Get ready to sink your teeth into the best Slow Cooker Pinto Beans Recipe! Savory like a traditional pork and beans recipe, but 100% vegan!
Slow Cooker Pinto Beans
My Japanese mother LOVES making beans.
You see, I grew up in Quebec, where the cold winds blow for a disproportionately long time each year.
Yep, she loved to whip up comfort food classics for my brother and me, like the best tuna salad sandwich (like… ever) and – my favorite: rustic ham and beans.
Her version of that wintery slow-cooked beans dish called for beans to be tossed into the crockpot with ham hocks and stewed until thick, savory bean-stew nirvana occurred.
It’s delicious cold weather goodness – and total stick-to-your-ribs food!
Well, I wanted to see if I could make a pinto beans recipe in the slow cooker that might approximate my mother’s ham and beans.
And I wanted to make it vegetarian.
That’s a tall order, I know!
However, this simple plant based slow cooker pinto beans recipe is absolutely packed with simple, hearty flavor.
In fact, making pinto beans in a crock pot is totally my new winter jam!
First… What are Pinto Beans?
It may surprise you to find out that pinto beans are the most popular bean in the United States and portions of Mexico!
Yep, aside from being commonly used in stews and chili, pinto beans are also the legumes used to make refried beans – the ubiquitous mashed Mexican beans that are served alongside rice and tortillas at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
These speckled brown beans are hearty, nutrient dense (more on that in a sec) – and the absolute perfect choice for this easy slow cooker pinto beans recipe.
Do you have to soak beans before cooking them?
I’ve always soaked pinto beans before cooking them.
Now, while everyone may have their own methodology for preparing beans, I’ve found that soaking before cooking seems to improve their texture and make them more palatable.
And I’ve usually subscribed to the overnight-soak school of thought.
While not scientific by any means, I’ve found that soaking overnight sits right in the sweet spot between long enough and not too long.
However, there are a few general thoughts on soaking beans that I’ll share with you here. While your mileage may vary, I’d always say, when it comes to dry (non-canned) pinto beans – when in doubt – soak.
- The Overnight Soak: Rinse your dry pinto beans and place in a large bowl. Cover beans with water (2-3 inches of water above the top of the beans). You can add a bit of kosher salt if you’d like. I usually don’t. Soak between 6-12 hours, rinse and cook.
- The Quick Soak: Rinse your pinto beans and place in a pot on the stovetop. Cover with water – and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let your beans soak in the hot water for about an hour-and-a-half. Rinse again and cook.
- The No Soak: Did you know your beans don’t actually require a soak to cook up? It’s true. You can rinse and cook straight away. Typically, they will require a longer cooking time to achieve doneness. And, in the past, I’ve found beans that weren’t soaked to be slightly course in the texture department.
All of these methods are fine for preparing pinto beans for the slow cooker.
I still say, if you’re on the fence, nail-biting and wondering how do you make the BEST beans – give them a soak!
What is the best way to cook pinto beans?
While a simmering pot of pinto beans on the stove top is a wonderful thing in the sights-and-smells department, for this slow cooker pinto beans recipe I went with the crock-pot.
Using the slow cooker gave the flavors time to fully develop and infuse all of that savory goodness to the center of the pinto beans.
And it’s super easy!
After the overnight soak and final rinse, I just popped my pinto beans into the slow cooker.
Then, in a large pan over medium high heat, I added a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cooked 3 cloves of minced garlic, a finely chopped onion and 2 chopped celery stalks for about 6-7 minutes.
Once those aromatic veggies were done, I added them to the pinto beans in the slow cooker along with a teaspoon each of smoked paprika, chili powder and dried thyme.
Then I tossed in 2 bay leaves, a pinch of coarse sea salt and covered the whole thing with 4 cups of water.
And now just let the slow cooker do its thing.
How long does it take to cook pinto beans in a slow cooker?
Since I used a simple slow cooker, there was really only a high and low setting.
I tried it both ways just to see if there would be a difference in taste or texture with the final dish.
Well, I’m happy to report that everything turned out well with both settings. The setting you use will really come down to how quickly you want to eat dinner!
- On low it took about 6-7 hours for the pinto beans to be perfectly cooked. Great for those times you just want to set it and forget it.
- On high, things obviously sped up a bit. 4 hours seemed to be the sweet spot for cooking pinto beans with more intense heat.
Are pinto beans healthy?
As I touched on earlier, pinto beans are absolutely bursting with good stuff our bodies crave!
Loaded with protein, manganese and phosphate, pinto beans also contain antioxidants called polyphenols – which are micronutrients that can help our bodies combat degenerative diseases.
These healthy beans are low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol at all. In fact, studies have even shown that eating pinto beans can lower LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad cholesterol).
These awesome little legumes are even high in dietary fiber.
In places where meat is scarce, pinto beans and rice are often served alongside corn to create nutrient dense staple foods.
Needless to say, this easy crock pot pinto beans recipe is not only delicious, it is good for you and your family!
Are these slow cooker pinto beans vegetarian?
Actually, this thick and savory pinto beans recipe is completely vegan.
I was worried that the omission of meat or broth might result in washed out flavors – but that worry was for nothing!
The garlic, onion and celery that I used as aromatics worked in tandem with the bold smoked paprika, chili powder and thyme to build layers of satisfying almost smoky flavor.
Mixed with the savory notes from bit of sea salt, the whole thing has the essence of the original ham and beans – minus the actual meat!
This easy to make vegan pinto beans recipe has quickly become one of my all time favorite bean recipes.
I can’t wait to share this yummy plant based recipe with my mother when she visits us over the holidays!
What can replace pinto beans?
I find that pinto beans are perfect for this slow cooker recipe. So pinto beans are my ultimate recommendation, hands down.
However, in a pinch you could substitute other beans that display general similarities.
- Borlotti beans (also known as cranberry beans or Roman beans) have a very similar appearance to pinto beans. Great in soups and stews, these beans are used primarily in Mediterranean cuisine.
- Red kidney beans are a decent substitute for pinto beans in that their inner texture is similar. However, a word of warning: the skin on kidney beans is tougher than that of the pinto bean. That may influence the texture of the overall dish.
- Anasazi beans (also called Aztec beans) are in the same family as pinto beans – and are used in many Latin American dishes. While this ancient bean is a decent alternative to pinto beans, keep in mind that it cooks much more quickly.
Even though these are a few great alternatives to use in a pinch, I’d still say, when it comes to this yummy slow cooker pinto beans recipe, head to the store and grab pintos if you can!
Other delicious, easy vegan recipes:
- 15-Minute Three Bean Salad
- Nasu Dengaku – Miso Glazed Eggplant
- Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Thyme
- Baked Potato Chips With Paprika and Salt
- Vegan Jajangmyeon – Korean Noodles With Black Bean Sauce
- 27 Japanese Recipes You Can Make at Home
- Nigiri vs Musubi vs Maki vs Sushi vs Sashimi – What’s the Difference?
- 25 Asian Side Dishes
Did you like this Slow Cooker Pinto Beans Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
Slow Cooker Pinto Beans
Savory like a traditional pork and beans recipe, this Slow Cooker Pinto Beans recipe is 100% vegan!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 hours on high / 6-7 hours on low
- Total Time: 4 hrs 10 mins
- Yield: 8-10 1x
- Category: Vegan
- Method: Slow Cooker / Crock Pot
- Cuisine: American
- Rinse the pinto beans and soak in cold water overnight.
- Drain the beans, rinse and drain again and add them to the slow cooker.
- In pan over medium high heat, add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onion and celery and cook for 6-7 minutes, until onions are translucent. Turn the heat off and add the vegetables to the slow cooker.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and slow cook on low for 6-7 hours, until the beans are tender, or on high for 4 hours.
- Remove the bay leaves and serve.
You can store leftovers of this slow cooker pinto beans recipe in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Keywords: vegan, vegetarian, slow cooker, crock pot, pinto beans