My “Secret” to Flavorful Vegetarian Pinto Beans

If you’re not from the Southern US, you may be thinking “But they are vegetarian.” However, in my beloved South, this is not the case. Pinto beans, along with many other beans, are seasoned with bacon, ham, hog’s jowl, ham hocks, and various other off-cuts of pork. The meat makes the beans utterly delicious. However, I wanted to find a way to save money and still have yummy beans.  I actually like my way better!

Salt and pepper work just fine, but I discovered a new twist to put in our beans. It’s flavor is subtle, soft, and velvety (like the beans).

It’s bay!

Who knew that bay leaves would be the perfect complement to beans? Well, Chef John Besh does, as he adds it to his Red Beans for his Red Beans and Rice. After I made a vegetarian pseudo-version of Chef Besh’s Red Beans, I thought, “I would never have thought it, but bay gives the beans a great flavor that isn’t overpowering!”

I tried it with other beans, and it’s a hit. Try it next time as a healthier and cheaper alternative to traditional pinto beans.

For 4 servings:

  • 1 cup of sorted and rinsed dry pinto beans
  • Enough water to cover to 2 inches above beans
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large bay leaf or 2-3 small ones

Add beans and water to pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer on medium-low (or however low your stove needs to go for a gentle simmer) for 1 hour, stirring and checking water level periodically. After 1 hour, add salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Continue to simmer for at least another 20 minutes, but longer is better as the flavors meld more. Enjoy!

You could also do this in your slow cooker!


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