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Insanely delicious Southern pinto beans

Southern Pinto Beans Recipe

Smokey ham and hearty pinto beans with the right spices made totally from scratch. Paprika and chili powder give it the perfect heat, and oregano and cumin fill the kitchen with their mouthwatering aroma. A great addition to your favorite tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or as a main course by itself!
Course Main, Side
Cuisine Southern
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Soaking Time 8 hours
Total Time 11 hours 10 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 407kcal
Author Imma


  • 1 pound (450g) dried pinto beans
  • 1 large ham hock (or 2 small)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups chicken broth and/or water (more or less for desired texture)


  • Rinse dry pinto beans and pick through and discard any foreign objects. Add beans to a large pot and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water. Cover and let sit for about 8 hours or overnight.
  • Start by covering the ham hocks with water in a large pot. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1½-2 hours (until the meat falls off the bone). If you have a pressure cooker, it takes only 12 minutes or less once it starts cooking. Let it cool, then cut the meat into bite-size pieces.
  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or saute pan, sauté cooked chopped ham hock for 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the onions, garlic, oregano, Creole seasoning, chili spice, smoked paprika, and bay leaf. Then sauté for 3-5 minutes, until onions are wilted and aromatic.
  • Drain the soaked beans, rinse, and place them in the pot. Stir for a minute or two.
  • Add about 5 cups water or chicken broth (enough to cover the beans), and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 55 minutes or more, occasionally stirring.
  • Add more stock or water to reach the desired thickness. The beans' texture should be thick and somewhat creamy but not watery.
  • Remove the bay leaves. Taste and adjust for seasonings with salt and pepper if needed.
  • Serve with cornbread or overcooked rice and garnish with green onion or cilantro.


  • Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the soaking water for traditional cooking methods. While soaking them overnight is the norm, 24 hours is even better.
  • The longer you cook the beans, the tenderer they get and the thicker the gravy. It all depends on your preferences.
  • Forgot to soak the beans? No worries because you can do the quick soak or cook them as is. Add the beans to a large pot of boiling water (8 cups water for every pound of dry beans) and let them boil for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave it covered for an hour. Drain and rinse the beans, then cook according to the recipe. 
  • The jury is out on whether to add salt before or after the beans are tender. I think it depends on the bean.
  • Smashing a clove of garlic and half an onion and throwing them into the water before soaking them makes the beans even tastier.
  • Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 407kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 147mg | Potassium: 1437mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1201IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 5mg