Looking for an authentic Mexican side dish recipe? These easy charro beans (aka frijoles charros) are exactly what you need in your life! This best recipe is packed with so much flavor from the smoky bacon, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and serrano peppers. While it does take a bit of time making them from dried beans, the amount of active cooking time is minimal. Grab that big pot out of your cabinet and let’s get cooking!
Why I Love This Charro Beans Recipe
For years, I’ve wanted the perfect charro beans to serve alongside my famous pork carnitas and cilantro lime rice. When we do restaurant food at home, I want it to be better than what I can get in the restaurant! If I’m going to put in the extra time and effort, it better be worth it. Those carnitas and cilantro lime rice met that requirement but I was still struggling to find the perfect beans.
A few months ago, our family went out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant and the final bill was completely INSANE. Paying that much was the final straw for me. It was time to recipe test and create the perfect charro beans to complete our Mexican nights at home. My friend, this recipe below is so much better than I would imagined possible. And don’t let the use of dried beans dissuade you from trying this recipe. I have a secret that doesn’t require soaking them overnight!
What Are Charro Beans?
Charro Beans are a traditional Mexican dish named after the people who prepared them all the time, the cowboys (charros). They are made with dried pinto beans, bacon or chorizo, onion, tomatoes, garlic, and serrano or jalapeño peppers. They can be made looser like a soup, or boiled longer into a bean side dish.
Charro Beans Ingredients & Tools
- Dried pinto beans
- Chicken stock
- Bay leaves
- Dried oregano
- Large red onion
- Fresh garlic cloves
- Serrano peppers
- Canned fire roasted tomatoes
- Kosher salt
- Fresh cilantro
- Large dutch oven or pot
- Large skillet
How to Make Charro Beans?
Time needed: 3 hours
- Soften the dried beans
While most recipes require a very long soak overnight, this recipe uses a simple cheat to quicken this process. Bringing the dried beans to a boil in plain water, turning off the heat, then letting them sit for 2 hours cuts that softening step down from 8 hours to 2 hours. Do not add salt at this first step or your beans will never fully soften no matter how long you cook them.
- Partially cook the softened beans
Now that the beans are soft, it is time to add flavor as they cook. So, instead of cooking in plain water, let’s cook them in chicken broth flavored with bay leaves, oregano, and kosher salt.
- Prepare the aromatics
The bacon-based aromatics take flavor base to a whole new level. Without these aromatics of bacon, onion, garlic, serrano peppers, and fire roasted tomatoes, they would tastes solely like salted beans. The aromatics is what makes charro beans authentic.
- Finish cooking the beans with the aromatics
This last 20-30 minutes of cooking time combined with the aromatics not only flavors the beans but creates the thick texture charro beans are known for. If you want a thick result, it will take about 30 minutes. If you want to serve these more as a soup, stop the cooking after 20 minutes.
- Add some freshness into the beans with chopped cilantro
This fresh herb is added into the charro beans once they are done cooking and right before serving to add freshness to the finished dish.
This type of question is always difficult to answer because every person has a different definition to the word “healthy.” In my opinion, yes they are very healthy. One large serving has 360 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber.
Frijoles charros translates into “cowboy beans” in English. They get their name from the Mexican charros or cowboys who prepared them over a campfire while working.
While you can make this recipe with canned beans, they won’t turn out nearly as well because the beans are already fully cooked when you buy them in a can. While you can add the aromatics to them after the fact, they won’t absorb as much flavor and the beans will become mushy as they continue to cook.
Importance of the Timing of the Kosher Salt
While it is tempting to add the kosher salt to the first step of softening the dry beans, if you do so, your beans will never soften completely. Soften them in plain water and wait to add the kosher salt until step three when you cook the softened beans in the chicken stock.
Charro Beans Recipe Variations
As with all great recipes, these charro beans have endless opportunities to experiment with the recipe and personalize them to your tastes and creativity. Any of the following variations would be great spin-offs of these charro beans.
- Add more spice by adding an additional serrano or jalapeño pepper or two in with the aromatics. You could also use a shake of red pepper flakes or a squeeze of your favorite hot sauce.
- Use chorizo instead of bacon as your protein for a different flavor profile than the smokiness of bacon.
- Make it vegetarian by eliminating the protein and increasing the vegetables. Add some portobello mushrooms, bell peppers, and celery.
Looking for More Great Mexican Recipes?
If this charro beans recipe was just what you were craving for dinner tonight, be sure to check out these other delicious Mexican recipes. Go grab them now and add them to your recipe box!Print
- 1 pound dry pinto beans
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 ounces bacon, chopped
- 1 large red onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 serrano peppers, chopped with seeds
- 2 – 14 ounce cans fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves chopped
- Rinse the dry pinto beans well and be sure there are no rocks. Place the clean beans in a large pot and cover with about an inch of water. Do NOT add any salt at this point. Bring to a full boil, turn off the heat, cover, and let set for 2 hours.
- Drain the beans. Rinse well with cold water and drain them again.
- Add the chicken broth, salt, bay leaves, and oregano to the drained beans. Bring them to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.
- While the beans simmer, prepare the remaining ingredients. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook the bacon until it is browned and the fat renders.
- Add the onion, garlic, and serrano pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom the pan with a wooden spoon as the aromatics cook.
- Add the two cans of tomatoes and the juice from the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and allow it to thicken.
- Add the bacon mixture to the beans and increase the heat to medium high. Allow the beans to finish cooking and the sauce to thicken. This takes about 20-30 minutes. You can also use a potato masher to mash some of the mixture to thicken it faster.
- Add the cilantro and serve.
If you want more spice, add another serrano pepper or two with the seeds. The recipe is on the mild side as written.
Do not add salt to the water during the first step. It is important to let the beans soften before adding any salt in step 3. If you add salt in the first step, your beans will never fully soften.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Serving Size: 1/10
- Calories: 361 kcal
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 640 mg
- Fat: 14 g
- Saturated Fat: 5 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 8 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 35 g
- Fiber: 9 g
- Protein: 18 g
- Cholesterol: 29 mg
Keywords: charro beans, frijoles charros