A Pot of Beans


When I was growing up, we used to have a pot of pinto beans and cornbread on a regular basis. That was dinner–the whole dinner. Pinto beans and cornbread. And it’s one of the best dinners in the world. However, I’ve since discovered that some people find this meal plan bizarre not to mention completely unappealing.

Maybe they’ve never had good beans.

And so for those of you who didn’t grow up around a pot of beans on the stove, I’m gonna show you how to cook a good pot of beans. For those of you who did, I want to hear about your beans! There are plenty of different ways to cook a pot of beans and season it up. This is just how I do it, not the only way.
Dry beans, purchased in bulk–I never buy smaller than a 10-pound bag–are cheap, cheap, cheap! And think of all the meals you can get out of one big pot of beans. My usual routine goes like this: First night, beans and cornbread. Second night, the beans go into a pot of chili. After that, refried beans for burritos. Sometimes the beans end up in stews, too.

To start a pot, rinse and sort the beans (unless using beans that don’t require pre-soaking). You can use a colander, or you can just use the pot you’re going to cook the beans in. I’m pretty lazy, so I usually don’t get out the colander. Either measure out the beans if you want or just pour the beans into the pot straight out of the bag.

I buy beans in huge bags, so I usually scoop them out with a one-cup measure. I scooped out five cups for this pot. That’ll get me my first night of beans and cornbread plus some chili and refried beans later on.
I’m from the suburbs and we’re phobic about dirt there. We’ve got our dirt all under control in the suburbs. Dry beans can be dirty. Every bag of beans is different. I’ve found actual clods of dirt in a bag of beans before. I’ve even found tiny rocks in the beans. So I’m really paranoid. After I put the beans in the pot, I put the pot in the sink and run cold water into it.
As I’m running the water, I swirl the beans around with my hands, loosening dirt and looking for tiny rocks. (Most of the time I don’t find rocks, by the way. That’s rare. I just don’t want to miss one. I’m paranoid….) Then I put the lid on the pot enough to hold the beans in and I drain the water out.

I repeat this rinsing, sorting process three times. (Because I’m paranoid.)

Most commonly-used beans like pinto beans, white beans, kidney beans, black beans etc require soaking before cooking. There are a few types of beans that don’t require soaking, such as lentils and split peas. Beans and cornbread in the country most often means pinto beans, and that’s what I’m using here, but the same soak method applies to other types of beans that require soaking.

Long soak: Rinse and sort beans. Place beans in a large pot and cover with water. Cover with a lid. Let sit at room temperature overnight (or at least six hours).

Quick soak: Rinse and sort beans. Place beans in a large pot and cover with water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Leave covered and let sit one hour.

I use the quick soak method almost all the time, though the long soak method is considered to be ideal. (It’s supposed to make the beans easier to digest, so if you have trouble with beans, you might want to plan on the long soak.)

After one hour, you can either continue and cook the beans with the bean water currently in the pot, or drain the water out and replace with fresh. (What do you think I do? Have I mentioned that I’m paranoid? You know if there was one speck of dirt left, the soaking process loosened it up and now I can drain it out! Yes, I know, I’m also draining out some delicious, nutritious bean water. And possibly some dirt! I can’t help it. You do what you want.) Either way, make sure there is enough water to cover your beans by a couple of inches. The beans will have plumped up in soaking, so even if you prefer to leave the bean water as is without draining, you will probably still need to add water.

To cook, bring the beans to a boil again then turn down to a simmer. Keep covered while cooking.
But first–now’s the time for the good stuff! If I have a ham bone handy, it goes in the pot. Whatever meat is left on the bone will come off in tender pieces. (Remove the bone after the meat falls off, at the end of the bean cooking time. I let it cool then give it to Coco. She loves that!) If I don’t have a ham bone handy, six slices of peppered bacon go in there. If I really have absolutely nothing, then at least some reserved bacon grease goes in. But, seriously, that’s pretty desperate. You just don’t want to cook a pot of beans without some ham or bacon. You can cut the bacon slices up before you put them in, but that’s not necessary as the bacon will pretty much fall to pieces during cooking. (And yes, you put the bacon in uncooked. It will cook in the pot with the beans.)

I didn’t have a ham bone handy yesterday.

If you’re a vegetarian, you can skip this whole step and please forgive me for all this ham and bacon talk.

Most country-style bean cooks will put in a ham bone or some bacon, but after that, it gets really individual, and I’d love to hear about how all of you who cook beans season yours. What I put in my beans varies at times, but usually I’ll put in garlic powder and chili powder for sure. Often I also put in some ground red pepper and sometimes red pepper flakes. I also usually put in a roughly-chopped onion (unless I’m out of onions or unless Morgan’s watching because she hates onions) and sometimes also some chopped fresh (or in the winter, frozen) peppers, sometimes hot, sometimes mild, depending on what I have available to me.

I like my beans to be spicy, so I go pretty heavy on the seasonings. How much you need depends on how big a pot of beans you’re making, but for the size pot I made here (starting with 5 cups dry beans), I started out with a couple teaspoons each of garlic powder, chili powder, and ground red pepper (plus a chopped onion and some sliced hot peppers).

If I have some hot peppers to put in, then I skip the red pepper flakes. I was the lucky recipient this week of two big bags of peppers, the last picking from my cousin’s and Georgia’s garden.
I sliced up three large hot peppers and put them in the pot, seeds and all.
If this is your first time to make a pot of beans, season it up lightly to begin with. Later in the cooking process, when the beans get soft enough to taste, you can test it and add more seasonings if needed. As you cook beans over time, you’ll get a better idea of how much and what type of seasonings suit you. Experiment!

Don’t add salt until the last 30 minutes of cooking. Adding salt directly too early will make your beans tough and they’ll never soften up right no matter how long you cook them. Plus, if you’ve got a ham bone or bacon in the pot, there’s a lot of salt hiding right there. It takes time as the beans simmer for the salt from the meat to permeate the beans. You don’t know how salty your pot of beans already is until you give it time. When the beans are soft and close to ready for serving, test the beans and add salt, and other additional seasonings, until you’re satisfied.

A big pot of beans takes anywhere from four to six hours (or more) of simmer time. Test your beans periodically as your time will vary, from pot to pot, depending on various minor factors. If you find your water getting low in the pot, just add more. (I add it hot.) You always want the beans covered with water while cooking.

When I was a kid, I always put ketchup on beans. A travesty, I know. I was a child, what can I say. However, I will confess that occasionally, even now, for old times’ sake, I put ketchup on my beans. I usually regret it because it completely spoils all the flavor, but it’s an occasional irresistibly nostalgic temptation. Every once in a while, I’ll put sour cream and shredded cheese on top of a bowl of beans, too. This is really yummy! Most of the time, I eat them straight as they come out of the pot because they are so good just like that.

You can also cook beans in a crock pot on low. They still need to be soaked first. If you cook beans in a pressure cooker, you can get a pot ready in about 30 minutes! But, I’ve never used my pressure cooker for beans and unless I run into a Bean Emergency (!), I never will. I don’t use my crock pot either, though that’s handy if you’re going off to work all day. In that case, I’d suggest cooking your beans on the weekend. You’ll enjoy it more. There’s just nothing like beans simmering in a big pot on the stove all day.
That, and a pan of hot, fresh cornbread coming out of the oven.
You know you’re home.

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  1. Sheila Z says:

    My mother made beans like this about once a week when I was growing up. Only she raised her beans (French’s Horticultural was the variety) in the garden. My mother often mixed beans with corn and added some salt, pepper, butter and that along with homemade bread and butter was a meal. Oh, we always had large glasses of whole milk (my grandparents had a dairy farm) with it too. Sounds simple, but if you are hungry it tastes pretty good. I’m lazy and buy the beans in a 25 lb bag. My family prefers black beans over pinto, but we eat both. Beans in any form are good eating.

  2. wammy says:

    What about the friend potatoes? We ALWAYS have beans, cornbread and fried potatoes. Sometimes we mix pinto and navy beans together. YUMMMMM I’m thinking beans for dinner tonight. Comfort food for me! :shimmy:

  3. KateS says:

    I made chili the other night and had almost all the kids over. My sons in law were talking – they didn’t have raw chopped celery sprinkled on their chili – or relish on their ham and beans till they joined our family. Poor children!!!! :shocked:

  4. shirley says:

    A few years ago, we were having it rough money wise. Christmas was coming and I bought a ham on special for $.99 a pound.About a week before Christmas, we baked the ham and ate it because it was just so tempting, sitting there in the refrigerator and we were hungry! ๐Ÿ˜†
    I cooked a big pot of pintos with the ham bone for Christmas dinner and made a pan of cornbread.
    When we sat down to eat, we said a prayer of thanks for the poor pig that gave his life so we could have pre-Christmas dinner and Christmas dinner. :pinkpig:

  5. Tracey In Paradise Pa. says:


  6. Ann in TN says:

    Gotta have the sliced tomatoes to go with the beans, too.

    I usually do dried mixed beans. I do mine in the crock pot with ham hock. That’s all the seasoning I use. We eat our beans with sliced tomatoes,chow chow,cole slaw and hot buttered cornbread. Since I don’t mind if my food mixes, I usually have all of that in the bowl together. :hungry:

    In the past I’ve also fixed either fried potatoes or mac and cheese as sides. It’s all good no matter what you eat with your beans! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Julie Curtis says:

    We ate a lot of beans in our lean years. They’re cheap, good and most of all good for you. We love a good pot of beans and some cornbread. I usually add a chopped up onion to my pot. I usually only season them with salt and pepper, but every once in awhile I’ll add some other stuff. My husband loves pintos and my favorite is the large lima beans. We like to have some homemade macaroni and cheese with ours. We like fried potatos too. The soft kind. We call them “greasy taters”. Talk about some starch!!! But it’s soooo good! My Momma used to sometimes add some browned hamburger meat and onions and lots of chili powder to the beans. I’m making a pot tomorrow!

  8. Christine says:

    Mmmmmm, I’ll bet that’s good! This is one of my favorite meals of all time. Talk about comfort food. The only thing you forgot was to add a little maple syrup to your cornbread to contrast the spicy with the sweet. Mmmm, I think I’m going to have to soak some beans tonight.

    If you want a bean recipe no man will ever turn down you can find mine at https://frontporchindiana.blogspot.com/2008/10/he-knew-beans-about-beans.html, the guys around here practically fight over it.

  9. CindyP says:

    The perfect comfort food…….I think that’s because it was weekly meal at home, and I think of home as a child when it’s cooking. We always used smoked ham hock — it’s hard to find here, every once in a while they will have some in the store, so I but about 6 of them (I only get 4 with my pig I get for the freezer!).

    Us kids and dad always put ketchup in ours (I think b/c dad did) and to this day I cannot eat bean soup without ketchup, it’s just too blah! I’m going to try cooking some beans up with some tomatoes. Also, Dad now cooks his with a bottle of BBQ sauce added. May try that too! Mom always just put raw onions on top of hers.

    And with your cornbread recipe, this is a favorite meal here (not because of frugality, just because it’s GOOD!)

  10. Blaze says:

    Tastey! :hungry:
    We’ve found a nice addition to beans and cornbread. Sausage Cornbread.
    We use Jimmy Dean Maple sausage.
    You fry it up, drain it. Mix your cornbread then chop up the sausage and add it to the mix, stir and pour into pan.
    Its really good. We like it by itself even!

  11. KImL says:

    I actually am planning on cooking pintos tonight! Now I’m really ready for them! I read a cooking tip once that saves the hours and hours of cooking and it works for me every time. After cleaning/rinsing, cover the beans with cold water and add a tablespoon of baking soda, bring to a boil (medium heat) and let it boil for about 3 minutes (you do have to keep a close eye on it, baking soda and beans are like baking soda and vinegar, it can be quite messy if it boils over. After the 3 minutes turn off heat, cover the beans and let them sit for about 1 hour, drain, rinse well to get the baking soda off and then add clean water. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and simmer for apx 1 hour. Of course, depending on your elevation you may have to cook it more or less. The beans turn out perfect every time for me, so I hope it can work for y’all! :hungry:
    Also, sometimes I use Hearty Bean Seasoning from Alison’s Pantry and it is very good! No extra salt needed.


  12. Susan says:

    I keep a smoked turkey leg or wing in the freezer to pop into my beans — good smoky flavor, and less fat. I also like to add grated carrot and finely diced celery at the beginning of the cooking to get in some extra veggies. Cornbread is awesome, but sometimes I make homemade tortillas to scoop up the beans and “pot likker”. YUM.. now I know what I’m cooking this weekend!

  13. Elaine says:

    I grew up in a non bean household but my husband grew up in a pot on the stove all the time household. I am trying to embrace the beans. On another note. Susanne, please don’t give your dogs cooked bones. They will splinter if they are cooked. I know you are thinking that I always do that and nothing has ever happened. I think you have been lucky if that is the case. Raw bones are fine cooked bones are changed and will splinter. Just FYI.

  14. monica says:

    :hungry: Beans are quickly becoming a favorite in our household. I use the quick soak method, but let them soak for a bit longer than just an hour. I use a covered casserole dish or roasting pan in the oven. We like a sweeter sauce, rather than spicy hot–molasses, brown sugar or maple syrup. The last few minutes in the oven, I often add a pack of hot dogs and we have a feast. I think this would be fun to try camping, but Hubby doesn’t want to stay around camp all day to tend the fire with me. :hissyfit: I see a pot of beans in the near future!
    P.S. I bit into a rock the first time I tried making beans–EEoow! AND
    Too long of a soak time WILL make them sprout! (don’t ask: LOL)

  15. Carolan Ivey says:

    Were we raised in the same house? ๐Ÿ™‚ My mom is a great cook but our favorite meal when I was growing up was pinto beans with fresh sweet onions on top, and her cornbread baked in a cast-iron pan. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Phyllis Ryan says:

    Growing up in the North, Cornbread was not an option, but every year that we went to the lake on vacation my Mother fixed a hugh pot of beans with ham hocks. We had those beans with every dinner for a week and wished we had more. If I loved closer I would be at your back door with a bowl and beg for some. I’d even take on “Mean Rooster” to get there.

  17. Jblank says:

    Hey I made a pot of beans today too. I used diced onion, carrot and ham in mine. I don’t discard the soak water, I water house plants with it. Cranberry beans are good too!

  18. Karen says:

    I grew up in the North, too, but we had cornbread often! With beans, too, but my mother usually made hers with Great Northern beans, not pinto, and always with a big, meaty hambone. Yum.

    For all you vegetarians, and even those of you who are either trying to eat less meat or who need to economize, beans + cornbread + dairy = a perfect protein, actually more perfect than that provided by meat. This is according to Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Lappe, a book written in the 60s or 70s on vegetarianism vs. the typical Western diet.

  19. Karen says:

    I’ve heard that the soak water, if left with the beans, can be responsible for the gas sometimes associated with cooked beans. Does anyone know about that?

    • Suzanne says:

      Yes, which is another good reason to not reuse the soak water! And I believe the main reason a long soak is considered ideal is because it’s more time for the beans to release sugars that are hard on the digestion.

  20. Janet Holt says:

    We usually use a ham bone, canned tomatoes, chopped onion and garlic. Then to season we use salt, pepper, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Sometimes a bay leaf, if I’m feeling perky and if my chinchilla hasn’t eaten them all! LOL

  21. Gayle Rogers says:

    This is a true staple in my house, for my husband at least. My kids never could get use to cornbread and beans. I put lots of chopped onions in mine.

  22. Cousin Sheryl says:

    My family loved beans-and-cornbread, too. There was always a sliced onion on the side or green onions in summer. Dad used to sprinkle a little pile of salt on the table to dip the end of his green onion in with every bite.

    My mom used ham/ham bone if she had one but usually we just used bacon grease. We always save our bacon grease in a jar in the refrigerator. Then we just use salt and pepper to season.

    I saw Alton Brown on FoodTV do a neat trick to “look” the beans for dirt/rocks. He spread his beans out on a large cookie sheet in a single layer. That way you can spot rocks or debris faster. Mom and I always “looked” our beans by pulling a handful out of the bag and hand-sorting them to the other hand while looking for junk. Then, we throw that handful in the empty pot on keep this up until we have enough beans for the meal/leftovers.

    Of course, the perfect accompaniment is STONE GROUND Corn Meal from your local supplier! Right , Suzanne? I am always suprised at the folks who don’t have a corn bread tradition in their households. Remember, this is the original American grain. This is what Squanto taught the Pilgrims to raise…corn (zia maize)! If you don’t have a local miller to get stone-ground corn meal from then find some on the Web. It is better than the “corn flour” that is sold commercially in the supermarkets.

    You have made me hungry…..these last few crisp mornings….. the changing season…..perfect for a hot, steaming bowl of beans. Mmmmmm! :hungry: :heart:

  23. Ms E says:

    I’m of the camp where you must long soak, use pork riblets, AND make the cornbread in the cast iron skillet greased w/crisco or lard. I was most distressed lately to find my favorite corn meal (Three Rivers) is no longer available. Great meal Suzanne!

  24. Heather from NC says:

    Love pintos and cornbread! Suzanne, we have the same pattern of meals when I cook a big pot of pintos (at least once a month). I thought I grew up in a bean household until I met my husband. Boy, did they eat beans at his house. I used to soak my beans overnight until one time I forgot when my mother-in-law was in town. She said it isn’t necessary so I trusted her and the beans were delish and I just stopped soaking them. I can’t tell a difference. I do rinse the heck out of them though. Sometimes I cook them on the stove but usually in the crock pot while I’m at work. I add two good blobs of bacon grease and some bay leaves and that is all until the end when I add salt and lots of black pepper to taste. Toppings include pan-fried spicy smoked sausage links, pickled hot peppers and Carolina style slaw (cabbage grated with a cheese grater, mayo, vinegar, sugar and s&P). The slaw is the best addition to beans, it adds a slight crunch and a creamy, vinegary flavor-something else I learned g=from my mother in law who never eats pintos without slaw. My kids and hubby like to crumble the cornbread in the bowl but I prefer my cornbread on the side so I can enjoy the bottom crust. Now I am starving!

  25. jane says:

    The best meal ever. I put grated cheese, then spring onions, bell pepper and cut tomatoes on top of the beans and eat with cornbread. I dont use the ham hock or bacon. I use salt and pepper, sometimes picante in them as they cook. Sweet tea and lemon seal the deal

  26. JoAnn says:

    If you are putting bacon or ham in with the beans at first that is the same thing as adding salt. I’ve added salt at the beginning and have had no troubles with the beans softening up while cooking. I tend to think that people don’t soak the beans well, or don’t cook them long enough and put the blame on salt – just MHO.

  27. Shells says:

    Suzanne … do the beans stay a bit soupy or is all the liquid absorbed??

  28. Matthew Burns says:

    Fatback, Pinto’s,
    Salt & Pepper.
    Eating beans,
    Couldn’t get any better.

    You’d better watch out putting anything other than a piece of side meat in your beans in West Virginia. I’m pretty sure that may be ground for expulsion from the state. Ya Know, we have a name for the kind of beans you made (with the peppers, onions, etc.)…it’s called soup!

    But I agree, you must have cornbread with any pot of beans. And a slice of raw onion on top (or better yet, ramps).

  29. Vicki in Michigan says:

    I sort beans on a plate before they hit the water. I’ve never (yet!) missed a rock or a clod of dirt.

    I, too, drain off the soak water.

    In addition to salt stopping the beans from getting tender, I think acid does the same thing. So if I’m going to put tomatoes, say, in a soup with beans (minestrone, mmmmmmm), I make sure the beans are cooked, first.

    Beans are often cheaper at the bulk food store.

  30. .Nancy in Iowa says:

    Oh, dear. After over 30 years in Atlanta, I still don’t like pinto beans, although I will eat the ones a close friend makes. Mom was from PA, I was born in NY, and even after the family moved to Florida in my childhood, we never had pinto beans. Mom made the yankee version of cornbread – johnny cake – baked with sugar and topped with milk. I do love other kinds of beans, especially black beans, with tomatoes, ham and garlic. And it’s that time of year to make beans and soups!!! I didn’t get around to it the last couple of years, but now in my new town I’m ready!!!

  31. Patty Hager says:

    This post intrigued me greatly as my hubby when he was living loved beans and cornbread. He like them fixed with a hamhock. I preferred being cooked in chicken broth. He liked think cornbread but I grew up with thick cornbread with butter and a spoonful of jam. So….I won him over. I cook several chicken breasts with four or five grated fine carrots and a large chopped onion. I add salt and pepper and some seasonings like garlic powder, etc. I want the chicken falling apart. Then I take the chicken out and use maybe one of breasts and cut it up fine. Add it back to the pot with white beans. I do not care for pinto beans very much. I cook it until beans are getting tender and it is a delicious meal. James ended up loving my recipe better than the one made with ham. I just never was a big pork fan so this was a good, healthy meal. Patty in Hurricane, WV

  32. Oklahoma Granny says:

    I’m going to have to fix a big pot of beans soon. We like beans, cornbread and fried potatoes and onions. YUM! When I was a kid if we had brown beans, ketchup was the condiment of choice. If we were having white beans (navy beans) my mom would put a little butter and a bit of sugar on top.

  33. Carol Langille says:

    I grew up on cornbread and beans….so did my Mama and so did her Mama. We were poor folks from Missouri and beans, at least once a week, was a filling, cheap and wonderful meal!
    But, like my Mom and Granny, I mix half pintos with half Great Northerns. I do the quick soak and then long slow simmer with either ham bone or ham hocks and lots of chopped onions. Nothing else except salt and a whole bunch of black pepper. The cornbread (not the sweet kind, heaven forbid!), some good homemade corn relish and fried potatoes and onions cooked in a cast iron skillet. There is nothing served in any fine restaurant in the world better than this meal.
    Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your recipe.

  34. JeannieB says:

    I never had pintos when I was a child, Daddy must not have liked them, but we had plenty of limas and blackeye peas. Of course cornbread and chow chow!! I make my cornbread in small cast iron frying pans too. Gona make some pintos and cornbread this weekend.

  35. Rowan Ainsley says:

    I cook mine much the same way as you. However, I use a hunk of salt pork for the seasoning.

    BTW: The rinsing, soaking overnight, and pouring out of water after boiling for 1 hour also helps to take some of the gas out of the beans.

  36. Kelly says:

    Your post has reminded me to make a pot of beans and cornbread, thanks! http://www.whatupduck.com

  37. cgReno says:

    When my father became ill and was placed in a care facility, at his request, once a week I brought a thermos of pinto beans and a square of home made cornbread. These were the last meals he and I shared. My dad was from New Mexico and pinto beans and cornbread was a staple growing up and later in our home. We were a “no soak” group, he inisited it altered the bean “juice” and only onion, ham hock and beans were allowed. I cant ever remember there not being a cast iron pot of beans boilling on the stove and a pan of cornbread in the house. Thank you for giving space to this humble, comfort food, that I grew up on and contine to prepare.

  38. wylde says:

    What!!!! Nobody mentioned the must have to go with beans? It’s GREENS of course.

  39. Linda in New Mexico says:

    I live in the Southwest and beans here are an everyday part of our cuisine. I know folks think that Mexican food is mexican food but there is a huge difference in the cuisine of say, Northern New Mexico from Southern New Mexico and all of that is different than any area of Mexico or Arizona or Texas or Colorado. With that said my Dad was from Las Vegas, New Mexico my Mother from Dyersburg, Tenn. (that makes me probably one of a few Tennamexicans in the world). Both locations…..strong bean cookers. Both locations different as night and day. Pintos NM, rinse, sort, salt pork, long slow cook and OMG not cornbread, fresh hot thick tortillas amiga. Tenn Pintos, like most of the above with “extras” added like tomatoes, corn, onion, etc and cornbread that would make you weep it was so good. Bring to a boil, let cool 1 hour and then onward and upward. The only addition to what everyone else has said is that we always add sugar, plain old white sugar when we add the salt. The cornbread/tortilla war raged for years. Cornbread is easier so my Dad just learned to make do….LOL. Wishing a happy bean and your bread of choice weekend to all. :turtle:

  40. B. Ruth says:

    Pinto beans…and turnip greens….yummmm!
    I use ham hock around the holidays..or bacon but try to keep a small piece of streaked meat for beans…
    Render out your streaked meat! Divide and save the firm pieces of meat to add to the pot…of greens and beans…
    Pour a little of the liquid fat in a pot,….add the picked and cleaned beans..(soaked or unsoaked depending if you will be digesting them around company)..water to cover…add a whole sliced onion….start the pot cooking on high…turn down to a simmer…next pour the rest of the rendered fat in another pot…pile in your sorted and washed turnip greens or mixed greens (kale, turnip, and mustard or collards) add a little water..let’um wilt… add a smaller amount of sliced onion…start on high til they wilt down good…turn down and let simmer adding water along and later a diced turnip if you have it….check, add a little water and stir beans and greens a few times while cooking,… cook in the pots until your starving…around supper time…Put on your cornbread with cracklins….Plate up your beans, turnip greens, slice a vidalia onion, a few slices of the last of the hot or bell peppers, open the prettiest jar of relish, chow chow or bread and butter pickles you have.. pour a big glass of milk…or buttermilk and chow down…appalacian style…
    We crumble up one piece of cornbread..throw on the beans…butter another piece….have the ketchup and pepper flakes ready…to change up the flavor if wanted…some like milk some like buttermilk…nothing like beans and greens….

  41. C Aultman says:

    Oh I absolutely have to put a pot of beans on right now. Hubby will be a very happy camper today.

  42. Janet says:

    When I was growing up a big pot of pinto beans was usually cooked every week. Ham hocks was usually used for seasoning. Corn bread and fried potatoes were the side dishes. I like apple butter with my pinto beans!We always poured beans out of the bag onto the kitchen table and sorted them by hand into a bowl which would be sitting in our lap. That is when we took out the rocks and bad beans. You don’t have to be paranoid about missing any of the ‘rocks’ that way.

  43. Joycee says:

    A good pot of beans, soupy and flavored with a ham bone can’t be beat. These cool days there is nothing better! Now I’m gonna have to make me some…
    joycee at grannymountain

  44. Grace says:

    My heritage is Dutch and my mom always cooked the pinto beans, fried bacon and served the beans with bacon fat and white vinegar. It was delicious. Oh, and of course, we ate the bacon too. Once in a while my grown kids ask if I could make it that way again, (I haven’t in years!).

  45. Cecelia says:

    Love adding banana pepper rings and sweet Vidalia onions to mine. I also mix in dill pickles chopped up and macaroni and tomatoes just for me, of course. Nobody else likes that combo. HA


  46. Suzette says:

    We had beans and cornbread at least once a week when I was growing up. I’ll always love ’em! I especially liked when they were freshly cooked so that they were extra juicy. I’d break my cornbread into bits and let it soak up the juice. Yum! Add a slice of extra sweet onion or two and some garden fresh tomatoes, and I’m in heaven! Oh, and homefries if there are potatoes around. Amazing!

  47. Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado' says:

    Great minds think alike. I put on a pot of beans this morning. Soaked white beans all night and started them with garlic, onion, oregano and cumin. The last hour of cooking I will add cooked diced chicken breasts, fresh roasted Hatch green chiles, jalapenos, salt and pepper. After it is served you can top it off with cheese, salsa, avocado, lime, cilantro, etc. Serve with warm flour tortillas. I grew up on pinto beans and corn bread with greens and fried potatoes. We always seasoned our beans with salt pork, ham hocks, ham bones, or kielbasa and onion. I also make Texhoma beans. After the beans are done, add browned hamburger, onion, rotel tomatoes, garlic, onions, cumin, chili powder and simmer. Ladle this over a big hunk of cornbread. Who could ask for a better meal. We also make corncakes with very thinly sliced okra mixed in. Make the batter a little thinner than normal and cook on a hot griddle. Yum! No matter how much money you have, beans and cornbread will always be at the top of my favorite meal.

  48. Shelley says:

    Hi Suzanne, I’m your neighbor just up the road in eastern Roane County. We eat pinto beans almost daily in the winter, usually with lots of homegrown peppers, onions, and garlic and mostly vegetarian. We make our cornbread in a Snak Master machine filled with lots of cheese. Yum! We buy our beans in bulk as well and keep a significant “stash”. I lost 20 pounds last winter on my “bean water diet”. BTW I’m Jack the donkey’s stepmom and also have Nigerians related to yours.

  49. Deb. says:

    geez, I haven’t had beans made like that since I was a child. And yes, I used catsup too. yum. not running to the store for beans just this minute but I will sometime. Sounds like Sunday yum to me!

  50. Jennifer says:

    Beans & cornbread was a staple of my childhood. It was indicative of the beginning of Fall & long winter nights. And until this day…I thought we were the only ones who ate them!

    As for how we seasoned our beans…well, to be honest, we didn’t. Other than salt & ham or bacon, that was it. Au naturale cowboy food. But I did hear once that if you put a shredded carrot in the pot it will help prevent gas.

    I also use my great grandmother’s iron skillet to make our cornbread – even shipped it with us here to Korea because I didn’t want to be without beans & cornbread come Fall.

    Fudge…now I’m craving it & the commissary is closed for Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving.

    I’ll just have to settle for the zucchini bread (although I wanted pumpkin bread) I’m making to give to the neighbors. Can’t find a lick of canned pumpkin anywhere over here & I think I’m just gonna have to buy it online & have it shipped. How sad is that?

    Much love from an overseas Army wife,

  51. Jan says:

    I love beans! I grew up on them too and eat them cooked with ham hock and greens. Cornbread is a must!

    This morning when I got up, I started breakfast. I went upstairs to wake my daughter and told her breakfast was almost ready. She knew I was working on a surprise meal for her and I. When she came down and saw the warm pot of leftover (large lima) beans and rice, she was so happy. : ) She and I love beans and we both agreed that they were perfect for starting your motor in the morning.

    Pintos tomorrow!

  52. Jennifer S. says:

    My Mother always called the sorting of the dried beans “looking” the beans. I guess looking them over for rocks and bad beans. I had a pot of beans and a skillet of cornbread on Monday, with leftovers last night! Beans and cornbread are supposed to make a complete protein when paired together. Can’t get much better than that!

  53. Prickle says:

    We always had “Beans and Ham Hocks” with corn bread.

  54. Nanny says:

    I think we might have been raised in the same house!!! lol
    We had beans and corn bread and oh how i still love it. My husband doesn’t…..don’t know where or how he was raised……
    I didn’t know (or I forgot) about putting the salt in the last 30 minutes. And guess what? I love ketchup on my beans…more on great northern than pinto….. Now you’ve made me very hungry!!!! Great post!!!!

  55. Kim in SD says:

    I am sitting here, right this minute, digging in to a fresh-from-the-stove & oven helping of beans & cornbread. Got up this a.m., saw your post & craved them instantly! Did the quick soak right then & there, and am reveling in the results! :eating: Didn’t have a standby cornbread recipe (other than Jiffy :no: ) so made the one from your link. Mmmmmmmmmmm, mmmm, Good! I made it sweet with Jalopenos, corn, a fresh sweet red pepper & topped with CoJack Cheese. Spiced up the beans – sweet/spicy combo works great in my book! It’s ccccold & rainy & this is just PERFECT! Thanks, Suzanne!

  56. Dessa says:

    Happy Autumn Suzanne! Hey I noticed that you are using an iron skillet to cook your corn bread in. I have three iron skillets that I love and I am working on getting them all seasoned but I am really curious as to what method you use to season yours and keep them that way. Thanks…and once again, just love your site.

  57. Kelli B says:

    I live in Michigan (I know, Yankee), but my people are from Virginia. I grew up eating pintos and cornbread too. I had to convert my husband. He referred to the meal as “hillbilly” beans. Now that we have teenage sons, he appreciates the cheap, filling, nutrituous meal! And by the way, I had opportunity to visit West Virgina this summer and I want to pack up and move there as soon as possible. I have never been anywhere that moved me quite so much!

  58. Claudia W says:

    I LOVE Northern Whites. Well, I love beans in general, but I always pick up the Northerns. I do all the pre stuff to them and then put the beans in my crock pot, with water to cover a couple of small smoked ham hocks and can of stewed tomatoes, onions and a generous sprinkling of garlic and set it on high all day while I am at work. When I come home I fish out the ham hocks and let them cool a bit before I pick off the good meat. The I taste the beans and add salt a pepper to taste. Put a pan of cornbread in the oven and I am ready for a cool fall night!
    I’m going to have to go set my beans to soaking…you’ve made me hungry for beans!

  59. Claudia W says:

    I’m tired…while I was waiting for my comment to go through I looked up and read A Pot of Beans in the Road! Just thought that was funny!

  60. Vicki says:

    Hi there Suzanne, I am a visitor to your blog from New Zealand – a bit of a way from Virginia huh! I am thoroughly enjoying your site and have been right through it I think. I have been to the US a few times and until discovering your site thought that all Americans just made their food from pre made mixes from the supermarket. We don’t have things like cookie dough in the shops, we have to make our own. I used to wish we did have that stuff but not anymore. I love to be able to cook and bake for my kids – I think it is a dying art with so many convenience foods now the norm!! My husband and I have just bought a small farmlet and will be moving in a few weeks. It has a huge vege garden and dozens of fruit trees so I think your recipies are going to come in very handy!! Not sure about beans though, not something we eat very much of here I have to say although it sounds like a good, hearty and cheap meal.

  61. Rick Maitri says:

    Reading this at 7 a.m. and I’m ready for a pot of beans. We used to have a pot o’ beans with cornbread at least once a week, and when in season, a mess of lettuce and onions to go with it. Makes me miss Granny all the more.

  62. Cindy in Indiana says:

    Okay, Suzanne, I have a pot of “your” pintos simmering away this morning. My hubby is from Virginia and loves beans and he said we’d give them a try. High praise! We are down to the last of the peppers in the garden and the early ones are in the freezer!

    Love your blog and read every day though I don’t comment a lot.


  63. MissyinWV says:

    I also grew up on pinto beans…sometimes we mix em with white beans. But my seasonings are much more basic. Always includes some liquid smoke, which is awesome in every bean even green beans..and great if you have no meat to add. I add onion, salt and pepper. And we love them. Last week I made a pot of beans and sauted onion and garlic in butter in a pan then added it to my beans and that was really good too.

  64. Cindy in Indiana says:

    My Virginia born hubby told me to tell you that those beans are “perfect!” Thanks for posting…no more boring pintos for us. :hungry:

  65. Shells says:

    Got home from night shift, threw everything into the crock pot (soaked the beans overnight) and here it is mid afternoon and the smell of the beans wafting into my bedroom woke me … they are delicious, I am in love.

  66. Amber says:

    I was going to make chili today…but I think I will start with a pot of beans and cornbread….I am now starving, and it is only eight in the morning!!! Thank you for making me very hungry…

  67. Genny says:

    I grew up in New York, so when I make beans, they’re more like baked beans. I use Great Northerns, sort them, rinse them, chop up an onion, and throw in a hambone or some ham. I put in some Worcesterhsire, ketchup, mustard and then boil until they’re tender. Once they’re almost ready, I salt and add brown sugar to taste. When I make other beans, it’s blacked-eyed peas with canned tomatoes, onion, green pepper. I cut up some sausage (any kind) and throw it in. Salt to taste. Sometimes we eat these over rice. My kids loved them growing up. And my sons-in-law said, where’s the rest of the dinner? LOL!

  68. Gma Judy says:

    I grew up in Indiana in the early 40’s. My mother ALWAYS did the wash on Monday and the ironing on Tuesday. And she never did the wash without a pot of Great Northern beans on the stove. I didn’t cook them every week as my children were growing up, but I did cook them often. Unfortunately, they were never as fond of them as I was. And I never eat them without ketchup. When I see beans and cornbread on the menu at a restaurant, I always order them. And I get strange looks when I ask for the ketchup. I wonder where this tradition came from?

    Thank you Suzanne for these memories. I have a pot of beans on the stove right now and a pan of cornbread ready to put in the oven. I live alone now, and I will be able to eat my fill for the rest of the week.

  69. Tina Williams says:

    Also great added to cheese, salsa, rice wrapped in a burrito and frozen. Reheat in mocrowave for great lunch at work . Add home made chili verde to my husbands as he NEEDS meat :yes:

  70. TizzyinKY says:

    Dad was the bean fixer in our home. Just soaked beans and bacon (sometimes). He poured out have the soak water and added more to cook saying you throw away the flavor! We always had fried potatoes, greens and cornbread. I guess it was to extend the meal further in those hard times, but he also made tomato pudding… in saucepan a quart of tomatoes, chopped, a spoonful of sugar, and sliced bread torn into hunks. Simmer until the juice is absorbed by the tomato juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper. My children say yuck, but my husband and I like it.

  71. Mary Ronan says:

    Hi, enjoyed your bean ideas. I’ve graduated from Pinto to Peruano (Mayacopa)beans. They are the most creamy, delicious beans I’ve ever tasted. Anyway, I do use a slow cooker, and do not pre-soak the beans. They come out perfect! I do cook a smoked turkey leg in a pot of water until it is falling off the bone. This then I put in with the beans when they begin to get done. Water and all. When the beans are done, I separate the meat from the bone. It’s absolutely delicious! (I too liked ketsup on my beans-on top of a slice of buttered bread spread with a little mustard and then topped with finely chopped onions! YUM) Thanks!!

  72. Brenda Keel says:

    Oh how wonderful. I was raised on Pinto Beans and corn bread.:) I just got up from a table where tonight was the second meal with my pinto beans. I loved all of the great ideas that you shared for the left over beans and I really appreciate you sharing about how you buy and cook yours.
    Be Blessed.

  73. Jean in Wa. says:

    I was also raised on pinto beans and cornbread. we lived in Texas and were very poor,my Mama put a pot of beans on to cook every morning while she was making biscuits (that she made every morning) We always had them with fried potatoes, green onions and iced tea. Sometimes we would get some fried meat to go with them , but not all the time. When we were little Grandaddy would “mash” our beans mixed with the cornbread for us..lol, he was the best bean masher ๐Ÿ˜› we would wait patiently as he mashed one plate at a time for us. Mama usually cooked them with salt pork.. but if we had a ham hock she used that or bacon ends, as we always had the slab bacon, not sliced. They always had chopped onion in them. spices were salt and pepper, chili powder. The cornbread (never sweet) was cooked in a large cast iron skillet in bacon fat. Yum. I still love them and my daughter loves them as much as I do. My son..not so much. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  74. Theresa says:

    Being of a Cajun descent, my Papa grew up on beans. Almost EVERY meal. There were 8 kids in his family and beans and rice were cheap. Combine those with whatever fish they caught for the day and you had dinner. We all grew up around pots of beans too. Of course, the two we saw the most often… well… pretty much exclusively were red beans with andoui sausage and white beans with ham. Rather than served with cornbread, ours were always served over rice… and sometimes Momma would drizzle a little honey over the red beans so the sweet would help cut the spicy sausage. Yum! The hubby grew up on pintos and corn bread and we do pots of beans all the time. It’s good, simple comfort food. Oh yeah… and it’s cheap! LOL

  75. Joy says:

    Well, being from the upper Midwest,I tried beans this weekend…yah. Not gonna happen around here, but it DID prove a significant find in that I drained the beans, pulled out the large, chunky additions (mostly bacon) and froze them in 2 cup measures to add to my pot of chili, which I am FOREVER having to run up the the store to get cuz I forgot to pick them up. I think cooking a batch and freezing them for future use was…BRILLIANT! I also pulled out a cup before I seasoned them and made Pinto Bean bread (a recipe I googled). I had a recipe for that 20 years ago but mislaid it. thank goodness for the internet!! And thanks for sharing about beans~! I definitely do NOT have southern taste buds, but was able to make use of the idea! :happyflower:

  76. Leland says:

    My elementary school served beans and cornbread every week for lunch and my parents cooked them at home too. Now it is one of my families favorite meal. I start my beans (usually a mix of red and pinto) with one whole chopped onion, smoked ham hocks, and red and black pepper. I adjust for salt at the end after many taste tests. I usually will chop an onion for a topping. My daughter calls it “sprinkle onion”, fry some okra or potatoes and onion, and of course make a pan of cornbread. Add some jalapenos too. Thanks for celebrating this wonderful meal on your website.

  77. Sheila says:

    We lived in the city but my mom grew up in the country (Ky) and I remember having beans , fried potatoes and cornbread at least once a week for dinner (my dad wasn’t crazy about it but my older sister and I loved it) :hungry: .

  78. Tom Heetderks says:

    From a great tune by Lyle Lovett “To the Lord, praises be!! we got some beans, and some good corn bread!! it’s time for dinner now, lets go eat!”
    Just got back from Austin- and fell in love with charro mexican pinto beans. My favorite way to cook beans now.

  79. Sheila says:

    I was born in chicago and my mom was born in Ky , I remember at least once a week or every other week we’d have beans , cornbread and fried taters , my mom would sometimes put sliced tomatos in the beans for my dad (my older sister and I would pick them out LOL), I would always eat more than my fair share of the cornbread and taters and mom , dad and older sister would chow on the beans LOL.

  80. MalagaCove says:

    I did NOT grow up in a household where beans were a regular thing. Beans were what Dad made sometimes, from a can, on the weekend, when the housekeeper wasn’t there. We’d eat baked beans & brown bread and that was dinner.

    I’m intrigued, I’ll have to try this!

    But lately? I’ve been craving bean SOUP. I’d already decided to make some this weekend. We’ve been eating roasted pepper soup, as I found a bargain on the not quite perfect red peppers. One of these days, I’ll post that recipe. (I had it all ready, got disstracted and now can’t find the file!)

    I’m envious of being able to buy beans in packages larger than one pound! Anyone know a place in/near Boston where you can buy 10 or 25 lb bags of beans? (I’ll travel!)


  81. PaulaA says:

    Loved coming across this post nearly 4 years late! 84 stories added to the post! So cool! Kinda proves how important bean culture is. I cook other kinds sometimes, but what I always crave are pintos. I didn’t learn to put in a ham hock until I was grown, my mother and grandmothers all just used fat back, and if Grandmother could get them, we’d have cracklin corn bread. My mother loved to make them in her new-fangled pressure cooker. Sometimes I dress them up with veggies and spices (mostly so my PNW husband will think he’s eating Mexican insead of Southern) and sometimes I just use liquid smoke and salt. Granny made chowchow, and that’s about the finest accompaniment. But now I can only get it if I haul it across the country in my suitcase!
    I still eat ketchup on big lima beans, but all I need with pintos is a hunk of buttered cornbread at the bottom of the BIG bowl.

  82. Amber says:

    This was a staple for me growing up, except it was made as simply as you can get: just beans, a ham bone, lots of salt, and shortening (I suspect that once upon a time, it was lard. Now we just use Crisco). Instead of corn bread, though, we made what my mom’s family always called “wholecake bread.” It’s some combination of flour, salt, water, and baking soda, and then you fry it in bacon grease in a cast iron skillet. It comes out as this thick, somewhat dense round of bread, that I assume is a combination of “hoecake bread” and Indian fry bread. I never did get the recipe for either of them off of Mom, and unfortunately she just passed away a little over a month ago (funny how you keep putting off asking things or writing them down, and then suddenly it’s too late). At the moment, I’m attempting to cook a pot of beans–my second attempt! Here’s hoping they turn out as well as hers did!

  83. HFleitz says:

    Tonight my family had beans and cornbread as a meal for the very first time – and we all loved it! I had no idea how filling it would be. My 13 year old son only had one bowl full of cornbread and beans – cheap and filling, that’s the way to go. He griped about wanting more and not having enough space to put it! Thanks to everyone who commented and explained how wonderful this simple meal can be.

  84. bumblebee says:

    I LOVED reading this thread and glad someone pulled it up again to enjoy! SO many different ways to cook the beans and so interesting as well. Thanks to all for the shares of family recipes. Am craving this now! YUM!

  85. caroline says:

    I grew up in a culturally Jewish home in NYC in the 1960’s. “Beans” were B&M Baked Beans (seasoned with both French’s Mustard (the bright yellow stuff) & Heinz Ketchup. One of my grandmothers was a native New Englander; this was the only variety she would approve. Raising my own kids, I did try to make New England Baked Beans from scratch (using ham bones and molasses, and, yes, the mustard and ketchup). Then several years ago, we read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, where “Guernsey Bean Pot” was described. HAD to try that, and oh my, it was good. True comfort food. Thin it, and there’s bean soup. The problem we encountered was getting consistently good ham. And then (more than seven years after the original post) I read Suzanne’s comment that bacon works. Why that hadn’t occurred to me, I don’t know, but it hadn’t. And we DO have a brand of bacon that is consistent. I HAD to try it. I used: 1 lb Maine Yellow Eye beans (de-pebbled and rinsed), 6 c water, 1 lb of our favorite bacon, 1 TB garlic powder, 1/2 c. dehydrated chopped onion; pressure cooked 90 minutes. Food heaven. Thanks, everyone, for posting. This could become our go-to winter comfort food.

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