Easy Authentic Slow Cooker Charro Beans Recipe!

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Are you looking for a delicious, hearty dish to make in your slow cooker? Look no further than these Slow Cooker Charro Beans!

They’re made with pinto beans, bacon, and chilies and are packed full of flavor. Plus, they’re easy to make – just put all of the ingredients in your slow cooker and let it do its thing!

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A bowl of Charro Beans

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While you may prefer to skip to the recipe card, we suggest reading the entire blog post to avoid missing valuable tips and substitution suggestions and to ensure you have the necessary ingredients, equipment, and understanding of the steps and timings.

Slow Cooker Charro Beans

You will find the entire 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.

We love cooking Mexican and Tex-Mex Recipes at home, and this bean dish has to go to the top of your list to make!

These flavourful beans can be cooked in a slow cooker/crock pot, an Instant Pot®, or an old-fashioned pressure cooker.

And if you don’t have any of those kitchen appliances, then our authentic Mexican charro beans recipe can be cooked on the stovetop, too (and even in a Dutch oven over a campfire).

So that makes these authentic Mexican charro beans both delicious and versatile!

While this recipe is for slow cooker charro beans, we have included the method for cooking the beans in an Instant Pot®, on the stove top, or in the oven.

What Are Charro Beans?

Charro beans are also known as frijoles charros, Mexican cowboy beans, or ranchero 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 flavorsome ingredients like onion, garlic, chili peppers, and meat.

The meat is usually bacon, but you could also use ham, sausage, or chorizo.

Why not try cooking the beans with pork shoulder? You will get some delicious pulled pork as a main course and a great side dish with cooked beans!

I love it 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.

No matter how you want to describe it, I can assure you it tastes good!

There is a variation of this recipe, known as borrachos beans (frijoles borrachos)—borracho means “drunk” in Spanish—so just add some Mexican beer when cooking.

And if you want to try some more South American flavors, these Peruvian Beans should be next on your list of dishes to make.

Charro Beans in the Slow Cooker

What Are Pinto Beans?

We are sharing a delicious pinto bean recipe with you, but what are pinto beans?

Well, the pinto bean is a variety of common beans. 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.”

For more info, you can read the Pinto Bean Wiki.

Pinto Beans

I love recipes that require minimal prep, and this Mexican bean recipe definitely falls into that category.

All the ingredients are placed in the slow cooker, given a good stir, and then the lid goes on for 8-9 hours—and the job is done! If you have the time, you can fry the bacon and onions first.

I mentioned how this recipe can also be cooked in an Instant Pot® (or old-fashioned pressure cooker, which I still have!). The method is pretty much the same; the dish will be ready quicker.

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. 

I recommend reducing the dish’s cooking time if you want to use canned beans because the pinto beans are already cooked.

Canned pinto beans would be great to use when cooking on the stovetop – 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) pinto bean cans.

A bowl of charro beans

Ingredients in Slow Cooker Charro Beans

Of course, the main ingredients in this Mexican dish are dried pinto beans, and you’ll also need onion, garlic, bacon, and stock (ham, chicken, beef, or vegetable).

But you can’t leave out the aromatic heroes – the chilies, herbs, and spices!

Chili Peppers, Herbs & Spices in Charro Beans

This recipe has a variety of chilies, herbs, and spices, which shouldn’t be a surprise, as Mexican food is full of flavor!

The spicy charro beans pack a punch, so if you are not into the spicy heat from chili peppers, please 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.

Fresh 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.

Chillies

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 annum, 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 it cannot be used interchangeably in recipes.

I read this interesting article about their differences on HuffPost.

Grilled Street Corn
Mexican Street Corn

What Can I Serve with Charro Beans?

Charro beans are one of those great recipes that can be enjoyed as a main course or side dish.

Serve the beans with a chunk of cornbread for an easy and comforting meal.

Serve the beans 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.

Or why not use them in a Tex Mex favorite—tacos!

If you have leftover charro beans, you could use them as a filling for quesadillas.

And if you plan on celebrating, you can make the beans to serve along with some of our other Cinco de Mayo Recipes.

Here are some other great Mexican recipes to try:

Charro Beans - Mexican Cowboy Beans

How Do I Make Slow Cooker Charro Beans?

 

The printable recipe card is below. Any demonstration photos on the recipe card are not printed out to save ink.

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Slow Cooker Charro Beans

Slow Cooker Charro Beans

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes

These spicy Charro Beans are perfect for your Mexican Fiesta!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb / 450g bag pinto beans; washed and drained
  • 1 white onion; diced
  • 4 cloves garlic; finely chopped
  • 6 strips of bacon; diced
  • 2 fresh jalapeños; diced and de-seeded
  • 1 fresh serrano pepper; diced and de-seeded
  • 1 teaspoon de arbol chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • handful fresh cilantro/fresh coriander; chopped with stems (about ½ cup, 25g or 1 ounce)
  • 4 cups/1L chicken broth/chicken stock (or ham, beef, or vegetable)
  • 2 cups/500ml water

Instructions

Slow Cooker

  1. Place the beans, onion, garlic, bacon, fresh chilies, de Arbol chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, salt, and cilantro/coriander into the slow cooker. Stir.
  2. Pour in half the broth/stock and water and stir again. (The slow cooker does not need as much liquid)
  3. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 5-6 hours until the beans are tender.
  4. Before serving, use a ladle to press against some of the beans and stir. This will add to the texture of the beans and broth. Enjoy!

Instant Pot

  1. Place the beans, onion, garlic, bacon, fresh chilies, de Arbol chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, salt, and cilantro/coriander into the pot and stir.

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  2. Pour in the broth/stock and add enough water to the max fill line.
  3. Place the lid and put the valve in the seal position. Set to high pressure for 1 hour 20 minutes. (This cook time allows all the beans to be tender without soaking the night before.)
  4. Once the instant pot stops counting, quick release the pressure.
  5. Before serving, use a ladle to press against some of the beans and stir. This will add to the texture of the beans and broth. Enjoy!

Stove Top

  1. The night before you intend to cook the beans, place them in a large bowl, cover them with 2-3 inches of water, and allow them to soak overnight. Strain the beans, rinse, and set aside until ready to use. OR Replace the dried beans in the ingredients list with 4 (15oz/400g) cans of pinto beans.
  2. Fry the bacon in a large saucepan with the lid on medium-high heat for a few minutes till it starts to brown, then add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened.
  3. Add the beans, fresh chilies, de Arbol chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, salt, and cilantro/coriander, and stir.
  4. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Stirring occasionally.
  5. Before serving, use a ladle to press against some of the beans and stir. This will add to the texture of the beans and broth. Enjoy!


Oven

  1. The night before you intend to cook the beans, place them in a large bowl, cover them with 2-3 inches of water, and allow them to soak overnight. Strain the beans, rinse, and set aside until ready to use. OR Replace the dried beans in the ingredients list with 4 (15oz/400g) cans of pinto beans.
  2. Preheat oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
  3. Fry the bacon in a pan on medium-high heat until it starts to brown, then add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened.
  4. Transfer to an ovenproof dish with a lid (or you can use foil to cover). Alternatively, you can fry off the ingredients in a Dutch oven or a suitable casserole dish.
  5. Add the beans, fresh chilies, de Arbol chili powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, salt, and cilantro/coriander to the dish and stir. Add the broth/stock.
  6. Cover and transfer to the oven to cook for about 2 hours, stirring midway - you can add more stock or water if you feel it needs more.
  7. Before serving, use a ladle to press against some of the beans and stir. This will add to the texture of the beans and broth. Enjoy!


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Notes

This dish can be cooked in a slow cooker or instant pot. You may adjust the amount of the various chilies (ground and fresh) to your taste. Or you could leave the fresh de-seeded chilis whole and remove them after cooking if you are concerned about the heat level.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 155Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 1223mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 6gSugar: 2gProtein: 10g

This site uses an outside source (Nutritionix) to provide estimated nutrition. If you need exact calories and macros, please do your own calculations.

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FAQ About Charro Beans

Here are some questions people often ask about making charro beans

Click the question to read the answer. If you have one of your own, please comment on this post!

What are charro beans made of?

Charro beans are made from Mexican pinto beans simmered with ingredients like bacon, ham hocks, serrano peppers, fresh garlic, onions, and sometimes chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This creates a flavorful broth, enhancing the taste of the tender pinto beans.

Why are they called charro beans?

They are called charro beans because they were popularized by the “charros,” which are traditional Mexican cowboy horsemen. These beans were a staple in their diet. The Spanish for this dish is Frijoles Charros.

What flavor is Charro?

Charro has a rich, smoky, and slightly spicy flavor owing to ingredients like chipotle peppers, serrano peppers, and ham hocks. The flavorful broth is complemented by the hearty nature of Mexican-style pinto beans.

What is charro in English food?

There isn’t a direct equivalent to charro in traditional English cuisine. Charro beans are a unique traditional Mexican dish. The closest equivalent would be Cowboy Beans.

Are charro beans healthy?

Yes, charro beans, when prepared traditionally, are rich in protein and fiber from the Mexican pinto beans. However, like many dishes, moderation is key due to the presence of ingredients like bacon grease and ham hocks.

Are Borracho Beans and Charro Beans the same thing?

While similar, Borracho beans, also known as “drunken beans,” have some beer or other alcohol added to the pot. Charro beans do not have this component.

What is the difference between charro beans and refried beans?

Charro beans are whole beans served in a flavorful broth, while refried beans are mashed and fried, typically in bacon grease or lard.

What are frijoles charros made of?

Frijoles charros are made of dry pinto beans, bacon, ham hocks, garlic, onions, and various peppers. Some variations might also include beef franks and tomatoes.

What do you eat frijoles charros with?

Frijoles charros make a perfect side dish for Mexican meals and can be paired with warm tortillas, Mexican rice, and main courses like tacos or enchiladas. They can also be enjoyed as a full meal with some sour cream and flour tortillas.

How do you make frijoles taste better?

In a large pot, the best way is to simmer them with aromatic ingredients such as fresh garlic, onions, serrano peppers, and chipotle peppers.

Do you have to soak beans before cooking in a slow cooker?

While not mandatory, soaking beans helps reduce cooking time and makes beans tender. However, using an instant pot charro beans recipe could eliminate the need for soaking due to pressure cooking.

What beans cannot be cooked in a slow cooker?

Red kidney beans should not be solely cooked in a slow cooker as they contain a toxin that requires them to be boiled at a high temperature for at least 10 minutes to neutralize.

Can you cook raw beans in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can, but it’s recommended to soak them first or ensure they are cooked thoroughly. See the previous question about red kidney beans.

Can I leave beans in a slow cooker overnight?

Yes, beans can be left in a slow cooker overnight on a low setting. This method is a great way to achieve tender pinto beans.

Is it OK to leave a slow cooker on all day?

Slow cookers are designed to cook food over an extended period, so it’s safe to leave them on all day. Just ensure that there’s enough liquid to prevent burning at the bottom of the pot.

How do I store leftover charro beans?

Leftover charro beans should be cooled to room temperature and then transferred to an airtight container. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Before reheating, stir them well and ensure they are heated thoroughly.

Can I freeze charro beans?

Yes, you can freeze charro beans. To do so, allow the beans to cool completely.

Once cooled, transfer them to airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags, leaving a little bit of space at the top to allow for expansion when frozen.

Frozen charro beans can be stored for up to 2-3 months.

To reheat, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and then warm them up on medium heat in a large pot, adding a bit of chicken broth or water if needed to refresh the flavorful broth.

Remember, whether you are following an easy charro beans recipe or an authentic Mexican recipe, the key to delicious charro beans is a combination of the right ingredients and patience.

So grab those dry pinto beans from the grocery store and get started on a pot of beans that’ll warm you up on cold days!

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