Mexico–One Plate at a Time/

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. 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.

  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.

  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!

  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!

    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.

  13. 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.

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

    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!

  17. 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.

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