Forget tacos and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros) cooked in the Instant Pot and served alongside some carne asada, grilled Mexican street corn, fresh tortillas, and horchata for a delicious and culturally authentic Mexican food experience at home!

For more delicious bean recipes, be sure to try my Instant Pot Refried Beans, Instant Pot Pork and Beans, and Best Baked Beans recipes!

a white bowl of charro beans

You'll love this Charro Beans Recipe

  • Multiple ways to make them! You can make these in the Instant Pot, on the stovetop, or in the slow cooker, depending on how much time you have and which method you like best! I've included cooking instructions for each approach below.
  • Bacon! Doesn't bacon make everything better? It adds a great smoky flavor and chewy texture to these beans that is fantastic.
  • Easy - Aside from a little chopping and stirring, there's not much to making a batch of charro beans and they go great with everything from Mexican food, to grilled meat, to steak, tri-tip, or ribs.
An image of a blue bowl full of charro beans (also known as frijoles charros or cowboy beans) made in a pressure cooker.

Why do Americans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

I promise to get to the recipe but the nerd in me has questions that needed answering first! Like why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States? Most Americans think Cinco de Mayo is celebrating Mexican Independence Day, but that is actually the 16th of September, not May 5th.

On May 5, 1862, outnumbered Mexican forces in Puebla, Mexico defeated reputedly superior French forces in a battle that ended up being a turning point in an ongoing Mexican-French conflict. If France had won instead, it would have given them a chance to help the Confederacy in the American Civil War, which could have hugely impacted the future of the United States of America.

Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated in California in 1863, the year following the battle. There were parades, people dressed in Civil War uniforms, and speeches were made about how the Battle of Puebla fit in with the larger narrative of the abolition of slavery. It eventually became more of a celebration of Mexican identity and we continue to celebrate it today with an emphasis on food, culture, and traditions of Mexico but with little historical knowledge of the date's significance.

What are Charro Beans?

Charro beans, also known as frijoles charros or "cowboy beans", got their name from the Mexican cowboys who ate them.

They are a traditional Mexican side dish that seem to have originated in Northern Mexico and are made by cooking dried pinto beans long and slow until soft, but not mushy, with ingredients like onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and meat (usually bacon, but occasionally ham, sausage, and chorizo).

There is a variation on charro beans known as borrachos beans, which is essentially the same recipe, just with Mexican beer added to the charro beans (borracho means "drunk" in Spanish).

An image of a blue bowl full of pressure cooker charro beans (also known as frijoles charros or cowboy beans).

What are Charro Beans made of?

  • Dry pinto beans
  • Bacon
  • Onion
  • Jalapeno
  • Garlic
  • Water
  • Beef broth - Chick broth will do if that's all you have on hand.
  • Diced tomatoes with green chilies - You can buy cans of these combined at the store, or just use a can of each.
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Spices - For authentic Tex-Mex flavor, use ground cumin, chipotle chili powder, dried oregano, smoked paprika, and black pepper.

How to make Charro Beans in a pressure cooker

While you could absolutely make this easy charro beans recipe in a slow cooker or on the stovetop by adding a little extra water and soaking the beans overnight beforehand, I really wanted to use my Instant Pot for them so I didn't have to plan ahead.

An image of a bowl of Mexican pressure cooker pinto beans called charro beans in front of an Instant Pot.

I got my Instant Pot a couple of months ago and have been experimenting with it here and there, with varying degrees of success.

But this is the first pressure cooker recipe that I feel ready to share here on the blog since cooking pinto beans in the pressure cooker is so much faster than on the stovetop or slow cooker and they turned out amazing!

It's hugely rewarding to take a recipe that would normally take at least 8-10 hours and have them ready from start to finish in about 1 hour 15 minutes of total cooking time.

  1. To make these charro beans in the pressure cooker, begin by cooking the bacon in the bottom of the Instant Pot on the sauté setting.
  2. When the bacon is almost crispy, add in the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes more, until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Then, it's just a matter of adding all of the remaining ingredients and pushing a button! Once the Instant Pot pressurizes, the beans only take 30 minutes to cook, followed by about 30-45 minutes for the pressure to release on its own.

Charro beans go great with carne asadaguacamole, Mexican rice, grilled Mexican street corn, and pico de gallo.

An image of a Cinco de Mayo Mexican feast, perfect for a fiesta with fresh tortillas, charro beans, carne asada, guacamole, grilled Mexican street corn, and horchata!

How to store Charros Beans

Store any leftover charro beans in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container for maximum freshness.

You can also freeze charro beans by letting them cool completely, then transferring them to a freezer-safe airtight container or bag and freezing for up to 2 months. Thaw on the counter or in the fridge, then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave before serving.

How to serve this Charro Bean Recipe

Charro beans are delicious all on their own as a side to all kinds of grilled meats or other dishes. Or you can serve them with rice as a meal all on their own. They are delicious sprinkled with some extra chopped fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

Frijoles Charros Recipe FAQ

What is the difference between charro beans and refried beans?

Refried beans typically aren't as seasoned as charro beans and they don't include bacon. They are also typically mashed, whereas charro beans retain their bean shape and texture.

What does charro beans mean in Spanish?

Charro means "horseman" or "cowboy" in Spanish so these charro beans or frijoles charros can also be known as cowboy beans.

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Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros)

4.87 from 86 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 10 servings
Forget tacos and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros) cooked in the Instant Pot and served alongside some carne asada, grilled Mexican street corn, fresh tortillas, and horchata for a delicious and culturally authentic Mexican food experience at home!

Ingredients
  

  • ½ pound bacon chopped (about 8 slices)
  • ½ yellow onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeno minced with seeds removed (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes and green chilies
  • ½ bunch of fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
 

  • In the Instant Pot using the sauté setting, cook the chopped bacon until crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the onions and jalapeno, and cook until softened. I don't drain the bacon grease because I think it adds to the flavor of the charro beans, but if there is a lot of it, you can drain most of it before adding the onions, leaving just a little to cook the onions in. Add the garlic in the last 30 seconds.
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients along with the bacon to the onions, jalapeno, and garlic in the Instant Pot, then secure the lid and change the setting to high pressure (my Instant Pot has a button for "beans/chili" that I press and set to "Normal") for 30 minutes.  
  • When the time is up, allow the pressure cooker to do a complete natural release before removing the lid.  It will take about 30-45 minutes.  

Notes

  • Slow Cooker Method: If making in the slow cooker, follow the same approach by cooking the bacon, onions, and garlic first in a pan, then add the remaining ingredients plus one additional cup of water and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.  There is no need to soak the beans if using the slow cooker approach, but if you DO want to soak them overnight beforehand first, they will cook in 5-7 hours on low instead of 8-10.
  • Stovetop Method: Soak for at least 8 hours or overnight in a bowl of water. Rinse and drain the beans well, then set aside. Cook the bacon until crispy in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Transfer the crispy bacon to a plate and saute the onion and jalapeno in the bacon grease until softened. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds, then add all of the remaining ingredients and cooked bacon to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook for another 20-30 minutes until the beans are tender and thickened to your liking.

Nutrition

Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 810mg | Potassium: 810mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 199IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. This is my go to recipe in the summer, to go with grilled fajitas. I love that everything goes in the Instapot and then you just sit back and let it cook.  My nephews say, “What’s not to like, bacon and beans.”

  2. Just made these beans. I scooped them out of the IP w/out the liquid, into a large mixing bowl, followed by adding some of the liquid it was cooked in and them blended them into refry w/out the refry. They came out perfect!

    1. You could decrease the cook time by 10 minutes and see how that goes. Honestly, I never bother to soak the beans though.

  3. I absolutely love your style of writing. I am a professional Chef with many years of experience, and i still find your content super engaging. I do start to have great interest towards Mexican Cuisine, was wondering what you think about this.. what are the main differences between Frijoles Charros and Borrachos? Interested to know what you think. In the meantime... keep the great writing going!

    1. I actually think they are quite similar recipes. Mainly I think the difference is that borracho beans are made with beer for the liquid, although that might be an oversimplification. I don't make borracho beans so I can't really remember without some digging to research them!

  4. This recipe is not just good it’s great!  Made to go with smoked baby back ribs!  Now the friends at the party ask me to make them when ever we get together.  Everyone just loves them and so easy to make!  

    1. You double the ingredients, but you shouldn't need to double the cooking time at all. It should cook in the same amount of time.

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve made these beans too many times to count. They are the best! I always add extra green chilis. I made these for a party of 40 people and they couldn’t stop talking about how good the beans were! Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe!