We love cooking Mexican and Tex-Mex Recipes at home, and I’ve got a delicious recipe for Slow Cooker Charro Beans for you to cook at home.
These flavourful beans can be cooked not only in a slow cooker/crock pot, but also in an instant pot, or old fashioned pressure cooker. And if you don’t have any of those kitchen appliances, then it can be cooked on the stove top too (and even over a campfire). So that makes these authentic Mexican charro beans both delicious and versatile!
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Slow Cooker Charro Beans
You will find the recipe for these slow cooker charro beans towards the end of this post. But before you scroll quickly through to get to it, let me tell you about this dish.
What are charro beans?
Charro beans are also known as frijoles charros or cowboy beans. The name comes from the Mexican cowboys who ate them and the dish seems to have its origins in Northern Mexico.
Charro beans are made by slow cooking dried pinto beans with other flavoursome ingredients like onion, garlic, chili peppers and meat. The meat is usually bacon, but you could also use ham, sausage or chorizo. I love when recipes can be tweaked to what you have to hand, and it turns out this is exactly what the cowboys would do too.
I’ve seen this dish described as a soup, but I would say that it is more like a cross between a soup and a stew. However you want to describe it, I can assure you it tastes good!
There is a variation of this recipe, known as borrachos beans – borracho means “drunk” in Spanish – just add some Mexican beer when cooking.
I have included links to some of the products that I used for this recipe. If you purchase via the links I may earn a small commission.
What are pinto beans?
The pinto bean is a variety of common bean. It is the most popular bean in the United States and northwestern Mexico, and is most often eaten whole, or mashed and then refried. Either way, it is a common filling for burritos in Mexican cuisine. In Spanish, they are called frijol pinto, literally meaning “speckled bean”. – Wiki
I love recipes that require minimal prep, and this Mexican recipe definitely falls into that category. All the ingredients are placed in the slow cooker, given a bit of a stir and then the lid goes on for 8-9 hours – job done! You can, if you like fry off the bacon and onions if you like – it won’t do the dish any harm!
I mentioned how this recipe can also be cooking in an instant pot (or old fashioned pressure cooker, of which I still have!). The method is pretty much exactly the same, just the dish will be ready a lot faster.
Can I use canned pinto beans in this recipe?
Because you want the beans to remain whole and not mush down too much, it is much better to use dried beans. The pinto beans do not need to be soaked, or cooked in advance for this charro beans recipe which I think is really helpful.
If you do want to use canned beans, then I would recommend you reduce the cooking time of the dish, because the pinto beans are already cooked. Canned beans would be great to use when cooking on the stove top – I would estimate the dish would be ready in about half an hour or so. This recipe uses 1lb/450g of dried beans, which roughly works out to four 15oz/400g beans.
Chili peppers, herbs & spices
There are a variety of different chilies, herbs, and spices in this recipe, which shouldn’t be a surprise, as Mexican food is full of flavor! The charro beans do pack a punch, so if you are not into the spicy heat from a lot of chili peppers, then please do feel free to reduce the amounts, or leave [some of them] out altogether.
De Arbol Chili Powder (Hot) – made from Chile de árbol (Spanish for tree chili), a small and potent Mexican chili pepper also known as bird’s beak, and rat’s tail. It is similar in heat to cayenne, but has a slight red bell pepper flavour. I’ve not seen this spice in UK supermarkets, but you can buy De Arbol Chilli Powder on Amazon.
Ground Cayenne Pepper (Hot) – made from dried [usually] red chili peppers of the same name.
Jalapeño (Mildly hot) – a medium-sized chili pepper, commonly picked and eaten while green. You can find more ripened jalapeño peppers in yellow, orange and red.
Serrano (Fairly hot) – similar in size and shape to a jalapeño, but notably hotter. Originated in the mountainous regions of the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The name of the pepper is a reference to the mountains (sierras) of these regions.
Paprika – a ground spice made from dried red fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annuum, called bell pepper or sweet pepper. You can find hot (spicy) paprika and smoked paprika too.
Ground Cumin – made from the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family.
Cilantro (or Fresh Coriander) – two different words for exactly the same thing! In the UK we call this herb coriander in both its fresh and dried forms. In the US it is called cilantro (which is Spanish for coriander leaves) when fresh, and coriander when dried – ground or the seeds. The fresh variety of this herb is very different in flavour than the ground powder, or seeds, so cannot be used interchangeably in recipes. I read an interesting article about their differences on HuffPost.
This hearty and filling dish can be eaten as a main (I’m thinking with a chunk of cornbread) or as a side dish to other Mexican foods like carne asada (which is a marinaded, sliced steak dish), guacamole, pico de gallo, grilled street corn, and warmed tortillas – yum!
Like I said at the top of this post, we love Mexican (and Tex-Mex) food and I’ve shared lots of recipes over the years. If you are planning on celebrating, I’ve got 37+ Cinco de Mayo Recipes here for you to try!
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