Mom’s Pinto Beans

Mom’s Pinto Beans

I grew up eating lots of Mom's pinto beans and cornbread, one of my favorite foods of all time. I called Mom (10/16/2008) and asked her to tell me how she makes her beans because mine never turn out as good as hers.
These can be used with or in burritos, chile, huevos rancheros, enchiladas, green chile stew, etc. Or eat them the way I did as a kid: Spoon the beans and lots of the bean juice over freshly-made cornbread and maybe add some chow chow. After Dad ate his beans, he'd eat crumble-in, pronounced "crummel-in", which is cornbread torn up into a glass of milk with salt and pepper. I never got into eating crumble-in but Dad really liked it. We also often had good fresh garden vegetables (grown by Dad) to eat with beans.
NOTE: I have stopped soaking the beans ahead of time. I've read that this can reduce the flavor. And, especially with a pressure cooker, soaking is not necessary.
IMPORTANT: This recipe uses a pressure cooker. It's difficult and time-consuming to cook beans at the higher altitudes in New Mexico without one. (Hey, Denver isn't the only mile-high city. Albuquerque is a mile high, too!) Of course, be sure you know how to safely use a pressure cooker BEFORE trying this recipe. This recipe doesn't attempt to explain how to use a pressure cooker. Follow the instructions with your cooker. I highly recommend InstaPot pressure cooker. Very easy to use.
Course Main Course, Side Dish


  • 2 cups dried pinto beans. (Mom recommends Montelores brand, grown at high altitude in Dove Creek, Colorado. Probably any pintos from Dove Creek, "pinto bean capitol of the world" would be good. Later: We've been using local beans from Estancia, NM, available from our food coop, and they are delicious.)
  • ham hock (This adds a lot of flavor. But we've found if you use good beans, the ham hock can be left out and beans still taste good.)
  • 1/2 tsp red chile powder, or more if you wish (amount depends on how hot your chile is)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or a bit less
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 T. oil (not in mom's original recipe, but was recommended in my pressure cooker instruction book to reduce chance of clogging; is a nice addition)


  • Don’t proceed until you know how to use a pressure cooker safely!
  • Sort through beans, checking for stones.
  • Wash the beans well. (The ones we get from coop usually have little clods of mud in them and are very dusty.)
  • Add rest of the ingredients listed above.
  • Add water so that water at least 2 inches above the bean level. (My cooker instruction book says don't fill pressure cooker over 1/2 full.)
  • Stir and remove any loose bean skins that float to the top.
  • Cook in pressure cooker, under pressure, for about 45 to 75 minutes. Older beans will take longer to cook. Beans should be completely tender, NOT crunchy or al dente. But not mushy either.
  • Of course, don’t open the cooker till it’s cooled and the pressure has gone down completely.

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