Cowgirl Beans

Here we are in the hottest part of the summer. Daily temperatures are hovering around 100. Humidity is through the roof. And what do I do? Why get out my pots and pans and cook up some beans. Yeah. I’m weird like that. Admittedly, this is more of a fall or winter kind of recipe, but doggone it I was just craving a pot of pinto beans.

BeeBop is always talking about the “pintos and cheese” that his Mom made for them when he was a little fellow growing up out west. BeeBop’s family is from the same area as mine, but his Dad was in the Air Force so he moved around a couple of times before winding up back in south Georgia. Apparently, pinto beans were a big part of the diet out in New Mexico where they were stationed for a while. And they were cheap – very important when you’re raising five kids on military pay! Anyway, I’ve been trying for years to find a recipe that would satisfy that craving for Mom’s “pintos and cheese.” I haven’t yet hit on that magical combination, but in the process I’ve found some pretty tasty recipes! This one for Cowgirl Beans was published by Craig Claiborne in his wonderful book Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking, but I’m sure it wasn’t his original creation. I’d guess that this recipe had been around the block a couple of times before he got it. Regardless, it’s a great dish to serve with hearty food. I served it with some pork chops and a fresh green salad.

Oh, and if anybody out there has a recipe for “pintos and cheese” please send it my way?

Sorry I don’t have step-by-step photos for you on this recipe (or some of the last ones, either). For some reason I’m getting really blurry shots on those photos. Gotta keep working on those camera skills!

To summarize the recipe steps for you – you simply start with dried pinto beans and water. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let them cook, partly covered, for one hour. After an hour of cooking time, add the salt and half the onion. Continue cooking for 30 minutes more.

Heat up a small skillet with a little oil and cook the remaining onion and the jalapeno until the onion is starting to soften. Add the tomatoes and cilantro and continue cooking for about 3 minutes.

Remove about a cup of beans with the liquid and puree them in a blender or food processor until they are as fine a texture as possible. Stir the pureed beans back into the pot. Add the sauteed tomato and onion mixture and stir it into the beans. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes or so.

Serve the beans as they are, or with a selection of topping such as grated cheddar cheese, chopped scallions, sour cream and salsa.


Cowgirl Beans
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Pinto beans with tomato, jalapeno and onion
Serves: 4 servings
  • 8 oz. dried pinto beans
  • 6 ½ cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tblsp. canola oil
  • 1 small fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 small ripe tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  1. Rinse the beans and place them in a large pot with the water.
  2. Bring the beans up to the boil. Partly cover beans and cook at a simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Add the salt and half of the chopped onion. Continue cooking, uncovered, for about 30 minutes more.
  4. Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the remaining onion and chopped jalapeno. Cook just until the onion is wilted.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes and cilantro. Cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  6. Remove one cup of the beans with their liquid and process them in a blender or food processor until as fine as possible.
  7. Return the pureed mixture to the beans and stir together.
  8. Add the tomato-onion mixture to the beans and continue to simmer about 5 minutes more.
  9. Serve as is or with toppings of grated cheddar cheese, chopped scallions, sour cream and salsa.
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  1. Barbara Wiedemann says

    All I would need is some jalapeno and cheese cornbread to go with this and I could float like Scooby.

  2. says

    oh yeah, give me a big bowl and a slab of cornbread and I will be a happy boy… this is one I will make too as I am always trying to duplicate a similar pinto bean dish like this one, it was served as an appetizer with tortilla chips in a restaurant in San Antonio back in the ’70’s… this one sounds like it would fit into many meals… one I am planning on making real soon, even in the heat of summer…

  3. Jen says

    That looks delicious!

    I’m from New Mexico, and I love pinto beans, but I don’t really know of any actual recipes for pintos and cheese. I’d guess that if you just made the pintos from this recipe with less water and only onion and garlic as seasoning, and then sprinkled some shredded Cheddar on top so it melted slightly, that might be close? I’m used to pintos here being served fairly thick, not quite as soupy, so I think reducing the amount of water in the cooking liquid would work—or you could refry them once they’re cooked, and maybe that would be close to what he grew up with. Happy experimenting!

    • says

      Jen – I’m gonna keep working on it until I get the recipe just right! BeeBop will let me know when I hit on the perfect combination :-)

  4. says

    Though not as hot here in Denver or as humid as you have it in Georgia, I hate turning my stove or oven on…so I use my grill and would most certainly do that for these beans. Nothing quite like slowed cooked homemade beans.

    Please don’t apologize about no step by step instructions; some of us actually prefer not having that. Really. :)

    • says

      Thanks, Barbara. You’d be surprised how many emails I get from people who are really grateful for the step-by-step photos. Mostly when it’s some complicated step in a recipe, though. Thinking I might just do a minimum of those from now on. Taking all those photos really slows down the cooking time!

  5. Peg H. says

    Lana, I tried for 20 years to make pinto beans that tasted nearly as good as my mama’s, with no luck whatsoever. When she passed away, I inherited her pressure cooker, and guess what? Apparently, that was the secret! The best part about that (besides the flavor) is it doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Here’s the easy-peasy way to make my mama’s beans: sort through your dried pintos and discard any dirt, rocks, etc. Soak a cup or two of pintos in the pressure cooker overnight (covered or uncovered, doesn’t matter), just make sure you use twice as much water as beans. When you’re ready to cook them the next day/evening, pour the beans into a colander and rinse them well. Put them back into the pressure cooker, add a smoked ham hock and half an onion (diced); cover it all with water. Close, cook on high until the pressure indicator starts rockin’, reduce heat to medium, and let the indicator rock for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the cooker sit there for another 15 minutes or so (chop up some cilantro, onion if you like, and grate some cheddar while you’re waiting); carry it to the sink and run water over it until all the pressure has dissipated. Open it up, spoon a mess into a bowl, garnish with the onions, cheese & cilantro, and enjoy! We prefer a big pan of your egg bread (cornbread) with our beans, hot & covered with butter ‘n honey. :-)

  6. says

    I’m the same way! I totally always choose to make the most intensive, oven-using recipes ever on the hottest day!

    These look great and well worth it :)

  7. says

    that looks great. I like how you thickened the broth with puree – very neat idea. I’ve heard about puree-ing beans into pasta sauce to sneak in proetin for the kiddies as well.


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