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!
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.
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).
What are Charro Beans made of?
- Dry pinto beans
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
Charro means "horseman" or "cowboy" in Spanish so these charro beans or frijoles charros can also be known as cowboy beans.
More Mexican Recipes You'll Love
- Shredded Beef Chimichangas
- Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas
- Baja Fish Tacos Recipe
- Vegetarian Swiss Chard and Pinto Bean Burritos
- Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor
- Easy Mexican Restaurant-Style Salsa
- Fresh, Authentic Pico De Gallo
- The BEST Guacamole Recipe Ever
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.