coal miner's pinto & navy beans

coal miner pinto & navy beans

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If you work, you’ll probably want to make these beans on the weekend. Believe me, they keep in the refrig a few days, and you can freeze them. I’d say put the coal miner’s pinto and navy beans in smaller containers, freeze and then use for so many things from refried beans to shakshuka to chili!

Growing up in Southern West Virginia where coal was king back in the day, beans and cornbread could be found on most family tables at least weekly if not more times. Beans are healthy and nutritious (am I repeating myself?). They’re super affordable and versatile.

For me, making a big pot of beans is all about the seasoning. So, I say ‘be not afraid’ of a little fat back, salt-cured, because it goes a long way in the flavor department. Plus, hold off on any salt as the salt-cured has plenty in it. I also used a beef shank. Why? Because I got it for $1.97 and knew it would pack some punch, plus once cooked and tender, I could shred the meat, not much but just enough for ‘elegance’ and ‘luxury’, and make those beans even tastier! Hey, a ham shank works well, too. Remember, fat adds flavor, but you want to use it in moderation. Isn’t that the operative word for most all great things in life!

Now, if you’re from coal minin’ country and you’re right here now looking at this recipe, please take a minute and leave me one of your best stories about pinto beans and living in Appalachia! Food is inexplicably intertwined with our memories!

Here’s something really fine to eat with your beans! Bacon dripping collard greens! YUM!!
pinto beans

coal miner pinto & navy beans

Yield: 8 folks


  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1 cup navy beans
  • 1 piece fat back (about 2x2”)—salted & cured
  • 1 beef shank
  • Water (Just a lot because you have to keep the beans covered while cooking for several hours.)
  • Sriracha (optional hot sauce for drizzle)
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste


  • Rinse and clean the beans. Put in a large stock pot. Cover beans with about 5 inches of water. Add the fat back and beef shank.
  • Bring to a roaring boil on high. Cover with a lid slightly askew to allow steam to escape. Cook for about an hour adding more water to keep beans covered (about 4-5 inches above beans.)
  • Reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook beans (covered with lid askew) another 2 hours adding water above beans about 3 inches now.
  • Broth will begin to thicken slightly. Beef shank will tenderize. Remove and tear meat from bone—you might have about ½ to a full cup of shredded meat. Remove fatty parts of meat.
  • If bone is clean, add back into the beans because there may be more good marrow that can boil out into the bean broth.
  • Beans should be tender by now. Remove fat back. Add back in the shredded meat. Turn heat to low. Cover with a lid and let it simmer.
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pinto beans


  1. I live and grew up just south of Louisville KY, and I felt the nostalgia when reading what you said about most people having a pot of beans on the weekends. Now I’m 41, married, with 2 teenage boys who claim to hate beans, which is what led me to look for a way to maybe spruce up my recipe a bit. (It’s hard keeping my big boys full.) I must say yours looks heavenly! I have always made mine what I call the “soul food” way, which is much more basic. Not always a good thing I reckon, because my family’s way is to save our bacon fat and use that, salt , pepper and diced onions. Since the price of bacon went way up, that’s not much of an option either. I can’t believe I never thought to just use a broth instead of water and bacon grease to cook them in. I reserve plenty of chicken broth, since it’s the most affordable meat these days. I hope to make your recipe soon, but today I have found my answer to the flavoring of my beans. Thank you so much!

    • Amy! Your beautiful comment has made my heart smile! Yes, we folks who grew up on beans know who important they are/were to the way of life. I have three boys, too, and two of three adore beans and have acquired an even more love for them as they’re gotten older. “Sprucing’ them up did help for me, too. Adding things like fresh herbs, seasoning and cooking with ham and/or beef shank or ham hocks. And, then infusing more flavor with broth does help. And, it sounds like you always have on hand lots of chicken brother! Not sure if you’ve tried nutritional yeast as an enhancer of flavor as well as nutrients. Braggs Nutritional Yeast is easily accessible at your grocer or online. You might try mashimg/refrying pintos/navy beans from this recipe the serving as tacos or burritos, some shredded chicken, etc. and see if the boys will like! Please if you make them, share a pix w/me and your experiences. xoxo ~ally

  2. Have never used a beef shank but will have to try it. My Mom always used a ham hock.

    • Yes, Sissy, my Mom always used the ham hock, too. The beef shank is divine! You know those beans are tender once that meat simply shreds from the bone. And, the flavors…wow!! Thanks for coming by, and I’ll see you again soon! xoxo ~ally

  3. Julie Pizzino

    Oh, is this ever bringing back sweet memories! Mamaw Hilda called salt pork streaky lean, and her beans were my introduction to pinto beans and corn bread. This cool, rainy night makes me want to cook a big pot now.

    • Oh, Julie! Mamaw Hilda was a fabulous cook! I ate some meals at her table! I could make a meal several times a week from pints and cornbread…nothing tastier and healthier! Thanks, luv! Come back and sit a spell with me! xo

  4. Beans and cornbread are pure Southern comfort food and I love them! This looks like my slow-cooker Pork n’ Beans – so tasty!!

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