Slow Cooker Charro Beans — flavored with bacon, garlic, tomatoes, green chiles, jalapeños, cilantro, and spices — are the perfect pinto beans to accompany your favorite Mexican entrees!
A few days ago I shared my recipe for King Ranch Chicken Casserole, which just so happens to be one of my family’s very favorite comfort food classics. And if you saw that post, you may have noticed a side of tasty-looking pinto beans adorning the casserole plate.
Well, those beans weren’t merely a photo prop, folks. They were the real, actual side dish that I make when I serve King Ranch Chicken Casserole…or Creamy Dreamy Chicken Enchiladas…or Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos. In fact, I whip up delicious, effortless, Slow Cooker Charro Beans to accompany just about every Mexican food entree in my recipe files!
I love cooking pinto beans in the crock pot, whether I keep them simple and straighforward for serving with barbecue or cornbread (like my Slow Cooker Ranch Beans), or whether I gussy them up with extra layers of flavor, herbs, and spices, like today’s recipe. Frijoles Charros (or Cowboy Beans) are basically a Mexican version of pork and beans, with bacon as the pork and pintos as the beans, simmered in a savory, as-spicy-as-you-like broth. If you want to turn them into Borracho (Drunken) Beans, you can include a little Mexican beer in the broth for an added dimension. At any rate, they are tasty and zesty, can be spicy or mild, and are the perfect complement to your Mexican food of choice!
So here’s the thing that I’ve learned about cooking beans in the slow cooker over the years…cooking times can vary considerably depending on a number of factors. Some crock pots just run hotter/cook faster than others. Altitude can affect cooking time, which makes sense. But so can the hardness of your water (beans have a more difficult time softening in hard water).
Also, if beans have been stored for over a year, they may take longer to cook or they may never soften! Even if you know that you haven’t had a bag of dry beans in your pantry for that long, you never know how long they were at the grocery store before you bought them. There have been a couple of times that I’ve cooked a pot of beans and was surprised to find them still crunchy at the end of the allotted cooking time. The problem? Geriatric beans! So when possible, always use fresh dry beans. And finally, don’t add the salt or acidic ingredients until the beans have already softened…otherwise, you may end up with tough beans.
That’s a lot of things to worry about, huh? Not really. Despite all of those warnings, beans are really easy to make in the slow cooker! Just get to know how hot your particular crock pot tends to run, use fresh beans, and arm yourself with the above knowledge. Everything will turn out fine!
Now for the biggest bean-related query…to soak or not to soak? To be perfectly honest, I pretty much never soak my beans, primarily because
I’m lazy I never remember to do so the night before. If you are a planner-aheader, however, and would like to consume your Slow Cooker Charro Beans a bit sooner than later, you can always soak them before cooking them.
Simply rinse and drain your beans, pick them over for any shriveled up beans, stones, or random particles, dump them in a pot, and cover them with a couple inches of water. Soak for at least 12 hours before discarding any floating beans, draining off the soaking water, and proceeding with the recipe. Soaked beans will probably only need 5 to 7 hours in the crock pot to cook as opposed to 8 to 10, but again, keep all of those aforementioned cooking time variables in mind! Many people also argue that soaking and draining beans results in less bloating and, er, related digestive issues, but I’ll leave that research up to you. 😉
A quick anecdote regarding the potential after-affects of consuming beans…with two little boys in our household, it was only expected that the notorious “Beans, Beans” verse came up at dinnertime the other night while we were enjoying our Charro Beans. My 7-year-old apparently learned it at school recently, but I’m telling you…he had it all wrong. So after listening to him butcher the verse a half dozen times, I could handle it no longer. Despite my better judgement, I finally had to set him straight and teach him the correct words. If any child of mine is going to recite a rhyme riddled with potty words, by golly, he’s at least going to do his mother proud and get it right!
Well, with all of that Bean Info 101 behind us, let’s get to slow cooking some Charro Beans, shall we? These pintos are tasty, they’re zesty, they’re warm and filling…and did I mention that they include bacon??? Yep, I’m pretty sure they’ll be your new go-to side dish any time Mexican food is on the menu!
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