Pintos and Cornbread (How to make dried beans, step by step!)

I’m not kidding when I call Pintos (or Pinto Beans) as you might know them, beloved in the south. A bowl of pintos, seasoned with ham, topped with onion, and served with a big old wedge of hot cornbread – thats just good old soul food in my neck of the woods.
Originally, this meal came about as staple in the diet of “po folks” down south. Dried beans were affordable, stored well, full of much needed protein, carbs, and fiber, and were filling enough to provide a stick-to-your-ribs meal that was greatly appreciate by people who had spent their day working the fields or other backbreaking labor.
For many Southerners these days, Pintos and Cornbread are the food of nostalgia. Mention them to my grandmother and you’ll here “MMmmmm, mmm, I just love me a bowl of pintos in the fall!”.
I’m not sure how some of you feel about this humble meal that we hold so dear, but I know one thing for certain – Nikki’s stomach will be growling when she sees this!!
Now there are several great things about dried beans. Firstly is their shelf life. Dried beans can keep almost indefinitely (My mother says they do keep indefinitely but I have never seen them last very long at my house because they are gobbled up!). They can also be an excellent source of protein, take very little to prepare, and are filling, to boot! Toss in how inexpensive they are and its easy to see why they were a depression era favorite.
Nowadays, I’ve seen several movements encouraging people to have a “meatless meal” night in their home both for health and economical purposes. Well folks, Southerners have been having meatless meals ever since the war between the states!
This method of soaking and cooking dried beans will work for any type of dried bean, not just pintos. Some of my favorite dried beans are: Lima beans (any variety of lima beans), navy beans, and of course Black Eyed Peas! Cooked beans also keep very well in the fridge with no difference in quality or taste when reheated. I often make a big pot of beans and eat them as a meal one night before serving them as sides another night or two that week!

Sort your beans. Sometimes, tiny little stones make their way into your bag of dried beans. What we want to do is carefully pour a handful at a time and look through them. I just do this as I am putting them in my pot.

Fill pot completely with water. These beans are dried and they need to be soaked overnight before we cook them. You want plenty of water because you’ll be surprised at how much your beans soak up. I have filled a bowl to the brim with water before and wake to find the beans dry again and expanded to the top of the bowl!
There are methods of quick soaking on the package which involve sorting beans, covering with water and bring to a boil as a replacement for the overnight soak. While these methods work in a pinch, I find that my beans taste the absolute best when I just think ahead and soak them overnight. After using the quick soak method a few times, I’ve found that its just not worth it for me.

Seasoning: You’re going to need some meat to season your beans if you want to make them like the Southerners do! If you’ve ever eaten a whole ham at a Southerners house you’ve probably noticed them saving the hambone and wrapping it in foil to place in the freezer. We are notorious for saving bits of ham and bones from here and there so that we always have something to season our beans with. I actually didn’t have any today! Instead, I bought an inexpensive package of ham hocks. I am only using two of these so the other two will be seasoning for beans another day!
Another great thing about seasoning your beans with ham hocks or a ham bone with ham still on it is that after your beans are cooked all the way, we take out the hocks and pick the tender meat off of them to put back into the pot. Oh my! Bits of savory ham in with these beans….oh lawd we’re eatin’ good now!

The next morning, drain off that water and cover them in new water. Fill your pot as high as you can because they are going to cook down often and you want them to remain at least covered in water.

Here comes more seasoning…now to understand how I season my beans you’d pretty much have to meet my grandmother. She is as good hearted as the day is long, but a wee bit on the absentminded side (not that I’m any different!). So I called Grandmama about ten years or so ago when I was making dried beans for the first time.

“Grandmama, Mama said to call you and get you to tell me how to season my beans. I’ve already soaked them and filled them with fresh water but now I need to know what all to add.”
 “Well, you covered them with water already?”
“Yes, covered with water already.”
“Alright, just add you a little salt and pepper, well a good bit of salt really, and then just cook ’em. That’s all I do!”.
“Thats it?”
“Yes, thats it, you don’t have to add nothing else.”
“Alright Grandmama, thanks!”

A few minutes later I got another phone call…

“You know, Christy, Mama always added some sugar. She always said a little bit of sugar was good in beans. About a tablespoon.”

A few minutes later I got ANOTHER phone call…

“and you need a bit of oil. I just always put a little bit of vegetable oil in mine. About two tablespoons or so’ll do it”

A few minutes later…

“And did you put any ham in it? Folks always season it with a little ham, you know. A ham bone or a hamhock or even a few slices of country ham if you have any in your freezer’ll do.”

So basically, every time I go to make beans I just basically go about and add everything I can think of to add and then I know they’ll be like Grandmamas – except the kitchen sink, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she started adding that in eventually.

I add one tablespoon of sugar, because my great grandmother always did like to add a “lil bit of sugar in thangs”.

Two tablespoons of salt. You will likely end up adding more but two is a good starting point.
1 tablespoon of pepper.
About three tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Now toss in your ham hock or bone or whatever you are going to use for the meat seasoning. You can do without that if you are a vegetarian…just pretend you put the ham in :). When my sister was a vegetarian, some time between her super model phase and learning to shoot a machine gun in the Army, my mother used to make pintos with ham as usual and then just hide the ham when Patti came to eat :).

Now just stir that up and bring to a boil. Once it is brought to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and simmer for several hours. I get mine on in the morning right after my son goes to school and then let it simmer all day, eating it at supper. By supper time that juice in the pot is every bit as good as the beans!!!

I ate mine with chopped onions, bits of ham from the ham hocks I used, and a big old wedge of Dixie Cornbread!!!
Nikki, what time you gonna be here?
How to Make Dried Beans

Sort your beans and place in a pot, covering with water. Let soak overnight. Drain soak water. Cover with new water. Add the following according to taste: Salt, pepper, sugar, and oil. A good rule of thumb is to start with a tablespoon of each and then taste it several hours later and add more if you think it needs it. Add one of the following for additional seasoning : Ham hock, ham bone, or slice of country ham. In a pinch, I have actually seasoned my beans with bacon before. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer for several hours. Don’t let the water get too low, just add more every few hours as it boils down.

I want to give a special thanks to Life At The Lake for a lovely blog post about Southern Plate. She is so very kind, please do go pay a visit to her beautiful blog!

If you like Southern Plate, please tell your friends and Stumble me if you are a stumbleupon user!
Have a great evening!!!
~~~~~~~~~~~~Hang on, I’m about to go off on a major tangent about my family below~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is my grandmother “Grandmama”, sitting near my brother’s tent at our recent Fiddler’s Convention.
And this is Mama, after my brother suckered her into working the BBQ Sundae/Roasted Corn booth while he ran his cooker.
And now y’all are wondering “What on earth is a BBQ Sundae?”. So this is my dad making one…If you think he looks familiar and you are or have been a police officer, you’re probably right. Also, if you have ever been arrested and his face rings a bell…..

and this is the finished product. They are soooooooooo good! Baked beans layered with slaw (its a BBQ slaw, not a mayonaise slaw), topped with pulled pork and served with a pickle sticking out! My brother has a BBQ restaurant and this is one of his specialties. He has won the Jack Daniel’s Cookoff Grand Champion for his ribs and his smoked chicken!

He also has an AMAZING BBQ sauce (because I developed it from scratch, of course!).

Do y’all think Aunt Sue (in the green shirt) is trying to get out of being photographed here?

Have a great evening!!!


Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Christy's email list and receive all her new posts directly in your inbox


  1. Clare says

    I made these beans for dinner today, and they were delicious! I’ve always been intimidated by ham hocks (yes, pig joints can be intimidating), but your step-by-step instructions gave me the nerve to try them with beans in the slow cooker. Yum yum. A few days ago I made your dutch oven bread, and I’m making sauerkraut-and-weenies on friday. At this rate I’ll work my way through all your recipes by spring! I’m from Chicago and have no southern ancestry, so this food is all new to me, but I love it!

  2. Nonna says

    I have heard that if you add salt while the beans are cooking, they will not get tender. I guess that old saying is false, since you add the salt at first with the other ingredients. If your grandmother has done it this way for years, then it must be right. Sounds delicious. I am going out to buy some!

  3. Marie says

    Great step by steps! You should try your pintos topped with mustard in addition to onions. It’s SOOOO good!! Also, my best friend made me try slices of Velveeta block cheese on top too! Two more yummy toppings for you to try

    • SweetCarol says

      We didn’t use mustard but did add pickle relish or chow chow to them. I notice that Cracker Barrel has beans and greens on the menu now and they serve the beans with corn muffins, slices of onion and a little cup of a relish. I get apple cider vinegar with the turnip greens. This and the veggie dinner are my favorites. It helps me “go back to my roots”. I don’t cook pintos often, but we do still like them. If I didn’t have meatballs and meatloaf on my to do list for tomorrow I think I might make either the Senate Beans or the pintos. Both sound so good. Got to figure on one of them sometime this week. Thanks, Christy.

  4. Susan N says

    Lots of Alabama folks like to put some small peppers in the vinegar to splash on beans and greens. When i first got a microwave, i discovered you can pack your empty hot sauce bottle with little peppers then put in vinegar and microwave for a short time, like 20-30 seconds. It keeps the peppers nice and bright color. You could probably slice some larger peppers since it is harder to find the tiny ones.
    Good job Ms. Christy!

  5. Lily says

    Hillbilly Pinto Beans

    1 package of pinto beans
    ham shoulder, it gives the bean a richer taste, cut into pieces, use the amount of ham you want and store the rest of ham for next time you cook some beans
    2 tsp ham bullion
    1 med onion, chopped
    1 small clove of garlic, cut up into small pieces
    sea salt, at the end of cooking
    black pepper at the end of cooking
    small dash of amout of liquid smoke, at end of cooking, be careful not to add to much.

    Soak beans in water over night, rinse beans and add water again set aside, in dutch oven, add ham bullion, onion clove, add ham pieces, just add the amount of ham you want, and cook for about 15. min. let cool and add pinto beans and add enough water until its about 2 inches above the beans, cover beans with a lid and cook them slow, this is what makes good beans, adding water when needed, when beans are almost done add salt, pepper, and liquid smoke serve with greens, and cornbread hope you enjoy the recipe

  6. Donna says

    I’ll have to try adding a little sugar. We cook pintos and ham quite regularly and add a can of regular Rotel to the crockpot when cooking them. Doesn’t make them hot, just another layer of flavor.

  7. Taterbug says

    I just have to say THANK YOU for this tutorial, Christy! Even though I grew up in the South, I didn’t really learn to cook Southern food until I found your website. My Mom couldn’t cook with either pork or corn because of her allergies, so whenever we had beans they were just seasoned with salt and pepper and served with white rice. They were fine, but wow what a difference adding a hambone can make! Not to mention serving them up with cornbread and pickled onions… this is one of my absolute favorite meals now. If I were back in Alabama, I’d bring you a bowl! :) Rest up and recover soon!!

  8. Bev says

    I use my crock pot (or pots I should say!) I have 8 total- from tiny to huge! I got lazy and just sort and wash my beans, peel a few big onions, throw in 2 packages of onion soup mix and turn it on high before I go to bed. When I get up the next morning, I turn it to low. (My whole house smells great- they drive you crazy at night!) For dinner, I make a pan of corn bread, and baked potatoes, or candied sweet potatoes. I started using my crock pot for beans when the kids were little- leftovers are served as a side for another meal or made into re-fried beans for Mexican night. Really can’t live without my crockpots- especially in the summer!

  9. dan says

    You almost had me convinced you could just be from Texas, but then in your article you referred to your mother as mama, where as in Texas we refer to our mothers’ as MOTHER and father as DADDY…just saying…but your beans were RIGHT ON

  10. Michelle says

    This is without a doubt the BEST beans I’ve had! I never thought to add a little sugar to them. Southerners are genius and this made me a little homesick. :) My husband and kids all agreed that these were amazing, not a single “This is all we’re having for dinner?” from anyone. They just gobbled them up. Saved the ham bone from Christmas dinner and threw that in, with a little extra Christmas ham chunks I had set aside as well for a little more substance. Happy mommy, happy family, happy tummy!

    • Karen says

      Thank you so much for posting the pinto beans recipes and all the other delicious southern recipes. My father was raised in MS and my mother in IL. My mother was raised by her grandma who didn’t want help in the kitchen. My father and his brothers were not allowed in the kitchen until time to eat. My mom learned to cook after they got married. The first time my mom visited MS, the family was sitting in the great room shelling crowder peas. My mom asked why they were shelling them. They answered they were shelling them to eat. My mom said that they gave those peas to the cows. She asked to help in the kitchen and was told to fix the okra. My mom said she would be happy to fix it if someone showed her where it was and hw to cook it. She was not well liked in my father’s family for many years. I did not grow up eating southern foods but I love them. My husband is from TN and loves pintos. I asked his mom how to cook them but I got a strange look so I just continued to eat them at her house. You have been a tremendous blessing to me and my family. I look forward to your email every day and open it first. Thanks so much for all you do.

  11. Eva says

    I love pinto beans, and will do them in my slow cooker, I don’t bother to soak and rinse them, since they go on early in the morning, I simply clean them, put them in the cooker, and add tons of water (I use my largest cooker, and usually a pound of beans,) put it on low and leave to cook all day, I never salt my beans before cooking, but have been known to put in a chunk of ham or a ham hock. Sometimes I will season them after cooking, but I usually just put out the salt and pepper and everyone seasons them in the bowl. My favourite way to eat them is to chop onion fine add to the bowl, add a good chunk of butter, and some salt and pepper, and start eating. I have been known to start them at 5 am, and they will cook until 5 pm or later on low.

  12. AJ says

    Thank you for posting the pinto beans recipe. I would love to be able to make them like my grandmother, and I think this is pretty similar, although I believe she almost always used fat back instead of ham. Cannot wait to try it with just that one alteration and pickled cauliflower and fried taters… lol and of course cornbread for the hubby. Thanks again.

  13. Kathy says

    I remember my mom cooking dry beans. She always had a small pot of water she would bring to a boil then when the water in the bean pot was getting low so she could add water without slowing down the beans cooking.

    We lived in Arkansas and didn’t have air conditioning when I was a kid so she always cooked her cornbread in the morning before it got so hot. When I was young I didn’t understand that but now I know southern women are so smart.

    I also was a picky eater. Probably didn’t eat the beans but what I would give to get to walk in her kitchen and have some beans and cornbread now. Lost my mom in 1993.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *