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Trading Post Beans

Trading Post Beans

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Trading Post Beans are a pinto bean dish with a southwestern spin- perfect eaten on their own or as a filling for burritos, dips, chili and so much more!

Shoutout to my mom on this one! These seriously delicious pinto beans are one of her many signature dishes- previously documented here for posterity and now revamped with higher quality images! She learned to make this recipe in Gallup, New Mexico and it is named for the many famous trading posts in the area.

Pinto beans can be a tough sell because they don’t really go in too many dishes. They’re often served as a bland accompaniment or cheap tortilla filler as opposed to being an ingredient in something greater. These Trading Post Beans, however, not only make an excellent side dish but also make the base of a great meal on their own! Grab yourself a bowl and a litany of toppings, and you’ve got yourself a killer meal on the cheap. They’re great topped with Hatch green chiles, shredded cheese or queso fresco, sour cream, avocado or guacamole, tortilla strips, onions, green onions, cilantro, tomato, olives, pickled or fresh jalapeños, corn, salsa, mangoes, peaches,  or any combination therein!

Or they can be stuffed inside breakfast burritos, regular burritos, enchiladas, tacos, tostadas or served alongside spanish rice. You can also re-fry them in a little lard and serve them in all of the ways mentioned above. I sometimes also lightly mash them to turn into a dip for chips. Top with sour cream, avocado, onions, cheese or anything else to make a layered dip!

These beans are simple enough to be incorporated into most recipes but delicious enough to stand on their own as well. In the ideas above, I would recommend straining the beans out of the residual water before using. But as a side dish, they cook in just the right amount of water to serve without draining. This dish lands somewhere between cooked beans and soup and should absolutely be served as-is! Although we eat these beans in many ways, this is by far the way we enjoy them most.


The extra-special kick that these pinto beans receive comes from the salt pork. You should be able to find salt pork in any major grocery store, in the refrigerated section near the ham and sausage. Salt pork, like bacon, comes from pork belly; however unlike bacon, salt pork is never smoked and is cured for longer. It also tends to be fattier. As its name implies, it is SUPER salty- you wouldn’t really ever just cook up a piece and eat it unless you hate yourself. But it makes a great flavoring ingredient in this bean dish, and many others. Can you substitute bacon? Meh- it would be better than going without any flavoring agent, but bacon will add a certain smokiness that isn’t really a part of this particular recipe.

One other note about this recipe: make sure you thoroughly rinse the beans between the pre-boil step and the actual cooking steps! If you check out the technique below, you will see that it calls for initially boiling the beans with baking soda. This accomplishes two things. First, it tips your water toward being more alkaline, which makes your beans cook up even more silkily and tender than they would in regular water.

But second, it helps silence the musical fruit. Turns the heat down on the dutch oven. Takes the brass out of the gas, as it were. HOWEVER, if you don’t rinse your beans thoroughly after cooking them in baking soda they will taste (at best) too salty and (at worst) sort of soapy- so don’t skip this step! You will know you have rinsed them thoroughly enough  when they are free from any remaining white residue.

Trading Post Beans

Trading Post Beans are a pinto bean dish with a southwestern spin- perfect eaten on their own or as a filling for burritos, dips, chili and so much more!

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American Southwest, Mexican
Keyword best pinto beans, best way to cook, perfect pinto beans, pinto beans, recipes with beans, unique pinto beans, use up beans, ways to use up pinto beans
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 6 cups


Precook the beans:

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans (unsoaked)
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tbsp baking soda

Finish the beans:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups after chopping)
  • 1 8 oz can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 1/4 inch thick piece salt pork (about the size of a slice of bacon)


  1. In a large pot, bring unsoaked beans, baking soda and 8 cups water to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes until the water turns dark green and a ton of foam builds up on top. You may need to stir occasionally if the foams builds up too much and begins to spill over the sides.

  2. Drain beans and rinse completely with hot water until no white residue remains. Be thorough- your beans will taste bad if you leave baking soda on them.

  3. Rinse out your pot of any remaining residue and return to the stove. Add 7 cups water, beans, yellow onion, tomato sauce, and salt pork.

  4. Bring your beans to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep them covered or they will turn very dark! Simmer for about 3 hours, or until tender. Salt and pepper to taste

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