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How to cook canned pinto beans (5 ways!)

Canned pinto beans are a quick way to get protein and fiber into your diet when there’s no time for a slow simmered pot. See how easy it is to warm up a can, add some spices and dig in deliciously

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Cooking canned pinto beans is almost a contradiction of words. Canned pinto beans are, in fact, precooked and safe to consume directly from the can. But, many people continue to “cook” them to enhance the flavor and texture of the beans. In this guide, you will learn how to prepare pinto beans on the stovetop, in the oven, and the instant pot.

Canned beans are a handy convenience item to keep in your pantry. They can be used as salad toppings, added protein to a vegetarian or vegan recipe, or incorporated into a relish or salsa. 

The great thing about canned beans is that they are precooked, so they can be eaten as soon as the can has been opened. Unlike dried beans, they do not require hours of soaking in water before they can be used in a recipe.

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    While the convenience factor is wonderful, canned pinto beans leave a lot to be desired. Cooking, or “warming”, the pintos, allows you to season and enhance the flavors of this mild bean. Plus, the added heat softens the pinto for the creamy texture we all love.

    What is a pinto bean? 

    Pinto beans are most commonly used in Mexican cuisine as refried beans or Charro beans and in many chilis, dips, soups, and stews. 

    The dried version is light-colored with black speckles and becomes a dark pinkish-tan when cooked. 

    Whether prepared from dried or canned, they are known for their creamy texture and mild flavor. White Great Northern Beans or Navy Beans are often used as substitutes because of their similarities. 

    How do you cook beans from a can?

    Since canned beans are pre-cooked, it’s not necessary to “cook” pinto beans before serving. It’s just a matter of heating the beans until they are warm enough to eat. But, if you want to add additional flavors to your pot of beans, then simmering on the stove or slow cooking is your best bet.

    Know your serving size and plan accordingly

    One can of pinto beans usually feeds two people. That’s about one cup per person. If you have several other side dishes, plan for each person to eat less. If pinto beans are the main dish, make more than one can.

    Should you rinse canned pinto beans before cooking?

    Depending on the recipe, you may want to rinse your beans before using them. Rinsing the beans will remove excess salt, starch and the metallic flavor they can take on from the can itself.

    However, the liquid in canned beans can be used to thicken up a pot of soup or chili if desired. There’s not a hard and fast rule for rinsing vs. not rinsing. It’s a matter of personal preference, and what recipe you’re making.

    Method 1: On the Stove

    Reheating beans on the stove is very simple. For this method, you need to rinse the beans. 

    For every can of pinto beans, add a half cup of water or broth. Broth is going to taste better, so go with that if you can. Warm the beans over medium-low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. 

    They are ready to serve when the liquid begins to bubble and the beans are heated through. This usually takes about 10 minutes.

    a strainer with rinsed pinto beans over a bowl

    Method 2: Oven

    Preparing canned pinto beans in the oven is a great way to free up stove space and give those beans some flavor. Rinse your beans for this recipe, and replace that liquid with water or broth.

    In an 8×8 glass casserole, add in at least 2 cans of rinsed, canned pinto beans and season as desired (ideas below!). Then, place in a 325F degree oven until they are bubbling around the edges and heated through about 20 to 25 minutes.  Whatever stock or water you added should be reduced a bit and thickened.

    This method gives the bean a soft and creamy texture.

    Method 3: Slow cooker

    Using a slow cooker will yield similar results as the oven method. This is a great way to prepare a hearty side dish while you are at work.

    Simply add as many cans of rinsed and drained pinto beans as you’d like to the slow cooker, and season as desired. Add water or broth as instructed above and any spices or seasonings.

    Cook on high for about 2 hours or low for 4 hours. This method is best if you need to make lots of cans of beans. Unless you have a super small slow cooker, adding one can of beans to it will only make them burn.

    Method 4: Instant Pot 

    Preparing canned pintos in the Instant Pot (or another pressure cooker) is the best way to get a lot of flavor in a short amount of time.  Keep in mind that this method, although fast and hands off may not be ideal. Because your beans are already cooked, subjecting them to pressure in an Instant Pot may leave you with mush when you’re done.

    I recommend using this method when you are cooking more than one can of beans at a time. Otherwise, you may receive an error as the beans begin to burn. Consult your pressure cooker’s manual for minimum limits.

    Follow the same steps for seasoning. Add your beans to the cooker and pressure cook for 5 minutes on high pressure. When the cooking time is up, allow the pressure to release 5 minutes on its own, then release the remaining pressure.

    Method 5: Microwave

    Drain and rinse your pinto beans, then place them in a microwave safe container. Add water or broth and any spices or seasonings. Cover with a paper towel to catch the splatters and cook on medium power until the beans are heated through. 4 to 5 minutes should do it, just stir every minute to make sure they heat evenly.

    a can of pinto beans with the top off looking down inside

    How can I make canned pinto beans taste better?

    There are so many options to add flavor to canned pinto beans. Depending on the type of cuisine, you might want to add those specific flavors.

    Start with a little salt and pepper and season using herbs and spices you already know and love. Rosemary, thyme and minced garlic are really good in canned pinto beans.

    Spice and flavor ideas to dress up canned pinto beans

    Try these easy adjustments to boost the flavor of your beans.

    • Halved or quartered white onion
    • Uncooked bacon strips – add these right to the pot as the beans cook and remove before serving.
    • Chili powder or paprika
    • A pinch of brown sugar
    • A few cloves of minced garlic
    • Fresh herbs like sage, oregano or rosemary
    • Liquid Smoke – Just a few drops. Be careful not to overpower the natural flavors!
    • Hot sauce
    • Country ham slices added to the pot while simmering.

    Want to make pinto beans from scratch?

    If you have time to make your own pinto beans from scratch, it’s well worth the effort. We love ours with ham!

    a bowl of pinto beans with a spoon

    Great recipes to serve with pinto beans

    Try these delicious recipes with your pinto beans to round out your meal:

    a can of pinto beans with the top off looking down inside

    How to cook canned pinto beans

    Prep Time 5 minutes
    Cook Time 10 minutes
    Total Time 15 minutes
    Servings 2 people
    Author Rachel Ballard

    Ingredients
      

    Instructions
     

    • To cook beans on the stove, open the can, rinse and drain the pinto beans.
    • Transfer the beans to a small pot and add 1/2 cup water or broth.
    • Cook on medium heat until bubbling and heated through 10 minutes.

    Notes

    Note 1: Recipe nutrition information calculated with water. 
    Microwave
    Drain and rinse beans. Add 1/2 cup water or broth per can of beans and any desired seasonings. Place in a microwave safe bowl and cover with a paper towel to prevent splatters and heat on medium power four to five minutes stirring in one minute intervals until heated through. 
    Oven 
    Drain and rinse beans. Add 1/2 cup water or broth per can of beans and any desired seasonings. Bake at 325 until heated through and bubbling–20 to 25 minutes. 
    Slow Cooker
    Drain and rinse beans. Add 1/2 cup water or broth per can of beans and any desired seasonings. Cook on high 2 hours or low 4 hours.  Best with large batches of beans. 
    Instant Pot
    Drain and rinse beans. Add 1/2 cup water or broth per can of beans and any desired seasonings. Cook on high pressure 5 minutes, natural release 5 minutes then manually release the remaining pressure. 
     

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1cupCalories: 1kcalCarbohydrates: 0.1gProtein: 0.04gFat: 0.01gSodium: 3mgPotassium: 2mgFiber: 0.04gVitamin C: 0.01mgCalcium: 2mgIron: 0.01mg
    Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
    Course Side Dish
    Cuisine American
    Keyword canned pinto beans, how to cook canned pinto beans, how to make canned pinto beans taste better

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    About the Author

    Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.