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The Best Way to Cook Pinto Beans Vegetarian Style

by Kristie Brown , studioD

A staple in most Mexican and Southwestern kitchens, pinto beans are tossed into soups, layered onto tortillas and smashed to mix in with local ingredients that create a complex depth of flavors. These tasty legumes are kid-friendly as they not only taste good, but they’re good for you, too. The small, speckled beans are also budget-friendly because they cost only a few cents per serving. If you buy them in bulk and store them in a cool, dry place, it will cost even less to feed your family.

Powerhouse of Nutrition

A half-cup serving of cooked pinto beans is about 140 calories, and they are packed with fiber and protein. They are also not too shabby in the vitamin department, being excellent sources of iron, vitamin B and zinc, which growing children need to develop healthy bones, bodies and brain power.


The traditional Mexican method of cooking pintos renders them tender when they cook all day in a large pot of water. This isn’t a weeknight method, as it takes several hours to take beans from their hard form to soft perfection. If your children are used to bold flavors, make drunken pintos with a can of beer. The alcohol disappears in the heat, but the yeasty-hop flavors remain and meld well with the bean soup, bell peppers and onions. While your big pot of beans simmer, you can power through your housekeeping chores, or even better, sit down and read a couple of books with your kids.


A good way to sneak veggies into your kids’ diet is to add pureed vegetables to your favorite recipes. Bean soups, in particular, hide the addition of interloping veggies, such as pureed bell peppers, purple cabbage or tomatoes. But if your kids have long been friends with vegetables, the same chopped vegetables, or whatever you have on hand, add their own unique flavors to pintos.


It it’s Taco Tuesday night at your house, pull out the big pot of pinto beans you made on the weekend and whip up a batch of refried beans to spread on crispy tortillas for bean and cheese tacos. A healthier alternative to greasy meats stuffed into shells, the protein-rich beans mix with dairy from cheese and grains in the tortillas to provide a trifecta of nutrition. Shredded lettuce, creamy ranch dressing and diced tomatoes layer on even more flavor and nutrition.


Drained pintos make a perfect base for your favorite baked bean recipe, or when pureed with a little oil and garlic, they make a zippy Southwestern dipper for tortilla chips. That same puree is also a great spread for Thursday-night burritos, when you make it a Mexican-themed week. Vegetarian chili is delicious when your leftover beans are added to a cumin-based broth swimming in seasonal vegetables.


About the Author

Kristie Brown is a publisher, writer and editor. She has contributed to magazines, textbooks and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images