Pinto Beans Recipe

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!

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Overhead shot of a large white bowl of pinto beans with ham hock and bay leaf

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.

This is truly the best country meal, just like butter beans or black-eyed peas, you will ever have! 

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.
Ingredients in a pinto bean recipe on the table.

How to Make Pinto Beans

Aside from soaking, the rest of the cooking process is a breeze. Here’s a look at the highlights:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Add the garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix them up and then taste to adjust any seasonings to your own tastes.
A collage showing all the ingredients in the pot to cook and then adding the spices.

Tips for Making the Best Pinto Beans and Ham

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Soak your beans. It’s important for more even cooking and also better for digestion.
  • 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.
A pot of pinto beans on the table with a spoon lifting some up from the broth.

What to Serve With Southern Pinto Beans

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.

A spoonful of pinto beans with slivers of meat lifted up over the pot.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long to soak pinto beans?

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).

Is there a faster way to soak beans?

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.

Can I make pinto beans in the crockpot?

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. 

A overhead shot of a big pot of pinto beans, ham hock and bay leaves against white background

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)!!

A big bowl of pinto beans with a spoon ready to eat

The BEST Southern Pinto Beans

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. This is truly the best country meal you will ever have!
4.39 from 198 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Servings: 16 servings

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

This recipe used the entire package of beans I purchased and makes a large quantity, but can be scaled for smaller amounts.
Also you can replace the ham hocks in this recipe with smoked turkey instead.
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.

Nutrition

Calories: 79kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 129mg | Potassium: 135mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg
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Filed Under:  Beans and Legumes, Side Dishes, Stovetop

Comments

  1. I appreciate you sharing this recipe…the only thing different is instead of chicken stock I use a can of coke. It adds to the flavor and takes some of the gas away. My family loves them. Hope if you try, you’ll post your comment. Enjoy.

  2. This recipe sounds wonderful
    Fried potato’s and cornbread baked with corn and a little dill weed and I’m 12 years old again. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  3. I’m an ex-pat of a very southern state and this is a great bean recipe and happy to know I can use smoked turkey.

    Suggestion for the hater writing a nasty comment, maybe you should just disappear. Your rudeness is rude and socially unacceptable.

  4. Ruthi, How can you make a comment like that. To Karen:

    Ruthi says

    December 31, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    And ya didn’t learn how to cook them from your Mamma??

    My mother died when I was 22 years old. Did I ever ask her. NO. She was supposed to live forever. Don’t think that she might have tried or didn’t have the time. What a nasty comment to send to another member. I have 20 recipes that I would have loved to get from my Mother. That’s not what you think about when they are dying. She never wrote them down, just knew how to do it.

    1. Your one bitter and ugly to what you have to say. If you don’t have some good to say don’t say it. Unless it about the recipe. You don’t need to bring up her mother into it

  5. Thank you. This is delicious. I didn’t soak the beans before I cooked them and they are really good. I didn’t have a bay leaf or ham hock but put ham pieces in and it seasoned them well. I will cook these again.

  6. This my go to receipe for pinto beans. For me, the crucial element is the hock. I buy from a local farmers(not smoked) which turn out very tender.
    Keep on cooking Grand Baby Cakes!

    1. Yes you can use broth, or vegetable stock/broth as well. or even water but it won’t have as much flavor.

    2. Plain old water! Cook the beans adding water as it cooks down, I cook mine 3hours but I don’t soak mine! When their done in 3 hours your beans have started breaking up and gives you a nice thick broth! If you like them soupy just add more water! All I do is add bacon or ham and salt and pepper to taste!!And some corn bread to the meal and I’m in my comfort place!

    3. When cooking for my vegetarian friends I use “Not-Chick’n Bouillon Cubes” or “Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base” in my cooking water. Both are great, but taste as you go because they are quite salty and it’s easy to overdo it! You may want to add the salt (if needed) after you’ve added the bouillon just to be safe. Obviously, I skip the ham hocks on these occasions! And, since I’m a Louisiana girl, a little cayenne pepper is a requirement.

    4. I just put on a pot of beans and this is the first time I am trying chicken stock. I just use the bullions and added to the rest. I also modified and chopped up a jalapeno to cook with it. Hope they turn out good.

    1. Definitely can be done in the crockpot. You can start at 4 hours he suggests.

4.39 from 198 votes (116 ratings without comment)

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