Preparing Pinto Beans from Scratch

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Growing up the only beans I ever ate were the canned baked beans in tomato sauce. This was the only kind of bean I ever knew of for more years than I’d care to admit. Once I dove into this healthier wholesome eating lifestyle I was made aware of all the types of beans and legumes there were. It was unbelievable, but intimidating. For the longest time I relied on canned beans, which honestly there is nothing wrong with….until you get used to the unique taste of beans prepared from scratch. My mother-in-law is from El Salvador and I am so spoiled when it comes to home cooked meals. Nothing will ever compare to her beans, but it’s motivated me to also start cooking my own legumes from scratch. My whole family loves beans (toddler included) so I make them quite often. They are such an affordable staple in the pantry. They are high in both protein and fiber and can work wonders in any type of dish.

One important thing to keep in mind is that cook time will vary per type of bean. Some varieties can be done within half of an hour and others will take a whole hour, sometimes more. This prep is best planned to be done at a time when you will be home and are perhaps prepping other ingredients as well. Because it is a process, I like to make a larger batch and incorporate them into different meals over a few days. Include them in these easy pinto bean tacos.

Preparing Beans From Scratch


2 cups soaked and drained beans
1 tbsp. full fat butter or your favorite cooking oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
Water or broth of your choice
Sea salt


1. The first step to preparing our own beans is to rinse them off and soak them in cold water in a large container overnight. Soaking all legumes (and most grains) makes them easier to digest (prevents bloating or gas) and allows for better absorption of the proteins and other nutrients offered. When soaking the beans, be sure the water sits 2 inches above the bean surface and allow room for expansion, as they will double in size. I usually soak 2 cups, which will result in 4 cups of cooked beans (keep in mind this is for 3 people over a few days).

2. Drain and rinse the soaked beans.

3. If using water instead of broth, opt for boiling your water in one full kettle or pot of water (this is a tip from my Salvadoran MIL).

4. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the onion and cook until translucent.

5. Add the strained and soaked beans and cook for about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

6. Add the boiled water or broth of your choice into your skillet. You want to the liquid to fully cover the beans by at least ½ inch. Bring to a boil and simmer down to a low heat (I keep it at a 2 on a temperature gauge of 0-9).

7. Cover with a lid and let cook, stirring occasionally. They will be ready when tender but firm as they begin to split. Avoid overcooking them to the point where they are falling apart and are mushy, unless you’ll be blending them for refried beans.

8. Add sea salt and any other seasonings you’d like.

9. Take about ¾ cup of the cooked beans and its liquid and transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend until you have a puree and add it back in with the cooked beans. This thickens up the beans which is ideal for when it’s served over rice or anything really. If there is still too much liquid, you can blend more or just remove some water and just discard it until you have a desired consistency.

Optional: Add your beans to these easy pinto bean tacos.


Cook time will depend on many factors: the type of bean, how old the beans are, how hard your water is, if they have been soaked or not, etc. Generally speaking, most beans will take about an hour but some can be less and some more. It’s for this reason I make my beans when I know I’ll be home for a good stretch of time (and usually tackle it while I’m prepping other food). Start testing your beans at the 30 minute mark. If they aren’t quite ready, keep simmering and checking every 15 minutes or so.

Cooked beans will last up to 5 days in your fridge. Alternatively you can freeze them as well but I personally never have so I cannot provide any further recordings on this option.

Try more of our fiber-full recipes: Cuban Vegan Asparagus Chicken with Black Beans and Rice, Super Lentil Burgers, and The Best Damn Chili Bowl. See also: Gallo Pinto Beans.

CHANTAL URBINA is a registered Massage Therapist and Culinary Nutrition Expert. She is passionate about living a life full of health, love, and happiness and that all three start with our diet. “Nature’s healing properties will never cease to amaze me and it inspires me day after day to create and share recipes made with only real whole foods.”

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