Easy + AMAZING Slow Cooker Charro Beans

Charro Beans are flavored with bacon, garlic, tomatoes, green chiles, jalapeños, cilantro, and spices and cooked in the slow cooker to make them hands-off and truly effortless…the perfect side dish for Mexican food!

Slow Cooker Charro Beans with text overlay.


 

If you've been hanging around the site for a while, you may already be familiar with 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've seen that post, you may have noticed a side of tasty-looking Charro Beans adorning the plate o' casserole.

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...or Crock Pot Chicken Enchiladas. In fact, I whip up delicious Charro Beans to accompany just about every Mexican food entree in my recipe files!

I love effortlessly cooking pinto beans in the crock pot, whether I keep them simple and straightforward for serving with barbecue or cornbread, like Ranch Beans...

...or whether I gussy them up with extra layers of flavor, herbs, and spices, like today's recipe for Slow Cooker Charro Beans!

Close-up of Charro Beans on plate.

What Are Charro Beans?

"Frijoles Charros" (or Cowboy Beans) are basically a Mexican version of pork and beans...except bacon is the pork and pintos are 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 with the broth for added depth of flavor.

At any rate, Charro Beans are tasty and zesty. They can be spicy or mild. And they are the perfect complement to your Tex-Mex or Mexican food of choice!

Ingredients

So what do you need to make this bursting-with-flavor Charro Beans recipe?

Labeled ingredients to make Charro Beans recipe.
  • Bacon. Cooked until crispy, drained, and chopped.
  • Dried pinto beans. Rinsed, drained, and picked over.
  • Water + beef broth. Or using a spoonful of Organic Beef Better Than Bouillon is an alternative to opening a carton or can of beef broth.
  • Garlic. Minced. You can mince cloves of fresh garlic or the jarred refrigerated kind to save time.
  • Jalapeño. Diced. Optional but recommended. The long cooking time will neutralize the heat, so for spicy Charro Beans, feel free to add additional jalapeños (and leave the seeds and membranes intact!) or, alternatively, you could stir in a spoonful of chipotle chile pepper powder.
  • Spices. Namely, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder (which is not spicy).
  • Diced tomatoes & green chiles. Otherwise known as Rotel.
  • Cilantro leaves. Chopped. Leave it out if you're a cilantro hater.
  • Salt + freshly ground black pepper. To taste.
Aerial close-up of Charros Beans.

How to Make Charro Beans

(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)

Believe it or not, the most labor-intensive part of cooking this Charro Beans recipe is frying the bacon! And since I actually prefer baking it in the oven for the least effort and mess, it's really not labor-intensive at all. 😉

  1. To bake bacon, simply arrange slices in a single layer on a foil-lined 9- by 13-inch (or larger) pan. Cook at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy. (Or if you have an alternate favorite method for cooking bacon, feel free to do it that way instead!)
Bacon on rack in pan ready to bake.
Baked bacon in pan.
  1. After the bacon has gotten nice and crispy, you'll need to drain it and chop it.
Bacon drained on paper towels.
Chopped on a cutting board.
  1. Rinse and drain your dried pinto beans, making sure you pick out any stones or undesirable shriveled-up beans. Transfer to a large slow cooker.
Dried pintos in crock pot.
  1. Cover the beans with water and beef broth. Then add all of those ingredients so essential to this recipe's amazing flavor: fresh garlic and jalapeño, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, and -- of course -- that wondrous aforementioned bacon.
Charro Bean recipe in slow cooker with broth on top.
Adding remaining ingredients to Charro Beans in slow cooker.
  1. Stir the ingredients to combine and then cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours until the beans are almost done. Remove the lid to add the final two ingredients: diced tomatoes with green chiles (AKA, Rotel) and fresh chopped cilantro.
Charro Bean recipe in crock pot.
Adding Rotel and cilantro to Charro Beans recipe.
  1. Stir, cover, and cook for an additional hour or until the beans are nice and tender.
Slow Cooker Charro Beans aerial view.
  1. Adjust the seasonings at the end by adding extra salt and pepper, if necessary. And at long last…enjoy!
Charro Beans recipe close-up.

How Long to Cook Charro Beans?

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, as 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 acidic ingredients to a recipe until the beans have already softened. Otherwise, you may end up with tough beans.

On the other hand, the commonly-held belief that beans should not be salted until they are completely finished cooking is up for debate. That being said, I typically still wait until the end to add salt...out of habit as much as fear -- ha.

That's a bunch 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 just fine.

Close-up of Charro Bean recipe.

To Soak or Not to Soak?

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.

  1. Simply rinse and drain your beans, picking them over for any shriveled up beans, stones, or random particles.
  2. Dump the beans into a pot and cover with a couple inches of water.
  3. Soak for at least 12 hours before discarding any floating beans.
  4. Finally, drain off the soaking water and proceed 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. 😉

Jar of dried pintos.

Crock Pot Temp: High or Low?

I prefer slow cooking my Charro Beans on LOW, but if you're running short on time, you can cook them on HIGH for around 5 to 6 hours.

When the time I have available is somewhere between long and short, I'll often start my crock pot on HIGH and then switch it to LOW after a couple of hours. (And when I use this tactic, I estimate that every hour on HIGH is roughly equivalent to two hours on LOW.)

Charro Beans in slow cooker.

Beans, Beans...

A quick anecdote regarding the potential after-affects of consuming beans, and then I'll get on with the recipe. 😉

When my boys were young, it was only a matter of time before the notorious "Beans, Beans" verse came up at dinnertime while we were enjoying our Charro Beans. My 7-year-old apparently learned it at school one day, but I'm telling you, he had it all wrong.

So after listening to him butcher the verse half a 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...well, by golly, he's at least going to do his mother proud and get it right! 😉

Charro Beans in a bowl.

Alrighty then! With all of that rambling 'bout beans 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 this'll be your new go-to side dish any time Mexican food is on the menu. 🙂

More Tasty Bean Recipes

Charro Beans in bowl with cilantro.

Easy + AMAZING Slow Cooker Charro Beans

Charro Beans are flavored with bacon, garlic, tomatoes, green chiles, jalapeños, cilantro, and spices and cooked in the slow cooker to make them hands-off and truly effortless...the perfect side dish for Mexican food!
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 hours
Total Time: 10 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Calories: 289kcal
Print Pin Rate

Ingredients

  • ½ pound bacon
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh jalapeno, diced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes & green chiles, such as Rotel
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Cook the bacon until crispy. Drain, chop, and set aside.
  • Place the beans in a colander, rinse well, and remove any stones or shriveled beans.
  • Pour the beans into a large slow cooker. Cover with water and beef broth. Add chopped bacon, garlic, jalapeño (if using), cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder; stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours (or on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours) or until almost done.
  • Stir in the Rotel and chopped cilantro; cover and cook for an additional hour or until tender (the total cooking time on LOW will likely be between 9 to 11 hours, depending on how hot your particular slow cooker runs). When the beans are done, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (stir in ½ teaspoon of salt at a time, tasting before adding more).

Video

Notes

  • My favorite way to cook bacon is to lay it in a deep, foil-lined baking pan and bake it on the center rack at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until done to your liking.
  • The first time you cook beans in your slow cooker, periodically check that they remain covered with liquid. Add additional hot water during the cooking process, if necessary.
  • One jalapeño cooked for that many hours should add flavor rather than spice. If you prefer mild beans, scrape out and discard the seeds and membranes before dicing the jalapeño, and use mild Rotel. On the other hand, if you prefer spicy beans, feel free to add more jalapeños (leaving the seeds/membranes intact), regular or hot Rotel. You can also add chipotle chile pepper powder to taste for smoky heat.
  • For Borracho Beans, swap out 6 ounces of the beef broth with Mexican beer.
  • If you prefer to soak your beans, simply rinse, drain, and pick over your beans. Place them in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and soak overnight. Drain off the soaking water before proceeding with the recipe. If beans are soaked, cooking time will probably be shortened by a couple of hours.
  • Always use fresh dried beans, as old beans can take much longer to become tender (and may possibly never soften!) There are details in the post explaining why beans sometimes don't adequately soften.

Nutrition

Calories: 289kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 247mg | Potassium: 1087mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 304IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 98mg | Iron: 4mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!

Post originally published on October 2, 2014, and updated on May 27, 2019, December 31, 2020, and August 28, 2023.

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109 Comments

    1. Hi Rachele! Acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, can toughen the skins of dried beans and cause them to take longer to fully cook/soften. Also, Rotel added at the beginning would completely break down as the beans cook, and the flavor may become somewhat lost. By adding it towards the end, the tomatoes are more recognizable and you can actually taste it. Hope that helps! 🙂

  1. Samantha: tried this yesterday, soaked beans night before cooked beans on low for 7 hours and beans were still rather hard, harder than I like. Any suggestions as to what I did wrong?

    1. Hi Lynn! I'm not sure if you had a chance to read the post that accompanies this recipe, but I explained a variety for reasons why dry beans sometimes never soften (or take longer than usual to do so). My best guess would be that your beans may not have been fresh. They could have been in your pantry for awhile, or perhaps they were already old when you bought them? However, even if you cooked fresh beans that were soaked, it's possible that 7 hours on low just may not have been enough time for your particular slow cooker. I wonder if your beans would have continued to soften with an extra hour or two? At any rate, see if any of my tips from the post help and I hope your beans soften to your liking if you decide to give this recipe another try! 🙂

  2. Love this recipe. We are taking it to a pot luck tonight with a basket of cornbread muffins. Can't wait for my friends to try it. Did a little quality control taste testing already with my family and we just love it. The only tip I have is that if you pre-soak the beans, you don't need quite as much water in the cooking process. We has a lot of liquid compared to amount of beans. We just ate the broth this afternoon with the cornbread- delicious! Thanks for a great recipe.

    1. You're very welcome, Drew...I'm so glad this recipe was such a success with your family and I hope your friends enjoyed it just as much! Thanks for sharing your tip about reducing the water if you pre-soak the beans. I'm glad you were able to enjoy the extra broth anyway with some cornbread. 🙂 I appreciate you taking the time to comment...hope you're having a great week!

  3. Hi! I was wondering if using Chicken broth instead of beef would work? That's what I have so thought I'd see if anyone has made them that way before.

    1. Hi Sharon! I think chicken broth would work just fine in place of beef broth if that's what you have on hand. A lot of people use water for making beans...I just think that broth adds a little more flavor. Hope these turned out well if you already cooked them! 🙂

  4. Hello! I was wondering if you thought this dish would be still be good without bacon? I have a pork allergy. Thank you!

    1. Hi Adrienne! I think this recipe would still turn out great without bacon! Just taste your beans at the end and add a tad more salt (to make up for the missing bacon) if necessary. 🙂 Enjoy!

  5. Hi Samantha,

    Thank you for all your recipes. The slow-cooker method rocks! I want to make a suggestion for your "Tips, Tricks, and Variations" section. As an option, diced white onions and/or Mexican chorizo can be added to the mix. This brings a great flavor dimension and is commonly used in the Mexican recipes for Charro beans (Frijoles Charros). LOVE the cilantro, by the way! Thanks again for sharing your passion for cooking.

    1. Hi John Anthony! So happy to hear that you enjoy the site and thanks so much for the suggestion for these beans...your additions sound tasty! I'm glad you enjoy this recipe and I have to agree on the cilantro...it makes charro beans exponentially better. 🙂 Thanks again for taking the time to comment and I hope you have a great weekend!

  6. I've been looking for a good recipe for pinto beans and this one is awesome. I've tried three others that sounded good but turned out really bland. These turned out delicious and were sooo easy! I cooked them overnight last night and I can't wait for my husband to try them tonight. He is going to LOVE them!

    BTW, I added 1 large jalapeno, seeds and all and they have great flavor but are not overly spicy.

    1. I'm so happy to hear that you loved these, Shari...I hope your hubby enjoyed them just as much! And yay for finding the perfect balance of jalapeño for your tastes... 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to come back and comment. Hope you're having a wonderful week!

    1. Yes, Amanda, I have frozen leftover beans before with success. I just thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and then slowly reheat in a pot on the stove. You may have to add a tad more water or broth and watch them so that they don't stick to the bottom of the pot as they reheat. 🙂 Good luck and enjoy!

  7. I had to make these beans and since I didn't have dry beans on hand, I cheated with canned beans :-). Since I used canned beans, I tweaked the recipe a bit (sorry Sam). I used 4 cans of beans and only 1 1/2 cups of water instead of 4. I cooked them in the crockpot for about 5 hours on high. These beans are the best beans I've had and my husband kept saying that they were the best beans he's ever had, soooo this recipe is definitely a keeper along with many others from your arsenal Sam :-).
    Thanks for sharing them with us, as make more o them I will come back and report the results which I am sure will be nothing short of awesome.

    1. I'm so glad y'all enjoyed these, Simona, and thanks for sharing your tweaks with us! I've doctored up canned beans with these flavors before as well, but I've never tried throwing everything together in the crock pot like you did...great tips! 🙂 Hope you're having a wonderful week!

  8. Cooking time on this is SOOOOOO screwed up. Soaked beans for 36 hrs. Cooked now for more than 10 hrs on low foe over 10 hours and still hard as hell. U need to recalculate this recipe

    1. Hi, John. I'm sorry to hear that you're frustrated, but the cooking time for this recipe is accurate. As I tried to explain very thoroughly in the post preceding the recipe, there are a variety of factors that can cause beans to stay hard when you cook them, including altitude and the hardness of your water. However, if your beans were still not soft after 36 hours of soaking and 10 hours of cooking as you described, you are most likely dealing with old beans, which may never soften no matter how long you cook them. The beans may have been in your pantry for awhile, or if you recently purchased them, they might have already been at the grocery store or the warehouse for a long time. I'm sorry that this recipe didn't work out for you...hope this helps explain why.

    2. It was likely something to do with the beans or altitude. This recipe would cook the beans fine as long as you keep the beans covered with broth and/or water (don't add more than an inch or two of water above the beans, or the broth won't be flavorful.)

    1. Hi Jo! No, I don't soak the beans when I make this recipe. I explained a bit about soaking vs. non-soaking in the body of the post if you'd like more clarification. 🙂 Hope you're having a great week...thanks for the question!

  9. Hey, I hope it's OK for guys to post here. This is just the recipe I've been looking for, and I'll be making this soon. I can't handle the cilantro, but I suppose parsley will work. Thank you for posting, looks delicious.

    1. Hi John! Guys are more than welcome to comment here. 🙂 I'm so glad that these beans are what you've been looking for and I hope that you enjoy them! I totally understand that a lot of people don't like cilantro, but if you're going to substitute parsley, I would probably start out using a bit less to make sure it doesn't clash with the other Mexican-inspired ingredients. 😉 Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope your December is off to a great start!

  10. It looks like our slow cooker is going to be busy once my husband returns home from sea! I just saw this after stopping by your chicken tortilla soup. I'm sure this would be a big hit with my husband, too! Yep, he's Latino. Pinning!

    1. Well I hope your husband enjoys these beans as much as the chicken tortilla soup, Natasha! 🙂 Hope you both have a wonderful weekend!

  11. They look delicious Samantha, and I love the tip about the "geriatric beans" {that cracked me up} and the hard water. We have horribly hard water here, so I might used bottled water! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Lisa! We have pretty hard water as well. I always use our reverse-osmosis water when I cook beans and they always turn out nice and tender...as long as I make sure they weren't geriatric, of course. 😉 I appreciate you stopping by...hope you're having a great weekend!

  12. These beans looked great and tasted even better. I loved the added flavor from the beef broth and bacon. I did make the borracho version, yum, yum! I've made countless pots of beans over the years, but this is my new favorite recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    As long as I am gushing about your recipes, I also want to add a huge thanks for the King Ranch Chicken recipe, which I also cooked. And at the risk of being repetitive, your version is even better than my mom's oldie, but goody! The sauce was so delicious, I will have to find other uses for it. Muchas gracias!

    1. Your sweet comment made my day, Carolyn. If the queen of cooking has success with my recipes, I can go to bed happy tonight! 🙂 Hope you're having a wonderful week and thanks, as always, for stopping by!

  13. I love slow cook, it tastes much better and is made with much more love than fast food! Thanks for the recipe, I definitely need to try it in a cold and rainy day 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Lily Lau! I don't know what I'd do without my slow cooker...I particularly love using it this time of year. 🙂 Hope you have a chance to try this recipe on the next cold and rainy day...it sure is a nice way to warm up! 🙂 Have a wonderful week!

  14. Hey Samantha, I just saw these beans on the link party and knew I had to get a better look. These look amazing! I can't wait to try 'em 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Erin! I hope you enjoy them if you have a chance to try them. 🙂 I'm so glad you hopped over...have a great evening!