In The Kitchen: Crockpot UnFried Pinto Beans

· by delijan · Read in about 4 min · (819 words) ·

Do you buy canned refried beans? A lot of people do because they can’t figure out how to make a good, homemade version. But, if you make them yourself, you can control exactly what goes in them and make a healthier version. You’ll also save money, because dried beans are a lot less expensive than canned!

I make all my beans in the crock pot. I find it much easier and they require minimal babysitting. My method skips the soaking, so from dried to done is usually faster, too.

I start them at night, right after dinner (I started these at 7 pm.) The instructions below are for over-night cooking, but I will also give you the amount of time for each step so you can decide what works for you.

Here’s what you need.

Basic Pinto Beans Setup




dry pinto beans, cleaned

Epazote or Kombu seaweed

olive or canola oil



I’m using a 5-quart crock pot here. It has the following settings: Low, High, Warm and Off. If you don’t know what size your crock pot is, pour water, one quart at a time into it and count how many quarts it takes to fill it to one inch below the rim.

The amount of beans you need is 1 cup per quart, plus some extra. In my case, I use 5-12 to 6 cups of beans.

Wash the beans thoroughly. Throw away any damaged, soft or weird beans. Make sure there aren’t any rocks in them.

Put the wet beans in the crock pot and fill it with water. Give it a quick stir with your clean hands. When the water settles, look in the pot and see if there are any “floaters”, as shown below.

Basic Pinto Beans With Floaters

See them around the edges? Those beans are no good. Fish them out with your hand and throw them away. Keep stirring and picking out dead beans until there are no more “floaters”.

Basic Pinto Beans Without Floaters

Now add 1 teaspoon of the Epazote or a 3-inch strip of Kombu. Both of these help break down the indigestible sugars in the beans. For pintos, I use the Epazote. Either one will work.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil for each 2 cups of beans.

Basic Pinto Beans with Additions

At this point, you can also add any dry spices you want, except for salt, if you want to flavor the beans. I’m not adding anything else to mine right now because I want to use the cooked beans in a variety of recipes. I will add the seasoning when I make the items.

Stir everything together and put the cover on the pot.

Set the temperature control to High.

When you go to bed, give the beans a quick stir and set the temperature to Low.

When you get up in the morning, stir the beans thoroughly. Add more water if you think it’s needed. Set the temperature on high and cook until the beans are cooked all the way through. If you want to add salt, do it after the beans are cooked.

Here are my finished beans.

Finished Basic Pinto Beans

It’s really that easy!

To turn these into refried beans, all you need to do is mash them. You can “fry” them in a shallow pan, small amounts at a time, if you wish, but we don’t usually bother. They work fine just mashed.


The first step, on High is 2 hours.

The second step, on Low is 8 hours.

The last step is from 1-12 to 3 hours (or possibly more) depending on the amount of beans you are cooking, the kind of bean, and how fresh they are.

Older beans can often take a long time to cook. If, after cooking on high for 3 or more hours they are still dry and hard in the center, they may be really old. Really old beans may never get soft.

This works with any kind of regular bean: black, pinto, adzuki, navy, etc.

Note: Dry kidney beans require different technique because they must be properly prepared to neutralize the high amount of Phytohaemagglutinin they contain. They must be soaked for at least 5 hours and then vigorously boiled for at least 10 minutes to neutralize the toxin.

Don’t skip the oil! There is a two-fold reason for it. The first is that it makes the beans creamy instead of just having boring beans floating around in pale water. The second reason is that it keeps them from sticking to the pot when you’re cooking them. The first is important, the second is a happy benefit!

Cooked beans freeze well. I always make a full pot and then freeze them in 2-cup containers. That’s a good size when making a meal for two people!


These came out so good, I ate some of them for breakfast with some of the ingredients leftover from Saturday night’s dinner! So that cup didn’t make it to the freezer, LOL!