Main dish Side dish Soups

Aaron Franklin’s pinto beans

Aaron Franklin's pinto beans | Homesick Texan

Now, I probably don’t need to tell you who Aaron Franklin is, but if you’re not familiar with him he has a barbecue joint in Austin called Franklin Barbecue, and is generally regarded as one of the finest pitmasters in barbecue. He’s most renowned for his brisket, and every day hundreds of people will wait in long lines to try a sample of his beef.

He recently came out with a book called Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, which explains his method. While there aren’t many recipes per se, as far as cookbooks go it’s a wonderful read. The book starts off with the story of how he got into the barbecue business, and this section is especially compelling to me, as he not only goes into how much time and hard work he put into developing his barbecue technique, but he also describes how he’d sit quietly in his first barbecue trailer and dream about all that could be.

He then talks about everything you need to know to create beautiful barbecue, from building your own smoker to butchering your meat. The only thing he doesn’t cover is how to chop down trees for wood. I reckon he’s saving that for his next book.

Aaron Franklin's pinto beans | Homesick Texan

I read a lot of cookbooks, but this might be the first that actually made me so homesick I almost cried. It’s clear that Aaron loves Texas but I also regretted that I didn’t have a backyard space to put into practice some of his barbecue philosophies, let alone the space and tools to weld a new smoker.

That said, as much as I enjoy Aaron’s brisket I think his beans may be even better. I’ve talked before about how much I love his pinto beans, which are peppery, flavorful, and rich. They’re perfectly seasoned and one time when I was at an event where he was serving barbecue, it was his beans I went back for seconds, not the meat. So while I’m not immediately able to smoke meat his way, in his new book he has shared a recipe for his beans and I can make that in my tiny kitchen.

His recipe is fairly simple. You soak the pintos with diced onion and a blend of spices, and then cook the beans with chopped smoked brisket. Of course, when you’re making these at home, you probably won’t have Franklin Barbecue brisket (unless you have leftovers, but I understand that rarely happens). But when I made the recipe with some local barbecue, the beans still turned out excellent.

Aaron’s instructions are for stovetop cooking, but I found that the recipe also works in a slow cooker, too. The most important thing if you choose to do it that way is to remove the lid for the last two hours of cooking so the broth can reduce.

Aaron Franklin's pinto beans | Homesick Texan

These barbecue pinto beans make a fine side for your next gathering, though they’re hearty enough to be served on their own with slices of warm cornbread. And if you don’t eat meat, you could even make them vegetarian. While the brisket contributes a layer of flavor, it’s only a supporting player. In this dish, the beans are the true stars.

I look forward to someday following Aaron’s approach for smoking meat. But these incredible pinto beans aside, his book still holds much value for me, as it’s not just about barbecue—it’s also a reminder that hard work and dreaming big are the keys to achieving any goal you may seek.

Aaron Franklin's pinto beans | Homesick Texan
Print

Aaron Franklin’s pinto beans

Servings 8
Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup chile powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup chopped smoked brisket

Instructions

  1. Rinse the pinto beans and remove any rocks. Place the beans, onion, chili powder, salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin in a large pot. Cover with 2 inches of water, stir until the spices are well distributed, and then soak the beans uncovered for 8 hours. Alternatively, you can bring the pot to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let them quick soak for 1 hour.


  2. To cook the beans, add the brisket to the pot. (Do not drain the soaking liquid.) You want there to be at least an inch and a half of water above the beans, so add more water to the pot if needed. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat down to low, cover the pot, and then gently simmer for 1 hour.


  3. After 1 hour, remove the cover and then continue to cook the beans until they’re tender, which will depend on the age of the beans. This can happen anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours.


  4. If you want to make these in the slow cooker, after soaking, cook them covered on low for 6 hours, then remove the lid and continue to cook on low for 2 more hours.


Recipe Notes

If you’re not using kosher salt but table salt or sea salt instead, reduce the amount of salt to 1 tablespoon, otherwise the beans may be too salty.

  1. Thank you for this recipe! I love beans and I have stood in that line for Franklin BBQ. Well, I played Heads Up with my best friend and sat in beach chairs with a case of beer. Four hours later as the line moved along, we had Aaron's brisket, sausage, and like you said, perfectly seasoned beans. It was worth it!

  2. Ileana–You're welcome! And yes, the long wait is definitely made better with beverages and good friends!

  3. Gail Morton

    So much for not adding salt at the beginning or the beans will be tough!

  4. sscutchen

    Optionally, hold out about 1/4 of the beans when beginning to cook. Add in after 30 minutes. These beans will be less done than the rest, and will give a bite to the finished beans.

  5. Gail–Indeed! And each time I made the beans they turned out very tender.

  6. Sscutchen–What an interesting tip! I look forward to trying it.

  7. I don't know what I would do without Homesick Texan. Thanks for the recipe.

  8. Anonymous

    Great recipe, thanks. The basic difference between my beans and Aaron's is he uses cumin and I like to add a can of Ro*Tel. I also, at times, add some browned ground beef rather than the smoked brisket. You have a great site.
    Jim

  9. Jerry–Thank you for the kind words! Hope you enjoy the recipe.

  10. Jim–Ro-tel makes a fine addition to pinto beans!

  11. Being a Homesick Texan (at least for the food) myself, I find it difficult to find good brisket where I am on the Gulf Coast. I think I'll try this recipe with smoked sausage, maybe even some boudin links, or maybe I'll take about 12-16 hours of my day tomorrow and smoke my own brisket. I bought the book when it came out, and I agree Lisa, it is a fantastic read. I hope to one day make it to Franklin's and try his famous brisket myself.

  12. As a native Texan, I also think of pinto beans as a beloved symbol of home…and great memories! My mother used to put bacon grease in there…I can taste them now. Thanks for the memories and great recipes!

  13. Derek–The beans would be great with smoked sausage! And I hope you make it to Franklin's one day. Every barbecue lover should go at least once.

  14. Laura–Bacon grease is a fine addition to pinto beans!

  15. Anonymous

    Oooh! Got my brisket fix a couple of weeks ago. It nearly made me cry. Amazing isn't it, the things that we miss?

    Pete

  16. Pete–I know just how you feel!

  17. I grew up much poorer than I realized at the time, and we had pinto beans for dinner about once a week.
    Mom simmered them with a big chunk of salt pork, and for us kids served them over slices of white bread with a side of sliced white onion. I still miss them. As for cornbread, my grandfather loved to fill a glass with chunks of cornbread, and poured buttermilk over it. That's a concoction I will never comprehend. LOL While I live in Texas, your recipes frequently take me back to my childhood. Thank you.

    • Julie Lucas

      My dad loved to eat cornbread and milk! He’d crumble up the leftover cb into a glass of whole milk and eat it with a spoon. My mom made the best cornbread in the cast iron skillet!

  18. Love your blog as a Homesick Texan in Portland, Oregon. Aaron comes here for Feast Portland, thank goodness but that's not enough so last Thanksgiving when we went home, we ordered 2 briskets to bring home! didn't try the beans so thanks – will now.

  19. Dave–We also had pinto beans at least once a week, as well. I love them! And cornbread crumbled into buttermilk was indeed very popular with our grandparents' generation. It's actually not that bad!

  20. Sher–His beans are really good–I hope you enjoy them!

  21. Anonymous

    Love your blog.
    Pinto beans should be a staple in any pantry.
    Love, Grandma Texas

  22. Hi Lisa – I love his book and agree it makes me homesick for TX. Have successfully used his wrap method to improve my brisket and shoulder. If you are ever up near Syracuse you have a yard to play in! 🙂

  23. Anonymous

    Is it supposed to be 1 teaspoon of black pepper rather than 1 Tablespoon? I put in 1.5 teaspoon and it's too much. Your recipe for peppery pinto beans only calls for 1 teaspoon.

  24. Anonymous

    I have been smoking my soaked brand in a colander on my traeger for about a half hour before adding them to a dutch oven with onion, ham hock and spices. I may have to try leaving them in their soaking liquid for the smoking part to get my Franklin bean working.

  25. Grandma Texas–Thank you, and yes, beans should be a staple of every pantry!

  26. Kathie–Thank you for the kind offer!

  27. Anon–That 1 tablespoon of black pepper is not a typo!

    Anon–What an interesting technique!

  28. YOUR first cookbook makes me feel so homesick I almost cry! My fiance and I write down the date on a recipe in your book every time we make it. I've got bookmarks (sticky notes) all throughout, too! I've also got an official bookmark so that I remember where I left of in the reading of the stories that come between the sections. Beautiful writing!

  29. Cynthia Wood

    Lisa, these are so good! I used Dickie's chopped brisket and address feechoppedchipotkes for my pepper head husband. They are divine- the kind of food that will haunt me until I make them again.
    Thank you for the recipe!

  30. Cynthia Wood

    Haha! That's what happens when you fail to edit your post before submission -typo translation: …and I added two canned chipotles …

  31. Cassie–This makes my day! Thank you. I am so honored that the book has meant so much to you and your fiance.

  32. Cynthia–So glad y'all enjoyed the recipe and I love that you added two chipotle chiles. I bet it made it extra hot and smoky!

  33. Anonymous

    Thanks for the recipe–I'll be trying it soon.

    Have you seen the "Franklin on BBQ" series on PBS? He is very charming in a dorky/aw shucks kind of way, but he' also a great educator about a subject which is his passion as well as livelihood. You can watch episodes at pbs.org if you missed it.

  34. I will definitely try this recipe out on my friends. Your carnitas were a HUGE hit at my apartment in London last week! Thank you for the wonderful food that makes me feel oh so much closer to home:) xo

  35. Thank you Lisa. Glad you are back!

  36. Your first book is making some Norwegians really happy – my sister sent it from Austin as an intro to Texas food. She'll now need to send this recipe, because those beans are damn good.

  37. I grew up on the Gulf Coast area of Texas. I am so happy I came up on your recipe. I have pinto beans soaking with the seasoning as I type this. I can't thank you enough.

  38. I just grilled up a strip steak and cut it up to add in place of brisket. I would imagine any cut of steak would suffice as a brisket substitute

  39. Really good recipe. I made it exactly as written except I didn't have brisket. It was excellent. A little rich. Couldn't eat too much of it. With the leftovers I added ground beef, green pepper, and a jar of salsa I had in the fridge raider. It made the best chili I've ever had.

  40. Anonymous

    Thanks SO MUCH for the recipe! I'm too old and too far away to be able to visit Aaron but I love watching his PBS show with my son on Saturdays. I made these beans carefully, following the recipe exactly (which I never do) so that I could "virtually" taste some of his food. It came out amazing! In my case though, the smoked brisket I used (mine) was a major component of the flavor profile. Down here in the deep south, our beans are always navy beans, but these pinto beans will now be a permanent part of my culinary repertoire.

  41. Cathy Thomas

    Hi, I love your blog. I am a “Davy Crockett” Texan; got here as soon as I could. Chili powder question. Gebhardt’s, Mexene? Or…chile powder? I haven’t sat in the line for Franklin’s yet, but on my list!

    • Lisa Fain

      Cathy–Pure chile powder, such as ancho, is what’s recommended in his book, but you can also use blended chili powder (such as Gebhardt’s) and that will work as well.

  42. Tasted like chili to me.. still really good!

  43. Natalie Knowlton

    Dear Lisa,
    Glad you mentioned that bit about the chili powder being ancho. I think your Dr. Pepper Brisket would be a fine substitute for the smoked brisket. I’ll have to save a cup next time I make the brisket because there is never any left! Thanks so much for your great recipes!

    • Lisa Fain

      Natalie–Thank you for the kind words and I love the idea to use the Dr Pepper brisket. I’ll definitely be trying that!

  44. Lisa, Fantastic recipe. I used some of my own brisket and reduced the liquid in my smoker for more smoky goodness. Thanks for the comment on the chile powder. Found powdered Ancho and it was perfect! As a northerner, I would have used a prepackaged Chili powder blend and would have gotten an entirely different taste.

Leave a Reply to Anne Adams Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *