"You can eat beans on Saturday night and attend church on Sunday without fear of embarrassment,” said the article. The piece was advising cooks to pour Coke into their beans in order to prevent any lower-gut reactions from occurring when eating said legume. I was intrigued.
While I’ve made beans with other beverages, including another fizzy one—beer, I can’t say that I’d ever made beans with Coke. As my luck would have it, I spotted a recipe card at the kitchenware store for barbecue beans made with said soda. I picked it up and decided to give it a try.
The recipe I found was for a more Yankee-style dish, as it not only called for Great Northern beans but there were also no other additions besides garlic, onion, ketchup, and molasses. Since I prefer the meatiness of pinto beans, I decided to cook with those instead. I also threw in some chili powder and smoked paprika along with bacon to give it a more fiery, meaty flavor. And being a Texan, I opted to use Dr Pepper instead of the recommended Coke.
After a quick soak and cooking the beans solo for only 30 minutes as per the recipe’s instructions, I placed them in the slow cooker along with the sauce. Perhaps I had an old batch of beans, but after eight hours the beans were still tough and crunchy, which was disappointing. I find the slow cooker usually works wonders with beans, so I decided there was too much acid in the recipe for them to soften properly. The flavor, however, was promising—a little sweet, a little spicy, and a little smoky. I decided to try it again.
The next day, I cooked my pintos until they were completely tender before putting them in the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. And since I didn’t have to worry about the beans softening, I also splashed in some apple cider vinegar to make the dish even brighter. I cooked the beans overnight and woke up to a savory, inviting scent.
While my plan was to serve the beans later with hamburgers, I couldn't wait and for breakfast I enjoyed a bowl of the Dr Pepper barbecue beans. It was an excellent beginning to my day. These beans were a keeper.
Curious how the recipe would work in the oven, I made another batch. They also turned out good, but there is an advantage to using the slow cooker in the summer.
Now these are not your typical crusty baked beans (though you could certainly lift off the lid and make them that way if you prefer). Instead these are creamier—more like pinto beans in a sauce that’s a little spicy and a little sweet, a dish I’ve had on several occasions at Texas barbecue joints.
These beans will be welcome at your next backyard gathering, as they make a fine companion to ribs, brisket, or any other smoked or grilled meats. And yes, in case you were wondering, I did indeed discover that by adding Dr Pepper to your beans, you can definitely go anywhere without fear of embarrassment at all.
1 pound dried pinto beans or 3 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 ounces thick bacon
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces Dr Pepper or other dark soda
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
If using dried pinto beans, rinse the beans and place in a 4- or 5- quart Dutch oven. Cover with 2 inches of water and add the salt. Bring the pot to a boil, and let the beans boil for 15 minutes. After this time, cover the pot and turn the heat down to low. Simmer the pot covered for 1 hour and then remove the lid. Continue to simmer the beans until tender and soft, which can take anywhere from 30 more minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the age of the beans. (If the water gets too low, add a little more to the pot). When the beans are tender and soft, drain the beans.
If using canned pinto beans, simply drain them.
If using a slow cooker, place the cooked beans into the slow cooker. If using the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F, and place the beans back into the Dutch oven.
In a skillet, on medium-low heat, cook the bacon about 5 minutes, turning once. You want to render some of the fat from the bacon but leave it undercooked and still floppy. Remove the bacon from the skillet with a slotted spatula, and place on a paper-towel lined plate leaving the rendered fat in the skillet. When cool enough to handle, chop the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces.
With the skillet still heated on medium-low, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Turn off the heat.
Spoon the onions and garlic over the beans, either in the slow cooker or the Dutch oven, then deglaze the skillet with the Dr Pepper by pouring it into the skillet and then swirling it around while scraping the bottom. Pour the Dr Pepper over the beans.
Add to the slow cooker or Dutch oven the bacon, ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, smoked paprika, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir everything together until well combined then taste and add more salt if needed.
If cooking in the slow cooker, cook covered on low for 8 hours or high for 6 hours. The beans will be a little soupy so if you prefer a drier consistency, you can remove the lid for the last hour. Because flavors can get muted in the slow cooker, you may want to taste and add more seasonings and perhaps a splash of vinegar at the end to brighten up the dish.
To cook the beans in the oven, cook covered for 1 hour, then remove the lid and cook uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how dry you want your beans. Again, feel free to taste after cooking and adjust the spices and add a splash of vinegar if you like.