May 28, 2023


Than a Food Fitter

Slow Cooker Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros)

5 min read


These authentic Mexican charro beans, Frijoles Charros, are a classic Mexican pinto bean dish that is packed with flavor from a combination of bacon, jalapenos, onion, garlic, and spices. Easy to make and so delicious!


These slow cooker charro beans are slightly spicy with the smoky taste of cumin and garlic in a tangy tomato sauce. They make the perfect side dish for any Mexican meal and also to switch things up for a cookout or BBQ! These Quick Refried Beans are also a delicious option for Mexican meals.

Frijoles charros, meaning Cowboy beans, is a traditional Mexican bean dish usually made with bacon, ham hocks, and/or chorizo. It’s infused with jalapenos, garlic, and onions to create a deep, deliciously rich flavor. It’s an amazing side dish for Chile Verde, Beef Machaca, or Albondigas. 

They are a dish that my husband constantly searches for on menus all over town, and that until this batch, I couldn’t quite get right. However, I finally developed a recipe that is lightened up for me yet still reminds him of the beans he used to eat in Mexico City.

To lighten it up, I only used bacon (instead of three or more types of pork) and infused a lot of additional flavors with garlic, jalapenos, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices. These beans are stew-like and are delicious as a side dish or served over brown rice for yummy Mexican spin on rice and beans. They also taste amazing served alongside Carne Asada with fresh guacamole,  pico de gallo, and warm corn tortillas.

Frijoles charros with bacon, jalapeno peppers, onions, tomatoes, and pinto beans topped with fresh cilantro.

What You’ll Need for Charro Beans

Here is a bit more information about what I used to make these delicious slow cooker charro beans.

  • Pinto Beans: Since you are going to make this in the slow cooker, use dried pinto beans. You can also use kidney or black beans with it, but pintos will have the best taste and texture.
  • Onion: Any type of onion will work. Just make sure it is diced really small so that you aren’t biting into large pieces of onion.
  • Jalapenos: These are optional, but I really suggest you add them. They give the beans wonderful heat! If you prefer a smoky heat, swap in some chipotle peppers canned in adobo.
  • Garlic: Mince some fresh garlic cloves – it will infuse the beans with the most flavor. You can always use garlic powder as a replacement in a pinch, but it won’t have the same bold taste.
  • Tomatoes: Any type of chopped tomatoes will be perfect in this recipe. You can also use drained canned tomatoes.
  • Bacon: For the best taste, use thick-cut bacon that you fry until it is nice and crispy. You can also use ham or turkey bacon. Another option is crisping up some chorizo in a skillet and using that.
  • Bell Pepper: The bell pepper color isn’t as important. I used green bell pepper, but you can use red or yellow instead.
  • Spices: For the spices, I used a combination of salt, cumin, and oregano. Bay leaves are also a great addition.
  • Broth: Either low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth is best in this recipe. If you don’t use low-sodium broth, then just omit the added salt.
  • Garnish: Garnish with your favorite toppings – I used fresh cilantro. A scoop of pico de gallo is also delicious.

What To Serve With Cowboy Beans

Charro beans are traditionally served with all kinds of Mexican dishes from tacos to enchiladas to braised meats. Sometimes you will find them in a large pot at a taco stand where patrons can ladle out the beans on to their plates. Other times they are served almost like a soup as an appetizer with some tostada shells.  No matter how you serve them, these Mexican pinto beans truly taste great with anything. 

Recipe Tips And Ideas For Frijoles Charros

Follow these tips to make sure that the beans turn out smoky and perfect every single time!

  • Rinse and sort dried beans before you cook with them. This will help you catch any particles that might be in the bag of beans.
  • If you are trying to cut down on your salt intake, you can use less broth and more water. Then, just add more jalapenos, cumin, and oregano to boost the flavor.
  • Cover the beans with boiling water. If the water is boiling, you don’t have to soak the beans overnight.
  • Use these beans to make refried beans. After they are fully cooked, mash them together and reheat them in a pan.

Crockpot charro beans in a bowl with Mexican pinto beans, onions, jalapenos, and spices with a slow cooker on the side.

How to make charro beans on the stove top? Instant Pot?

For both of these recipes, start by soaking the pinto beans for about 8 hours in water.

  • Stovetop: Saute the bacon with onions, jalapenos, green peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. Add the pinto beans and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 2 hours or until the beans are creamy and tender. 
  • Instant Pot: Saute the bacon with onions, jalapenos, green peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. Add the pinto beans and chicken broth. Cover the Instant Pot and turn it to 30 minutes. Then let the Instant Pot or pressure cooker naturally release before removing the lid. If you haven’t soaked the beans, cook them for 50 minutes and let them fully naturally release.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions I frequently get asked about by some readers…

The best way to store leftover charro beans is in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The beans will stay fresh for up to a week this way. Then, reheat the beans in the microwave or on the stovetop in a saucepan.

If you heat them in the microwave, cover the dish – they tend to splatter!

I do not recommend using these in a taco. They have a thick sauce to them that will make your taco quite messy. These beans make a better side dish. If you want to use them as a taco filling, mix in some rice or quinoa. You could also drain off some of the broth.

Borracho beans and charro beans are very similar except that borracho beans are made with Mexican beer. Given that borracho means drunk in Spanish, it’s no surprise that the secret ingredient of those beans is beer.

For a shortcut, start by sauteing the bacon with the onions, jalapenos, green peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. Once they are tender, add the canned pinto beans, spices, and about 1 cup of broth. Simmer for about 25 minutes for the flavors to deepen and combine. Then serve.


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