Side Dishes/

Cowboy Beans

Frijoles Charros


  • 4slices (4 ounces) thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
  • 1medium white onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded if you wish and cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 115-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 1pound (about 2 1/2 cups) dried pinto beans
  • Salt
  • 1cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro


In a removeable insert of a 6-quart slow cooker (or a large 10-inch skillet if your slow cooker does not have a stove-top safe insert) set over medium heat, cook the bacon several minutes, stirring regularly, until bacon starts to brown and renders its fat.  Add the onion and cook until golden, about 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic and jalapeños and cook until the garlic begins to brown and is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook another minute.

Fit the insert into the slow cooker (or transfer the mixture from the skillet to the slow cooker) and add the beans, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 7 cups of water.  Cover and turn the slow cooker to high.  Your beans will be done in 3 to 4 hours, though you can hold them for longer. (My slow cooker can be programmed to switch from high after 3 ½ hours to a “keep warm” temperature for another 6 hours. Some slow cookers click to “keep warm” automatically; others need to be switched manually.)

When ready to serve, remove 2 cups of the beans and process in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Add the smooth beans back to pot and stir in the cilantro.  Taste and season with more salt if needed. Ladle into bowls and serve.


No Slow Cooker?

Follow the directions for cooking the bacon, onion, garlic, chiles and tomatoes in a medium-large (4- to 6-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium-high.  Add the beans, salt, and  2 ½ quarts water.  Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to medium-low and cook the beans at a gentle simmer, partially covered, until thoroughly tender, about 2 hours. (You’ll find it necessary to add water from time to time to ensure that the level of liquid remains about the same.)  Finish the recipe as directed above.


  1. After getting these beans started, I spent the next 20 mins on my slow cooker’s company website looking for a replacement insert. DO NOT take these instructions as a blind endorsment for cooking in your crock over open flame. Maybe it works for a metal insert but NOT a stone and perhaps these instructions could be editted to reflect this disclaimer. Smells good though so hopefully after a day of simmering them the old fashioned way they’ll taste just as great.

    1. Oh Ashley!
      I am so sorry. I did the same thing at home a number of years ago. Most models do not have stovetop safe inserts. It is generally the cast iron inserts that are stovetop safe. I hope you were still able to try to recipe on the stove – it is such a delicious dish!

    2. I’m sorry this happened to you but it does state in the recipe “if you have a stove top safe insert” I prefer to cook these on the stove as it fills our house with such a great smell.

    3. I’m pretty sure that he did mention during the video that his particular slow cooker insert can be used on a burner, but not all are made this way & this is also mentioned in the written directions.

      So sorry for your dilemma. I hope you found a replacement & that your beans turned out good. 🙂

    4. OMG don’t be dumb not all slow cookers can go on the stove !

    5. But the instructions state only if “your crockpot has a stove top safe insert” or you can just use a a regular 10 in skillet for browning the bacon and vegetables

    6. “a large 10-inch skillet if your slow cooker does not have a stove-top safe insert”. Read the directions.

  2. good afternoon: may day before mother’s day, cooking the beans during a snowstorm bet they will be great

  3. I ran across this recipe while searching for the Shrimp Ceviche Verde. My husbands reaction, “That was the best bowl of beans I have ever had.” I must agree, I will definitely be making these again. I will just add another jalapeno with the seeds, to kick it up a bit.

    1. They do not Alyssa! I would only recommend that if you are buying really fresh beans from a farmers market.

    2. I used the quick soak method, after sorting and rinsing bring to a boil, boil for 10 minutes. Cover and remove from the heat for 1 hour, rinse and cook.

    1. FYI cooks Illustrated did a test to see if salt really does make beans tough. They found it does not and suggest salting at beginning of cooking so flavor is throughout the bean. Must have been an old wives tale.

  4. And may I recommend that unless you are completely sure your dried beans are pristine that you go thru them looking for stones and dirt clods before you dump them in the pot. Having more than once found a dirt clod or two in a package of beans I shuddered when I watched Rick just open the bag and toss in the beans.

    1. Great Point Suzanne –
      Rick was using a very nice brand of beans made by Rancho Gordo. But generally you absolutely should pick through the beans.

    2. I feel the same way, but it is probable that Rick used pre-sorted and washed beans which are now available, albeit costly. I just bought a pound of pintos in a packet marked “triple washed”. I have hopes but no expectations.

      1. A friend who lived on a farm once offered me some pinot beans. They’re a bit dirty, but you wouldn’t mind, would you?

        Of course not, I answered.

        And received about seven pounds of filthy, mud encrusted beans!

        I had to rinse twice before I quadruple washed them before the water ran clear. But there were no pebbles or dried out beans. They were very fresh, actually and turned out to be the most delicious pintos I’d ever had up until the nearly farm fresh beans started to appear.

  5. tried this recipe after seeing it on Rick’s show and it turned out dynamite! I haven’t had much luck with other recipes that were similar in flavor profile, but this one impressed my whole family.

  6. The flavor of the beans is really wonderful and we’re enjoying them. But they turned out more like a soup, even though I followed the recipe precisely. Maybe they’re supposed to be that way. Also they took 6 hours on high in my crock pot. I’d like a little them with a bit thicker consistency, so next time I’ll either add more beans or reduce the water.

    1. They are supposed to be slightly soupy. They make a delicious dip. And if you want them thicker you can also blend them more. Enjoy!

    2. In the written recipe on Rick’s web site I noticed that he recommends taking a cup of the beans out of the pot & blending them, then returning the blended beans to the pot. This must be what makes them thicker & I thought, “what a good idea!” “Why didn’t I think of that in the past?” lol 🙂

  7. Hi Katy Lawrence, thank you for all of the time you’ve taken to provide feedback to all the inquiries throughout this site.

  8. I watched the episode on beans a couple days ago. I looked up the recipe and started the beans yesterday. My crockpot insert cracked when I used it on the stove. I usually read comments for a recipe before I start it, but I was in a hurry to get the beans started so I didn’t see the warning from another poster. I think a note should be added to the recipe not to put the crockpot insert on the stove, since nothing was mentioned on the show about it being a special kind of insert. I make refried beans in my crockpot all the time which is what I was doing with these. I left out the tomatoes, removed excess liquid and mashed these when they were soft (I had an extra crockpot) and they taste very good.

  9. These are the best beans I’ve ever made. I served them at a dinner party with some of ricks other recipes and everyone raved about them. I brown the bacon etc. on the stove then transfer to the crockpot. The longer they cook the better they are! Thanks Rick for all of your fabulous recipes!

  10. If I am doubling or even tripling the recipe, will they need to cook longer? Can’t wait to try this recipe for our family get together!

    1. They might Carrie –
      I have doubled them and they did need a longer time. I also bought some nice dried beans from my farmer’s market that needed 6 hours instead of 3-4, so just keep an eye on them and give yourself more time than you think you need!

  11. I made these a few weeks ago and they were DELICIOUS! I did sub a bottle of beer for some of the water because I love the flavor of beans with beer……OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! Seriously the best beans I’ve ever made!!!!

  12. These look great! Do you think they could be made with canned pintos instead of dry? Maybe just reduce the cooking time? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kathy –
      I am sure you could do this on the stovetop with canned beans in order to save time, but part of what makes this so delicious is the hours of simmering in the slow cooker while the flavors meld together. That being said, bacon + beans + chili on your stovetop – well how could that be bad? Go for it! Hope it goes well. Let us know!

    2. no Kathy. The reason for the slow cooker is to make uncooked beans cooked…for canned beans all you need to do is heat up on the stove with whatever seasoning you like.(not nearly as good)

  13. Hi Rick,
    I lived in Chicago for over a year and became your fan when I visited your restaurants. Just wanted to mention that I’ve never had a more tasteful Torta Ahogada anywhere in Mexico than the ones I often had at Frontera Grill (and I’ve been to a lot of places in MX). The taste was amazing and the the meat was cooked to perfection. I know is a long shot, but wanted to ask if any of your cooking books has the recipe for this amazing torta, or if you’ve published it anywhere else.

    1. Rick uses a Tru or an All Clad – but both make versions without stovetop safe inserts. Check before you use it! The cermaic inserts are NOT stove-top safe.

  14. Great! Very much like the frijoles charros served at a local restaurant. In trying to duplicate their beans, I always got a thicker broth which, while good, was Not what I was going for. This recipe nailed it!
    If you do want it thicker, precook the beans and allow then to cool.
    I don’t have a slow cooker, but have found that if you use a dutch oven, bring the beans to a simmer on the stove top and then place in a 225 degree oven (lid ON) for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Check the water level about once each hour. No pre-soaking or par-boiling needed for black beans or pintos.

    1. I’m similarly without a slow-cooker, so very much appreciate your suggestions, Dave. Got my beans soaking now, and looking forward to trying this out!

  15. The recipe says a “removable” insert or a cast iron skillet not “the” insert of the crockpot. Added notes would be superfluous.

  16. I didn’t read to use the insert on the stove top. “Fit the insert into the slow cooker (or transfer the mixture from the skillet to the slow cooker) ” also

    “No Slow Cooker?
    Follow the directions for cooking the bacon, onion, garlic, chiles and tomatoes in a medium-large (4- to 6-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium-high.


  17. This is a very rare internet recipe for slow cooker beans since 90% of the recipes I read say add the tomatoes last. Even with a pre-soak of the beans.

    Since you are in a professional kitchen, I’d be delighted if you addressed the “tomato acidity keeps the beans from getting soft” debate? Obvious from this recipe you think it’s nonsense.

    I must admit if I add them first I have to cook about 7 or more hours so now I add them last. I love cowboy beans but tomatoes at the beginning never seem to help me and thousands of people who love to make them.

  18. I don’t have a keep warm function. Is it possible to do this recipe on the “low” setting of a slow cooker? If so, how many hours?


    1. Hi steve,
      You can use the low function on your slow cooker for up to 4 hours. So that would be 4 hours of cook time and 4 hours of “keep warm” time, a total of 8 hours. If you go longer than that, the beans could get really mushy. Good Luck!

  19. Hi.
    Would you be able to prep the skillet ingredients, and leave all prepared overnight, to cook the next day (while at work)?

    1. Hi Meg- You can prep the ingredients the night before, just be careful not to over cook them. We call it “par” cooking, and you only cook the ingredients about half way and then cool them down right after. Good Luck!

  20. We’re having a cold snap here in Houston (i.e., it’s under 80 degrees finally) so I tried this recipe yesterday. These are the best charro beans I’ve ever had! Having spent the first 40 years of my life in Philly, I never even heard of charro beans until I moved to Texas eight years ago. I’m never too impressed with them when I order them at a restaurant because they’re usually TOO soupy. Blending part of the recipe makes all the difference.

  21. I made this tonight and followed the recipe 100%. These beans were so outstandingly delicious and I will absolutely make them again and again. I will have to change one thing only…I will have to presoak the beans. I really think it would have been a perfect dish had I done that. The beans were soft to eat but we felt they really needed to be a little softer even after cooking the for 6 1/2 hours but it was perfectly fine to eat and the taste, the flavor was delicious.

    1. Hi Regina,

      That’s a Tru slow cooker. We love the kind with removable inserts that are safe for the stovetop. You’ll see a lot of recipes on here calling for browning before slow cooking, so we love the idea of keeping everything in the same pan.

      Whatever you choose, be careful to ensure the kind you buy is safe for the stovetop!

  22. If I am going to make these the day before, is it ok to make all the way through and just reheat, or should I stop before a certain point & finish day of or ??

  23. I have made these so many times and they are without doubt my favourite, never fail beans. Easiest by far. Thanks so much.

  24. In the video, Rick mentions experimenting with different kinds of beans. I’ve read about lectin toxicity problems cooking some beans in a slow cooker. Should some types of beans be boiled for ten minutes before putting them in a slow cooker. I have red and white Anasazi beans I wanted to try in the recipe. Thanks,


  25. Wow! Rick and I are homies, ( both from Chicago.) So when look for mexican he’s the go to. But…..I added bout 1/2 pound pork rib tips and quarter pound flank steak chopped and seared in the pork Fat of rib tips,fresh Campari tomatoes packet Goya seasoning 2 cups of chicken broth (so only 5 cups water) 1 habenero minced 2 bay leaves and shot of Takillya

  26. I make these all the time with a few tweaks – I soak the beans for 8-ish hours first, cook everything on the stovetop for ~1.5-2 hours, and use an immersion blender to blend some of the beans. That way there’s one less big appliance to clean. I live in Austin and am a lifelong Texan, and these are better than any I’ve had at a restaurant.

  27. Wow. I loved these beans. I don’t like slow cookers, but I am a huge fan of cast iron Dutch ovens, so that’s what I used for this. Like Stephanie, I used an immersion blender for simplicity—and to not overdo the blended part. I happen to love the beans whole, might not even blend them next time. Soaked beans overnight just to cut the cooking time (though I might brine them next time), and followed the recipe otherwise on the stovetop. Yum yum yum. I love charro beans, and never could get them to taste as good as my favorite Mexican restaurant until now; these are better, really, because I know these don’t have MSG (Goya Sazon is full of MSG, and commonly used to perk up dishes like this.)
    So smoky and delicious without extra junk added. I love having the runny broth like in the restaurant ones; it pairs perfectly with rice in a bowl for dinner.
    This is definitely going in my rotation for regular meals! It’s probably not the healthiest with all that bacon, but I didn’t need to add cheese or sour cream or anything to enjoy it for dinner. Heck, while the rice was cooking, I kept eating the beans and broth with a spoon! I did add a handful of scallions at the end because they were in the fridge, and they give it a bit of fresh onion contrast. The beans are creamy, the broth divine, and the whole thing kind of magical, with such simple ingredients.

  28. This is a gorgeous way to make pinto beans. I’ve been trying to achieve this taste forever, and this recipe does it for me. Ive made 1/2 amounts twice (cutting away a bit of the bacon fat, bit otherwise faithful to the recipe. No craziness about when and if to add salt and the health benefits of soaking beans, blah, blah, blah. Just follow the recipe as is. I’m wondering if anyone has made it with black beans? It looks like Rick has those as an option.

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