Once you learn how to make Southern Pinto Beans and Rice, you'll never go hungry again! Here's how to season and cook this classic Southern favorite comfort food!
This is a one-dish menu item you'll find in every restaurant and home south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
In Louisiana, they use red kidney beans most of the time, but plain ole' pinto beans work equally as well!
What type of beans should I use?
This recipe usually consists of dried red kidney or pinto beans because the two have very similar nutritional and flavor profiles.
Kidneys are a little larger and more red in color than pinto beans and shaped like a kidney. Dried beans are found in bags-not cans-and are usually on the "beans and rice" aisle in the grocery store.
You can use either type for Southern Pinto Beans and Rice.
How many cups does a pound of dried beans yield?
One cup of dried beans yields about 6 cups of cooked beans. So, if you've got a large group to feed, this Southern food is cheap!
Southern seasonings for pinto and kidney beans
Most Southern pinto bean and rice recipes call for some type of added fat, usually pork: bacon, smoked ham hock or ham. Some recipes include a few tablespoons of bacon grease. Any of these will work for seasoning.
The next ingredients are generally added: garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper, and sometimes a hint of smoky paprika.
You can buy a jar of "pinto bean seasoning" on the spice aisle, but it has silicon dioxide in it and I don't know anyone who needs that in their beans.
Season the beans with salt and pepper last, especially if you use a salty pork product like bacon or ham.
Add the fat to the beans at the beginning of the cooking process. As they slowly cook, the added fat cooks, too, resulting in a nice flavored pot of pinto beans.
How to season pinto beans for vegans and vegetarians
When you cook rice and beans in water or vegetable broth, they are naturally vegetarian and vegan, but the flavor just isn't "quite right." (The Southern tradition of adding pork to them results in a non-vegetarian, but flavorful dish.)
You can mimic this smokey-fat-flavor by adding a few tablespoons of Liquid Smoke. Liquid smoke is gluten-free, has no additives or preservatives and is vegan.
It is usually found on the grocery aisle with the barbecue sauces. Add a few tablespoons near the end of the cooking process and you'll have a flavorful pot of vegan rice and beans.
3 Ways to eliminate gas
Some people prefer not to eat beans due to the side effects of the oligosaccharides--those pesky complex carbohydrates that can cause temporary digestive discomfort and gas. The best way to prevent gas is:
- Soak in lightly salted water overnight covered, on the counter, or
- Do a "quick soak" - bring to a rolling boil in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes; let the beans rest in liquid, covered for an hour; pour off water, refill, then simmer until tender, or
- Take an over-the-counter formula like Beano® prior to eating beans; Beano® prepares the digestive system for the oligosaccharides and eliminate any gastric distress
When to salt
The most controversial issue regarding dried beans is when to add salt. Some say not till the end, others say at the beginning, and some say add salt in intervals.
The science behind this has to do with calcium and magnesium ions in the legume's skin. Soaking in lightly salted water allows the salt to seep into the beans, replacing some of the ions, and resulting in a softer bean.
Conversely, soaking in unsalted water causes them to swell too fast and burst. So, the salt acts not only as a seasoning agent, but as a protectant for the skin.
This recipe calls for ¼ cup of table salt; 2 tablespoons of table salt for soaking and the remainder if they aren't salty enough for you.
How to Soak Pinto Beans
Pinto and kidney beans require soaking and for best results, I recommend you soak them overnight (covered and on the counter- not in the fridge) in a lot of water with salt.
If you don't have all night to soak the beans, do a quick "soak."
Whichever method you use, you need to clean them first. Place dried beans in a colander and rinse under cool water; remove any rocks (yes! sometimes, there are little rocks in the bag!)
- Overnight Soak: Put the beans in a large bowl; add water to cover about 2 inches; add salt and cover; let them soak overnight on the counter. Do not refrigerate the soaking beans. If you don't have time to soak overnight, you can do what is called a "quick soak."
- Quick Soak: Bring the beans and protein to a hard boil in plenty of salted water and boil them for 15 minutes; turn the heat off of the stove, cover and allow beans to sit in water for 1 hour. After they've have rested, pour off soaking water.
Regardless of the soaking method you use, you'll want to pour off any remaining soaking water and start with fresh water and/or broth.
How to make it:
After cleaning and soaking, pour off any remaining soaking water, put the beans in a large stockpot, slow or pressure cooker, and cover with fresh water (or broth) about 2 inches over the beans.
If you want to season with bacon or a smoked ham hock, add it to the water. Add in onion and garlic powder and allow beans to cook until tender.
Once tender, taste for salt and pepper.
You can use plain water or broth/stock as a cooking liquid.
Beef and vegetable broths (or stocks) work well and give additional flavor, but keep in mind these usually contain a lot of salt, so if you're watching your sodium intake, use a "salt-free" or "reduced sodium" broth or stock.
Note, some of the broths and stocks on the market contain sugar. If you're trying to limit your sugar intake, I recommend using Kitchen Basics brand as it does not contain any added sugars.
Cooking Methods for Pinto Beans
Most of the time, I cook my Southern pinto beans on the stovetop; it's just what I've done for years.
Stovetop and slow cooker methods take the longest. The pressure cooker or "InstantPot™" cooks them the fastest.
In a large stockpot, add soaked dried beans and 6-8 cups of water or broth.
Bring to a boil and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes; reduce heat to medium low, add seasonings (garlic, onion, pepper and a little salt), cover and allow to cook for 4 hours.
Check the level of the liquid occasionally, and add more if needed. Once they're tender, taste for salt; you'll probably want to add more salt.
Slow Cooker Method
Add soaked beans, pork (optional), seasonings and 6-8 cups of water or broth to slow cooker. Cook on medium 6-8 hours. Near the end of the cooking time, taste for seasonings and add more salt, if needed.
Instant Pot Method
- You can easily cook soaked or unsoaked dried beans in a pressure cooker. Just add your fat of choice, one pound of beans, seasonings and 8 cups of water or broth. Lock the lid and cook on high.
- Cook unsoaked beans for 45-minutes and soaked beans for 20-minutes-both on "manual" or "pressure cook" mode.
- After the cooking time, let beans sit for 20 minutes, then do a quick release on the pressure cooker. Taste for seasonings and serve.
How to remedy over-salted beans
If you accidentally get heavy-handed with the salt shaker and your pintos are too salty, just add more liquid--preferably water. (Broths and stocks usually have a pretty high sodium content.)
There are many theories as how to remedy over-salted foods, but adding water works every time.
What kind of rice?
The traditional rice used in this favorite Southern dish is long-grain white rice, however brown rice is an excellent alternative and a healthier version.
Any type of rice works great in this dish, such as Jasmine or Basmati, but these rices have a different flavor than white or brown rice and alter the flavor profile of the dish. Cook the rice separately.
Bean Nutrition 101
Beans provide soluble and insoluble fiber, neither of which are digested or absorbed into the blood. Insoluble fiber moves quickly through the intestinal tract, balancing the pH levels and removing toxic waste.
Soluble fiber forms a gel when combined with liquid and binds to fatty acids; this prolongs the process of emptying the stomach, thus, sugar is released and absorbed more slowly.
Regardless of the method of preparation, a bowl of rice and beans is a complete protein with no fat, cholesterol or gluten. Safe for diabetics and good for everyone all the way around!
Safe for Diabetics
Beans, or legumes, are complex carbohydrates and have a low glycemic index which means the natural sugars take longer to break down.
Since it takes longer for the soluble fiber to break down, blood sugar stabilizes and you feel full for a longer period of time.
The combination of these two foods forms a complete protein. Without getting too academic, let's just say that neither rice nor beans alone provide all the amino acids your body needs.
But when these two foods are eaten together, they provide essential amino acids, resulting in a "complete" protein.
Another way to look at it is: if you were stranded on an island and all you had to eat was rice and beans, you'd live.
If your Northern friends won't eat plain Southern Rice and Beans, consider dressing-up Southern pinto beans and rice with these options:
- Add a protein such as smoked sausage or cooked ground beef/turkey; this gives a hearty "American" spin to plain beans
- Add barbecue sauce, maple syrup or ketchup ; converts plain to "sweet barbecue"
- Add diced green chiles, a can of Rotel tomatoes and cilantro; gives a "Southwestern/Mexican" flair
- Add diced, fresh jalapeno and top with sour cream for "Mexican" style rice and beans
Use an airtight container to freeze cooked pinto beans for up to 3 months. Pinto and kidney beans will expand in the freezer, so before you put them in the freezer, pour off a little of the juice.
When it's time to re-heat, you may have to add more liquid and adjust the seasonings a bit. This one dish southern entree will hold up in the fridge for 3-5 days. After 5 days, they get mushy.
Serve a bowl of pinto beans and rice as a meal or as a side dish with one of these Southern Classics!
Southern Pinto Beans and Rice
- 1 lb. dried pinto beans
- 8 cups water or broth
- ¼ cup table salt 2 tablespoons for soaking; remainder is for taste
- 2 tablespoons onion powder or 1 cup fresh, diced onion
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 cups rice , brown or white rice, cooked
- 1 smoked hamhock optional
- salt and pepper to taste
Quick Soak Method
- Rinse and drain beans
- Place beans in a large Dutch oven on the stove top; add enough water to cover by 2 inches; add 2 tablespoons salt; bring to a rapid boil; boil for 15 minutes, turn off the heat and put a lid on; let them sit for about an hour
- After one hour, pour off soaking liquid; add onion, garlic and pepper and bring the beans back to a hard boil for 15 minutes; lower heat to medium low, cover and cook until tender; (about 4 hours): additional water or broth may need to be added during the cooking process; taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly
Overnight Soak Method
- Rinse and drain beans; place them in a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons salt, add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches; cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow beans to soak overnight
- The next day, drain the beans
Cook the Beans
- Drain soaking water
- Place the beans, liquid, protein (optional) and seasonings in a large Dutch oven, slow cooker or pressure cooker.
Stove Top Method
- Add water or broth to cover soaked beans by about 2 inches (6-8 cups); add protein (bacon, hamhock) onion and garlic powders; If you're making other variations (see Recipe Notes), add those ingredients now
- Cover and cook on medium low for 4 hours, or until tender; check liquid level frequently; add more if needed; when tender, taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly
Slow Cooker Method
- Place soaked beans, 2 tablespoons of salt, protein (optional) and other variations (see Recipe Notes) in slow cooker and cover with water or broth; cook on medium 6-8 hours
- Pressure Cooker Method
- Add soaked or unsoaked beans, protein (optional), seasonings and 8 cups of water or broth
- Set Pressure cooker to "manual" or "pressure cook" and cook on high for 45 minutes (unsoaked beans) or 20 minutes (soaked beans.)
- After the cooking time, let pressure cooker rest for 20 minutes; after 20 minutes, do a quick release on pressure cooker
- Taste for seasonings and serve.
- Add water and rice to saucepan; bring to boil
- Reduce heat to simmer, cover rice and simmer until rice is fluffy