cowboy beans frijoles charros instant pot

Cowboy Beans – Frijoles Charros Instant Pot

Frijoles Charros: tender, slightly smoky beans flavored with bacon & onion; there's a bit of a kick, they're smokey, saucy and sassy at the same time.

When I lived in the Southwest, I used to miss “Baked Beans.” It seemed that anytime I ate out and ordered beans as a side, they were either Cowboy Beans – Frijoles Charros, or some kind of Barbecued Baked Beans. Now that I’m in the Midwest, I miss those Cowboy Beans. Go figure, huh?

cowboy beans frijoles charros instant pot
Frijoles Charros or Cowboy Beans

When you think of Frijoles Charros, think of tender, slightly smoky beans flavored with bacon and onion and something with a bit of a kick. Yep, I’m going there again: a little poblano pepper, a little jalapeno or serrano. They’re saucy and sassy at the same time.

The poor bean. It has a reputation.  And not just the unmentionable one (there are ways to mitigate that) but beans are known to be a bit of a pain to cook. There’s the soaking and the waiting and long hours of cooking. And traditional cooking methods tend to have a lot of stirring or watching when made stovetop or in the oven.

cowboy beans frijoles charros instant pot
Frijoles Charros or Cowboy Beans

The pressure cooker comes to the rescue. A few minutes for a quick soak, then the ingredients are dumped in. While it can take a good bit of time to cook beans, even in the pressure cooker, what you don’t need to worry about is baby sitting. You don’t need to stir, you don’t need to check them, and you don’t have to worry about them drying out or scorching.

I adapted this recipe for the Instant Pot from a recipe developed by  J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats. At first I was a bit taken aback by his use of canned fire-roasted tomatoes in what is normally a very simple, traditional dish. I threw caution to the wind (mostly because I didn’t feel much like charring and peeling my own poblanos, tomatoes and onions in 90 degree heat) and tossed in Rotel. It was the right call.

cowboy beans frijoles charros instant pot
Frijoles Charros or Cowboy Beans

Cowboy Beans - Frijoles Charros

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 12 ounces diced bacon
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 to 3 serrano chilis, minced (remove ribs and seeds if you prefer less heat) may use the milder jalapeno if desired
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 14 ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes with juice or 2 cans Rotel, with juice
  • 4 cups home-made or low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
  • 2 sprigs (about 1 teaspoon dried) epazote, optional, substitute with 1/2 teaspoon dried (preferably Mexican) oregano
  • large handful of chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Presoak beans:

Sort through beans, removing any stones or dirt, rinse well. Add to Instant Pot along with 2 teaspoons salt and 8 cups water. Set to saute (high) and bring to a boil. Immediately place on lid and lock, use the manual function to set to high pressure and two minutes of time.

When time is up, allow to go to the keep warm function for 10 minutes. Release any remaining pressure in short bursts but watch the valve. If any foam or bits of beans come out, stop immediately (the valve may clog) wait about 10 minutes and release any remaining pressure, again in short bursts.

Drain beans and rinse well. Rinse the Instant Pot liner, along with the lid if there is bean residue or foam on it.

For the Cowboy Beans:

Replace the liner and set Instant Pot to Saute (high) and add bacon, stirring until the fat is rendered and it is starting to brown around the edges, about five minutes. Add the onions and chilis and cook, stirring, until softened and starting to brown, about four minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes or Rotel and cook, stirring up and brown bits.

Add in beans, stock, bay leaves, salt, epazote, if using, or oregano. Replace the lid and set to the Bean setting (high, 30 minutes.) When time is up, allow to go to the warm function and sit for 10 minutes. Release any remaining pressure manually, again watching for any foam from the valve.

Taste and add liquid smoke and season if necessary, discard bay leaves. To slightly thicken beans, stir gently. Add cilantro if desired.

Keeps refrigerated for one week, may be frozen.

Note: the two cans of Rotel, combined, had one cup of liquid. If making any substitutions, make sure that there is a cup of liquid, if not make up the difference with broth or water.

Nutrition Facts
Servings 10.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 272
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13 g 20 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 24 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 38 mg 13 %
Sodium 1798 mg 75 %
Potassium 108 mg 3 %
Total Carbohydrate 15 g 5 %
Dietary Fiber 5 g 18 %
Sugars 4 g
Protein 22 g 43 %
Vitamin A 34 %
Vitamin C 15 %
Calcium 4 %
Iron 13 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


I’ll be posting this recipe on Fiesta Friday number 179, hosted by Angie and co-hosted by Petra @ Food Eat Love and Laura @ Feast Wisely.Be sure to stop by Fiesta Friday and Petra and Laura’s blogs and see what everyone is making this week.


27 thoughts on “Cowboy Beans – Frijoles Charros Instant Pot”

  1. Great idea to use the flavored canned tomatoes Mollie! And all that bacon!! They’ve got to taste great!! You have been really busy cooking!! How’s your summer going? xo

    1. We’ve been busy – lots and lots of yard work, sanding and staining the deck and refreshing garden beds – temps are going into the high 90’s so a break might be in order! Hope all is going well there! 🙂

          1. Sounds like a big job Mollie! We just have a little patch of bricks out our back door– doesn’t need much upkeep, but does have splashes of yellow paint from projects out there with the grand-girls! Hope the work goes swimmingly! hugs hugs!

  2. My American friend (who lives down the road) made home made baked beans for 4th July and I couldn’t stop eating them. Your version looks very similar and sounds delicious 🙂

    1. I love cooking beans in any pressure cooker – I’ve made them a lot in my stovetop pressure cooker but this was the first go with the insta pot and they were just perfect. 🙂 I’m with you about the sugar, too, although every once in awhile I’ll do a recipe like that – I’d rather save my carbs for some delish dessert!

  3. Oooh yum, I love these kind of beans.I make a big ol’ pot of pinto beans with onions and jalapenos every single morning for my cart. People seem to LOVE them! I make a very similar version of these (not for my cart) and add a can of beer to them to make Borracho Beans (Drunken Beans). All good. Beans are great, Mollie!

    1. I am not quite sure if I would have bought the instant pot if I weren’t at my folk’s so much, but I’m glad I did. I’ve only had it for a few months so I’m still in the learning stages on some of it! It sure has rescued dinner a few times for me with the way it cooks up frozen chicken so fast…

      Amazon prime day is tomorrow and they usually have a good deal on instant pots from what I hear.

  4. I literally JUST went on a diatribe at the dinner table about how much I love beans, like Bubba from Forrest Gump said with shrimp, and cowboy beans made my list. Yum! Yours look so good!

    1. I am the same way! I was eating dinner and my brother was visiting and somehow he gave me just enough opening in the conversation to gush about beans and all the health benefits and I’m afraid I went on forever and looked up and everyone was just starting at me like I’d lost my mind, lol! My bro said, ok, Beans with a side of lecture…

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