Texas Chuck Wagon Pinto Beans Recipe

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This dish is all about FLAVOR. San Antonio and Ft. Worth are my two favorite places to be when in Texas. This recipe was inspired by some dining experiences there and, to my palate, is as Texas as bluebonnets in Spring.

Sweet and spicy, richly textured, these beans cry out for anything BBQ'd, grilled or broiled. Corn on the cob, roasted in the husk and well-buttered, your favorite slaw recipe and honey butter biscuits will make the meal - a great baked apple or peach cobbler will complete it.

I usually prepare this dish in a Mexican clay 'olla' or Tuscan 'fagioliera' when serving a few friends, then dish it out at the table as the aromas fill the kitchen. But I guarantee success when prepared in stainless or enamelware. As always, do what you do in YOUR cucina because its really all about the end result - dining satisfaction!

If you aren't a pressure-cooker kitchen, there's no sin in using canned beans here. And the longer and slower you cook this dish, the better it will be. So kick the dust off your boots and set awhile. This will be well worth waiting for...

Iced tea, lemon or limeade, cold cervezas and margaritas go well with this dish.

Prep time:
Cook time:


  • 2 - 28oz cans of pinto beans, rinsed well
  • 1 - 15oz can of pinto beans, rinsed well
  • 1 large green Bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 c sorghum molasses
  • 1/2 c dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 lb apple- or hickory-smoked bacon, finely diced (TIP: freeze your bacon - it makes even and fast dicing a breeze)
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, well minced (you can use less, to your taste - but it should have some body!)
  • 1/3 c Jack Daniels bourbon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp mesquite liquid smoke


  1. In a deep, heavy pot, render the minced bacon, cooking until firm. Drain the fat, reserve the cooked bacon
  2. Sweat the onion, bell pepper and garlic until translucent and soft
  3. Add the Jack Daniels and reduce by half (that will cook off the alcohol, but give you a great woody flavor)
  4. Add the brown sugar, molasses, allspice, chipotle in adobo, cayenne and cooked bacon and combine well
  5. Add the liquid smoke and then the rinsed pinto beans
  6. Stir it all together, bring to a boil and reduce immediately to a slow simmer. Cook on med-low for at least one hour, giving it a stir once in a while. Longer slow cooking improves the dish.
  7. The end result should be a dark, creamy dish in which the components are difficult to single out.


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  • Amos Miller
    April 24, 2011
    Hi, Polly - Great to hear from you! I also have totally wonderful memories of meals in W.VA. that consisted of cornbread, served with black-eyed peas and ham-off-the-bone, locally butchered and smoked, all slowly simmered for hours to creamy glory. We are big on the use of our cast iron dutch ovens and our monster pressure cooker for big events requiring the processing of dried beans, but, as you know I believe, cast iron is the country chef's secret weapon. Bottom line is - there are few dishes more comforting than those found in the good old USA. When done well, they stand up to any cuisine. So glad to share memories with you - and to 'resurrect' some recipes too long neglected by the fast-paced foodie world.
    • Polly
      April 24, 2011
      Amos, this is my kind of cooking!! Texas flavor or not, it is also about as southern as you can get!! Here in the mountains we cook a pot of pinto beans on a regular basis, add molasses, onions, garlic and whatever else we think will enhance their flavor. The liquid smoke does wonders. No crockpot or canned beans can ever top the good old stove top simmered beans for flavor. Although we use both, the favorite around here is ham rather than bacon in our beans. I can remember my grandma simmering beans most of the day on an old wood stove. A big skillet of fried cabbage, crusty cornsticks, sliced tomatoes and squash casserole rounded out a meatless meal which we thought was purely food for the gods. Our plates were so clean by the end of the meal, Grandma would shake her head, saying 'don't your mamas ever feed you at home?' Those times have almost come full circle as more and more are beginning to realize just what it actually is they are eating.
      • Amos Miller
        April 24, 2011
        Katherine - great question! I would suggest you try substituting vanilla extract for the bourbon. I would try 2 Tbs of the extract in place of 1/3 c of bourbon. Thanks for looking at my recipe. And you are so right about this being a knockout picnic or pass-around potluck dish. I hope you will try it and enjoy it! - best regards, Amos
        • Katherine
          April 24, 2011
          Great recipe! Good for those summer picnic type meals. What do you think I could substitute for the bourbon? We don't use alcohol for any reason but I'm sure something could catch that flavor.
          • Amos Miller
            April 24, 2011
            This is really a great zippy dish - the sweet & spicy play beautifully together. Smoky, deep notes and nice high points. This is my favorite bean or baked bean dish. You can contol the zing by cutting back on the chipotles, but this is how I like it and this replicates the best I've eaten in Texas.

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