These charro beans are pinto beans simmered with bacon, tomatoes, chilies and spices, all in a hearty broth. A flavorful side dish or main course option that pairs perfectly with other Mexican food specialties!
My local Mexican restaurant serves the BEST charro beans as a side dish when you order a combination plate. The beans are savory and smoky with the most delicious complex flavor. I learned how to make my own pinto beans at home and the end result is nothing short of fabulous!
Why are they called charro beans?
These beans are named after Mexican cowboys, who are known as charros. Cowboy style beans often contain meat, and this recipe is no exception.
How do you make charro beans?
Start by cooking bacon in a large pot until it’s crispy, then reserve some of the bacon for garnish. Discard some of the grease, then cook onions and garlic in the remaining grease until softened. Add dried pinto beans, beef broth and seasonings to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes or until beans are just softened. Stir in tomatoes and chiles, then let the beans simmer for a little while longer until they’re tender. Add some fresh cilantro, then serve and enjoy.
Tips for the perfect beans
- I prefer to soak my beans for 6-8 hours before I make this recipe. Beans that have been soaked take less time to cook and are less likely to split open. That being said, if you skip the soaking step simply plan to add more time for the beans to simmer in the pot.
- This recipe stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, and can be frozen for up to 2 months. Simply thaw the beans in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat them on the stove top until warm.
- Charro beans are a great side dish, filling for burritos or enchiladas, topping for nachos, or you can even add more meat to make them a main course with a side of tortillas.
- Not a fan of cilantro? Try sliced green onions instead.
- I like to add toppings to the finished dish. Some of my favorites include pico de gallo, tortilla strips, avocado, olives, sour cream or jalapenos.
Slow Cooker pinto beans
This recipe can easily be adapted to work in a crock pot. Cook the bacon, onions and garlic, then transfer the mixture to the crock pot along with the soaked beans, broth, water and seasonings. Omit the canned tomatoes at this point. Cook on LOW heat for 8 hours, then stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 1-2 hours or until beans are soft. Stir in cilantro, then garnish with bacon and serve.
Charro beans flavor variations
These beans are great as-is, but you can absolutely add other ingredients to customize the flavors to your tastes.
- Meat: You can add other types of meat such as ham, chorizo, ground beef, or diced hot dogs.
- Spice: Prefer to have a little heat in your beans? Feel free to add hot sauce to taste, or 1-2 canned chipotle peppers that have been finely diced.
- Beans: While pinto beans are the most traditional offering, I have also made this dish with black beans with good results.
I make these charro beans every time we have a hankering for some bold Mexican flavors. It’s a great way to enjoy restaurant quality food in the comfort of your own home.
More Mexican recipes to try
Charro Beans Video
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- 12 ounces bacon chopped
- 1/2 cup onion finely diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cups beef broth
- 3 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 10 ounce can diced tomatoes and chiles such as Rotel, do not drain
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- toppings if desired such as pico de gallo, shredded cheese or sour cream
- Place the beans in a large bowl. Cover the beans with cold water. Let the beans soak for 6-8 hours or overnight.
- Place the bacon in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bacon is browned and crispy.
- Remove 1/4 of the bacon to use as garnish later on. Drain most of the fat from the pot, leaving 1 tablespoon in the pot.
- Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until just softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Place the soaked beans in the pot.
- Add the cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, beef broth and water. Bring to a simmer.
- Turn the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes or until beans are just softened. You can add more water or broth if the beans soak up the liquid before they have cooked through.
- Stir in the salt, pepper and diced tomatoes and chiles. Cook for another 15-20 minutes or until beans are tender. Taste and add more salt if needed. Stir in the cilantro.
- Sprinkle the reserved bacon over the top. Serve as-is, or add other toppings such as pico de gallo, cheese or sour cream.