My Material Life

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans


Do you have a slow cooker?  Do you use it?  I don’t use mine much at all.  I bought it right before a kitchen remodel, and I did use it quite a bit during the remodel, but not so much after.  I love the idea of the slow cooker – when I use it I feel downright virtuous, organized, together, relaxed about dinner – but I rarely put it into practice.  One reason for this may be that I’m rarely organized or together enough to have everything ready to go into the cooker first thing in the morning.  The nice thing about these slow cooker pinto beans is that I don’t need to start the whole process until about 2 pm; the beans cook for only 3 to 4-1/2 hours.  There is no need to soak them beforehand, but you can if you want to.

To make these beans rinse 1 pound of pinto beans and place them in your cooker with 1 chopped onion, 3 peeled garlic cloves, 2 dried ancho or New Mexican chiles and 9 cups of water.  Let them cook on high for 3 to 4-1/2 hours.  Add 2 – 3 teaspoons of salt (I use 2) towards the end of the cooking time and remove the chiles.  You’ll end up with a big pot of yummy beans (and their liquor) that you can serve in a bowl, in a burrito, with rice, with chips – however you want.

What I love about these beans is that they taste and smell like they’ve got bacon or some smoky meat in them, but they don’t.  They are completely vegan – no added fat either.  Not that I’ve got anything against fat, but I prefer to add it in the form of avocado, cheese or sour cream.

I got this recipe from the book, Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.  They adapted it from Jacqueline Higuera McMahan.  I used to enjoy her recipes and articles in the San Francisco Chronicle.  I did a quick search on her before writing this post.  I’m not sure what she’s up to these days, but I did find this enjoyable blog post about her book California Rancho Cooking, complete with a recipe for squash blossom quesadillas.

A couple more notes on the beans.  If you do prefer to soak your beans before cooking, Hensberger and Kaufmann recommend you rinse them in a colander, place them in the cooker and cover them with 3″ of water.  You can soak them for 6 to 12 hours, drain them and proceed from there.  Since I don’t soak, I usually let my beans cook the whole 4-1/2 hours.  You can leave the beans whole or mash a portion of them to thicken them, but you might want to remove them from the cooker before you do this.  I usually end up with more liquor than I need.  The full flavor of these really comes through the next day; the beans are quite hot when they finish cooking.


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