These spicy and delicious Easy Bacon Ranchero Beans are the perfect accompaniment to any taco dinner or Mexican fiesta whether using a slow cooker or an Instant Pot. Learn what exactly are ranch style beans and which bean is perfect for making this recipe. Enjoy with table cream and cotija cheese to help mellow out the spice and especially with tortillas!
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Want to know a secret about me? When I go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant, the determining factor for what I order is if the dish comes with beans. Refried beans in particular. Nothing beats refried beans to me. But there has to be something said about ranch beans. Ranchero beans are spicy and smoky and just plain amazing. They are perfectly paired on the side with tacos or even wrapped up in a burrito!
What are Ranchero Beans
First of all, have you ever heard of ranchero beans??? In Spanish, this dish is called frijoles rancheros and was named after a bean dish that Mexican ranchers would make. This dish is also known by other names such as:
- Charro beans
- Ranch beans
- Ranch style beans
- Frijoles borrachos (when you use beer as the cooking liquid)
Any way you shake it, ranchero beans have the same basic ingredients:
- Pinto beans
- Smoked pork (bacon in this case)
- Chipotle peppers
Again, if you want to make frijoles borrachos, you would cook these beans with a beer and use the same base ingredients.
What’s the Difference Between Charro Beans and Refried Beans
Again, I’m a lover of refried beans, they are the deciding factor whenever I go out to eat Mexican food.
The only similarity in refried beans and ranchero beans are they are both made from pinto beans. Refried beans are cooked pinto beans that are then mashed and usually lard is added, giving the beans that nice smooth texture.
Ranch style beans are left whole and fresh cilantro is added at the end.
A Note About Cooking with Beans
I have heard people have opinions about whether or not to cook beans in the liquid they were soaked in. Some people claim that cooking them in the soaking liquid attributes to more gas as a by-product of eating beans. That could be true and if it really makes you feel uncomfortable, drain the beans, rinse them and use clean water to cook them in. I like to cook them in the soaking liquid because, again, flavor!
An important note to remember about cooking beans, always season your beans with salt after they have finished cooking. The reason is that because salt extracts liquid and flavors from foods, seasoning beans before they’ve finished cooking will often lead to tough beans. Nobody likes tough beans. So, season well, while the beans are still in the liquid.
If you happen to not have pinto beans on hand or can’t be found in your store, pink beans are a great substitute to use!
How to Make Ranchero Beans
Below, I walk you through the steps it takes to make these Bacon Ranchero Beans in a slow cooker, on the stove, and the Instant Pot. Either cooking method produces great beans, so use whichever one you feel most comfortable with.
The trick to making amazing ranchero beans is to add as much flavor at the beginning as possible. I love making my beans with bacon; I feel like bacon adds a depth of smokiness that you can’t get anywhere else (using chorizo as a substitute would be amazing!). My addition of chipotle peppers adds a subtle spice but a lot of rich flavors. I also like adding the adobo sauce that the peppers are stored in because… why skimp on the flavor?!
I feel like I’m saying the word flavor a lot right now but I can’t stress how important flavor is in this post! Beans are super absorbent foods, much like potatoes and eggplant.
So, it is super important to introduce robust and fragrant seasonings and aromatics to beans as much, and as early, as possible so the beans turn out as fantastic as possible.
As I discuss in my Shredded Pork Chile Verde recipe, adding juices of the roasted veggies is super important. Not only does it help to get the blender (this one is my favorite!) going and create a “smoothie” (more or less) with the veggies, but you don’t want to miss out on all the nums that come from blistering the onions and tomatoes.
Again, since we’re using bacon in this recipe, we want to accentuate “smoky” as much as we can.
How to Cook Bacon Ranchero Beans in the Slow Cooker
The main difference between cooking in a pot (stove top or Instant) and a slow cooker is that you aren’t able to saute the pork and onions in the same pot that the beans are cooked in. However, you can always deglaze the pan and add the drippings to the slow cooker along with the beans and sauce.
I like to use a cast iron skillet when rendering the pork and sautéing the onions because I get that nice sear on the pieces of bacon and it retains heat really well.
Once the onions and garlic are sautéed and the bacon is rendered, I add my tomato paste and adobo sauce right to the cast iron and toast for about a minute to caramelize the sugars. This produces a robust taste to the beans that are a must!
Throw everything into the slow cooker with the soaked beans and sauce, turn the slow cooker to low and cook for 4-6 hours. Perfect beans every time. I just add in a bit of fresh cilantro to give these beans a nice vibrant color!
How to Make Bacon Ranchero Beans with an Instant Pot
Working with a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot) is pretty awesome when it comes to cooking things like beans, that traditionally take a long time. I have even heard of people cooking with beans without soaking them beforehand. But I’m a traditionalist, I soaked mine before.
One of the great things about cooking beans with an Instant Pot is that I get to keep all of the flavors in the same pot and not have to worry about any loss of flavor.
I’m able to sautee my onions and garlic in the same pot with the bacon and then add the pastes and beans. Once I added my sauce, it was smooth sailing and my beans were ready before I knew it.
I had consulted a few bean recipes to see what the cooking time would be on these beans. With the pressure being set to high, I set the cooking time to 17 minutes. So with the time it took to saute, gain pressure, cook, and depressurize, I was looking at a combined time of about 45 minutes from start to finish. A fraction of the time compared to the slow cooker!
I also love the addition that fresh, chopped cilantro adds to these ranchero beans. They cut through the meatiness with their limey, pungent taste and it rounds out this dish so well.
Can you Freeze Bacon Ranchero Beans
Absolutely! In fact, I encourage you to do so because this recipe, no matter how you make them, makes about two and a half quarts of beans. Unless you’re feeding a small army in one setting, I would break these cooked ranchero beans into small portions and freeze them. Thaw out a baggy once you’re ready to eat them and you’re good to go!
How to Use Ranchero Beans
If you would like to eat these beans by themselves (which I totally do as well), I love to serve them with a bit of table cream (loosened sour cream) and some cotija cheese. Creamy, meaty, smoky beans. Life just doesn’t get much better than that my friends! You can also make tacos out of them using a corn tortilla
Enjoy these ranchero beans as part of your next Taco Tuesday or other Mexican Fiesta. If you happen to love this recipe, I would love to hear all about in the comments (along with a rating!)
Some other great recipes you can enjoy with this recipe are:
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These spicy and delicious Easy Bacon Ranchero Beans are the perfect accompaniment to any taco dinner or Mexican fiesta. Learn what exactly are ranch style beans and which bean is perfect for making this recipe. Enjoy with table cream and cotija cheese to help mellow out the spice and especially with tortillas!
- 2 cups pinto beans soaked overnight
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 onion ½ sliced, the other half medium diced
- 3 Roma tomatoes
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 3 chipotle peppers drained and adobo sauce reserved
- ¼ pound bacon cut into medium dice
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- Water to cover beans
- To taste salt
- The night before, soak beans overnight with enough water to fill a large container as beans will expand.
- Set oven to broil and move the oven rack to the most top position. Bring a large sauce pot to heat over medium-high heat.
- Line a small sheet pan with tin foil. Place Roma tomatoes and sliced onions on the foil. Dress with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place sheet pan in the oven and broil veggies until blistered. Turn veggies over so the opposite side can blister. Once veggies are done, remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Once veggies are cool, place tomatoes and onions in a blender along with half a bunch of cilantro and chipotle peppers. Blend until smooth.
- When sauce pot has come up to heat, saute onions, garlic, and bacon together until onions become tender and bacon has rendered most of it’s fat about 10-15 minutes
- Once bacon has rendered, add tomato paste and adobo sauce and stir until well mixed and toast for 2 minutes.
- Add beans and soaking liquid to the pot, the tomato puree and top off beans with more water. You will have to add more water as the cooking process goes on, as the beans will continue to absorb the liquid. Cook beans until tender, about 6-8 hours.
- Once the beans have become tender, chop the rest of the bunch of cilantro and add to beans, stirring until well mixed. Season beans as well with salt, about 2 teaspoons worth.
- Serve as a side, garnished with table cream and cotija or in a burrito or however you prefer.
- In a cast iron skillet (or stainless steel), preheat oil over high heat. Add onions, garlic, and bacon. Saute until bacon is rendered and onions are translucent.
- Add adobo sauce and tomato paste to the cast iron skillet and caramelize for about 1 minute. Deglaze with some bean water and add to the slow cooker with soaked beans. Add pureed sauce.
- Add lid and set slow cooker to low and cook for 4-6 hours.
- Add freshly cut cilantro and salt to cooked beans and serve.
- Set Instant Pot to Saute. Warm oil in the bottom of the pot.
- Once the oil is warmed, add bacon, onions, and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes or until the bacon is rendered and onions are translucent.
- Add adobo sauce and tomato paste and caramelize for about 1 minute.
- Add soaked beans and puree. Secure lid and select bean setting. Set pressure to high and cook time to 17 minutes.
- Once cook time has finished, release the pressure and wait until it’s completely released. Remove lid and stir in freshly cut cilantro and salt. Serve immediately.