste
- 1 tsp garlic powder plus more to taste
- Salt to taste
- Add the soaked beans, chicken stock, water, onion, ham hocks, and bay leaves (if using) to a large stock pot.
- Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are nice and tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Season with pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Serve.