Ranch-Style Beans Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. + standing Cook: 3 hours
Ranch-style beans, rich and bold with the perfect amount of spice, are the side dish you'll want to serve at every barbecue.

Updated: Jun. 18, 2024

This recipe for ranch-style beans makes a stellar summer side dish for all your picnicking needs. Made with pinto beans simmered in an aromatic spicy sauce, it’s an easy southwestern side dish that calls for only a handful of ingredients.

While the method for making a ranch-style beans recipe is straightforward, a bit of planning goes a long way. You’ll need to boil and soak the beans before moving on to the fun part. This recipe is worth the effort though, especially when you’re hankering for a bold side to enjoy with hot dogs or smoked brisket.

What are ranch-style beans?

Ranch-style beans are a staple Tex-Mex recipe featuring pinto beans, onions and garlic cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. This dish isn’t quite as hot as chili (although it certainly can be, depending on how much spice you like) and calls for fewer ingredients. Unlike many chili recipes, ranch-style beans are usually prepared without meat.

Ingredients for Ranch-Style Beans

  • Pinto beans: Dried pinto beans are the legume of choice when cooking ranch-style beans.
  • Tomato paste: This ingredient is a double threat: It thickens the sauce and adds a tangy tomato flavor to the beans.
  • Onion: I prefer the subtle sweetness of yellow onions when making ranch-style beans, but red onions or shallots are fantastic too.
  • Garlic: This ranch-style beans recipe calls for a single clove, but I’ve been known to toss in three or even four.
  • Chili powder: Use as much or as little chili powder as you like.
  • Red pepper flakes: Doubling up on the spice makes ranch-style beans twice as nice. Tinker with the amount based on your preferences.
  • Salt: A generous pinch of salt brings out the other flavors in the dish.
  • Cumin: This fragrant spice is common in Mexican and Tex-Mex recipes (and features regularly in Indian, North African and Middle Eastern dishes). It boasts a wonderful earthy flavor that brings warmth and depth.
  • Marjoram: Similar to oregano, marjoram has a milder, sweeter, slightly citrusy flavor. If you don’t have marjoram, substitute regular oregano or Mexican oregano. The latter has a citrusy flavor that’s similar to marjoram and, as you might expect, is stunning with all sorts of southwestern flavors.

Directions

Step 1: Soak the beans

Put the beans in a Dutch oven. Add water so the beans are covered by 2 inches of liquid. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and cover with a lid. Let stand for one hour.

Step 2: Cook the beans

Drain the beans. (You can discard the liquid.) Place the beans back in the Dutch oven and cover with 1 quart water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1-1/2 hours or until the beans are tender.

Step 3: Stir in the other ingredients

Stir the remaining ingredients into the Dutch oven with the beans. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Simmer for 1-1/2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Ranch-Style Bean Variations

  • Use different types of beans: While pinto beans are the classic choice, black beans, kidney beans and navy beans can be used in this recipe. A mix of different types of beans, like pinto, kidney and black beans, is phenomenal.
  • Add pork: Though ranch-style beans are usually a vegetarian side dish, we love adding pork to this recipe. Toss diced bacon, a ham hock or sausage into your beans for a rich, smoky flavor that’s hard to pass up.
  • Mix in peppers: Whether pickled or fresh, chopped jalapenos will turn up the heat in this simple side dish. Chiles in adobo sauce are unbelievably delicious in ranch-style beans, especially if you enjoy a smokier flavor.
  • Garnish with chili toppings: A handful of chopped green onions, a sprinkling of cheese or a dollop of sour cream are all delicious with ranch-style beans.

How to Store Ranch-Style Beans

Let the beans cool slightly, then transfer them to an airtight container. Store ranch-style beans in the fridge and enjoy them within three to five days. You have a few options for reheating ranch-style beans. Microwaving the beans for one to two minutes is easiest, but you can also simmer them on the stovetop until they’re hot.

Can you freeze ranch-style beans?

You can freeze the beans for up to six months. When freezing, remember to leave room at the top of the container so the liquid can expand. Thaw the beans in the fridge overnight before reheating.

Ranch-Style Bean Tips

Can you use canned beans for ranch-style beans?

Yes, and canned beans will cut down your cooking time too. Since the beans are already tender, there’s no need to soak and simmer them. Instead, add all the ingredients to the saucepan at once and cook everything until the flavors merge.

What can you serve with ranch-style beans?

Naturally, this ranch-style beans recipe pairs well with all things Tex-Mex. Put these beans on the table with enchiladas, fajitas or Frito pie. Mix them with rice for a hearty stick-to-your-ribs kind of side. I like ranch-style beans with smoked brisket and burgers, cherry-glazed chicken wings (the spicy-sweet combo is to die for), and ribs with a side of cornbread.

Ranch-Style Beans

Prep Time 20 min
Yield 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) dried pinto beans
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Directions

  1. Place beans in a Dutch oven; add water to cover by 2 in. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour.
  2. Drain beans, discarding liquid. Return beans to pan; add 1 qt. water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours. Stir in remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer to allow flavors to blend, about 1-1/2 hours longer.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 226 calories, 1g fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 345mg sodium, 41g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 10g fiber), 14g protein.

This ranch-style beans recipe is served at all of our barbecues. It seems most people who live here like spicy, flavorful food, and this fits the bill just right. —Wilma Ruth James, Ranger, Texas
Recipe Creator