Authentic Frijoles Charros: Smoky Mexican Cowboy Beans

Authentic Mexican Frijoles Charros Recipe: Pinto Beans with Bacon and Chiles

Discover the ultimate potluck dish that’s budget-friendly, easy to make in bulk, and holds up beautifully to extended heating. Frijoles charros, also known as Mexican cowboy beans, are packed with flavor and guaranteed to impress at your next gathering!

The Magic of Mexican Cowboy Beans

Frijoles charros are a hearty, soul-warming dish that originated on the trail with Mexican cowboys. These aren’t your average refried beans – they’re a delicious hybrid between soup and stew, brimming with smoky bacon, spicy chiles, and tender pinto beans. Perfect for feeding a crowd or meal prepping for the week ahead!

Campfire Cooking: Embracing Tradition

For an authentic touch, try cooking these beans over a campfire. The natural smokiness will infuse your dish with irresistible flavor. Don’t worry if you’re not roughing it – we’ve got indoor cooking methods that’ll bring that same smoky goodness to your kitchen.

Mastering the Art of Char

To elevate your frijoles charros, start by charring whole tomatoes. This simple step adds depth and complexity to the dish. Use a gas burner, grill, or even a handheld torch to blister the skins. The result? A rich, smoky base that’ll have everyone asking for your secret.

Building Layers of Flavor

This recipe is all about layering flavors. We start by rendering bacon, then sautéing onions, chiles, and garlic. Add in those fire-roasted tomatoes, and you’ve got a flavor bomb ready to transform your beans. A touch of epazote, a traditional Mexican herb, brings everything together with its unique, earthy notes.

The Great Bean Debate: To Soak or Not to Soak?

While some beans don’t require soaking, we recommend it for pinto beans in this recipe. An overnight soak in salted water ensures creamy, tender beans that hold their shape. In a pinch? Canned beans can work too – just adjust the liquid and cooking time accordingly.

Frijoles Charros Recipe: Mexican Pinto Beans With Bacon and Chiles


  • 1 pound (450g) dried pinto beans
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 cups (1.4L) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs epazote (optional; see note)
  • 12 ounces (340g) diced bacon (see note)
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced (about 8 ounces; 225g)
  • 2 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño, minced (remove seeds and ribs if you prefer less heat)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon; 12g)
  • 2 (14-ounce; 400g) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes (see note)
  • Large handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems


  1. Begin by soaking the beans. In a large bowl, cover the pinto beans with cold water by at least four inches. Stir in 2 tablespoons (18g) kosher salt until dissolved. Let the beans soak for 8 to 12 hours. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans thoroughly.
  2. Transfer the soaked beans to a large Dutch oven. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons (6g) kosher salt, and epazote if using. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the beans are just tender, about 45 minutes.
  3. While the beans are cooking, prepare the bacon-tomato mixture. In a 12-inch stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon, stirring constantly, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is just starting to brown around the edges (about 5 minutes). Add the onion and chiles, cooking until softened and lightly browned (about 4 minutes). Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has thickened and the mixture begins to sizzle (about 3 minutes).
  4. Once the beans are tender, remove the lid from the Dutch oven and add the bacon-tomato mixture. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the beans are completely creamy and the liquid has thickened into a rich, velvety broth (about 20 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning with salt as needed. Remove and discard the bay leaves, stir in the fresh cilantro, and serve hot. These delicious beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes

For an extra smoky flavor, try using 1 1/2 pounds fresh Roma tomatoes instead of canned. Char them directly over a gas flame, on a grill, or with a torch to remove the skins. Quarter the tomatoes, remove the cores, dice, and use as directed in the recipe.

Epazote is a traditional Mexican herb that adds a unique flavor. Look for it in Mexican specialty shops. If unavailable, use a pinch of dried epazote or simply omit it.

For an authentic cowboy experience, try cooking this recipe over a campfire. If using an open flame, substitute salt pork for bacon to enhance the natural smoky flavor.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
287 Calories
12g Fat
29g Carbs
15g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 287
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 16%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 26mg 9%
Sodium 525mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
Dietary Fiber 8g 27%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 15g
Vitamin C 13mg 65%
Calcium 80mg 6%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 792mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


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