coal miner pinto navy beans

coal miner's pinto & navy beans

Pinto Beans

Growing up in Southern West Virginia where coal was king back in the day, pinto 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 pinto 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!!

Nutrition in Pinto Beans

Dried pinto beans and navy beans are a homerun for nutrition. The nutrition in pinto beans includes things like dietary fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals. Pinto beans and navy beans are rich in complex carbohydrates and they have a low glycemic index. This means that you have staying power with your energy and blood sugar levels. Pinto beans and navy beans are a great food for management of diabetes, hyperlipidemia and insulin resitance management. For more nutritional value of pinto beans and navy beans check out this Healthline article on the Healthiest Beans

How to Cook Dry Beans

You want to wash your beans well. Immerse them in water and let the sit for about 15 minutes, then drain in a colander. Do this two or three times prior to cooking.

Some folks soak their beans. I typically do not. Soaking beans for a few hours or overnight before cooking helps remove some of the sugars that cause some of the infamous digestive issues and flatulence associated with eating dry beans. It’s also supposed to reduce the cooking time for dry beans. My issue with soaking beans is that sometimes the skins of the bean start separating and the finished beans can be mushy. Yes, beans that have not been soaked usually take longer to cook. But, that’s fine with me because I get an improved end result. 

Just remember that pinto beans (or most beans) soaked longer than 12 hours can get ‘water logged’ absorbing too much water. This results in the beans losing their characteristic texture and flavor.

Covering the beans and beef shank or ham hock with 5 to 6 plus inches of water in a big pot allows you to bring the beans to a roaring bowl, lid on but askew to allow steam to escape, for about an hour. The water will boil down and you’ll continue to cook these beans on a lower heat another hour or more, adding water as needed. 

Don’t add salt as you cook the beans. It tends to slow the beans’ softening. You’ll build the salt and pepper flavor as the pinto beans are more tender. 

You can cook beans in a multi-cooker or slow cooker, but I’m not a huge fan of this method. Cooking beans on the stove top has always resulted in a thicker richer ‘gravy’ like broth for my pinto and navy beans when done. 

If you work, you’ll probably want to make these beans on the weekend. Believe me, they keep in the refrigerator 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!

And, a fabulous side dish with these beans is Maple Bacon Kale Roasted Potatoes

Andpinto beans

coal miner's pinto & navy beans

coal miner pinto navy beans

Yield: 8 folks

Pinto beans were a staple in my diet growing up in the Southern West Virginia coal fields.I'll show you how to cook the BEST pot of pinto navy beans ever!


  • 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.


If you can't find fat back, buy ham hocks. Or you can put a couple of slices of thick cut bacon in the beans while cooking.

Your sharing is GOLDEN! Thank you!

Your sharing and comments help me stay in business! Share a photo if you make the recipe #allyskitchen Thank you! xo Ally

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  1. Linda Jarrett says:

    I grew up on these in that same coal mining country. Every time I fix your beans it brings back warm fuzzy memories of the best food ! Ally’s are “Almost Heaven”!

    1. Ohhhh, dear Linda! Yep, we Southern WV girls know our pintos! I just did a pot today, but w/my multi-cooker (pressure cooker) and using the Kettle & Fire Beef Bone Broth. OMG! Linda, soooooooooooooooooooo ahhhmazing and done in 1.5 hours. I’ll have the recipe up soon. Pull out your mulit-cooker!! xoxxx Thank you, luv…yes, we’re from a heavenly place

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for giving me back one of my best childhood memories. Pinto beans, corn bread, fried potatoes, turnip greens and mama’s home canned tomatoes. It wasn’t just good eating, it was warmth and love. Both of my parents are gone now but this has given me a little bit of hope that the best times we remember in our lives as children aren’t gone. They are still in or hearts. What you shared with your here wasn’t just a recipe, it was love. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    1. Oh, my Goodness! You have touched my heart, too. Thank you thank you for this loving comment. Yes, I agree, food is love and it evokes, hopefully, beautiful memories from our childhood and beyond. Growing up in WV was a gift…yes, we were the privileged ones. I have a friend whose birthday is this week. My husband and I want to have a small special dinner for him. His request? Pinto beans, cornbread, buttermilk cucumbers and onions, and coleslaw. Yes, he turns 80…and this meal will remind him of those wonderful years of living back in time. xoxo Thank YOU from the bottom of my heart. ~ally

  3. 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!

    1. 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

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

    1. 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

  5. Julie Pizzino says:

    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.

    1. 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

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

    1. Thanks, luv! Now that you’re back in the states (I think!), it’s time for good ol’ Southern comfort food! xo

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