Pinto bean pie DSC4795

Pinto bean pie: sweet, not savory!

Vinegar pie, buttermilk pie, and corn meal pie—these are all desserts that were in vogue when my grandmothers were growing up in the Great Depression. Made with just a few inexpensive ingredients, these pies—which are all, at heart, a variation on chess pie—were refreshing and still presentable to good company.

But what about pinto bean pie? It’s another oldie but was it also a goodie? I decided to find out on my own.

I’d been curious about bean pie for quite a while. When I first heard of it, I assumed that it was a version of Frito pie that was made with beans instead of chili. But when I heard people talking about eating bean pie for dessert, I realized that I had been wrong and that bean pie is sweet not savory.

After a bit of research, I found quite a few recipes and from the spices added decided that bean pie was trying to approximate a pumpkin or a sweet potato pie, as often included were allspice, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. And even though some recipes insisted that pinto bean pie was a substitute for pecan pie, after making it I failed to taste how this could be the case.

Pinto bean pie | Homesick Texan

At first, I was put off by adding mashed beans to my mixture of butter, sugar and eggs. The resulting color of the blend was a bit unappetizing (a less-than-lovely shade of washed-out beige), and, well, it just seemed odd adding mashed pintos to my dessert. Pintos are made for savory dishes, not sweet!

But after I threw some spices into the mix and took a small taste of the uncooked filling, if I hadn’t known that it was beans in the spoonful instead of pumpkin puree, I would have been fooled. After baking it for an hour, the color—thankfully—deepened into a warmer, darker brown. And after topping it with a big scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt, I had my first slice of bean pie. I found it creamy, rich, spicy and fulfilling.

Now, I figured that because it was made with beans it was healthier than your typical slice of pie. And perhaps it is, at least in terms of protein. But it’s still not as healthy as eating a piece of fruit for dessert. (Though I guess if you had fresh fruit you might not even need to make pinto bean pie!)

Since the beans are just there for texture and not flavor (sort of like when you make a cream pie with tofu—which is, incidentally, also beans), I’m eager to make some variations. Such as a chocolate bean pie, made with black beans and spiced with cinnamon and ancho. Or perhaps a banana bean pie or a coconut bean pie or, why not just combine two Depression favorites and make a vinegar bean pie? The possibilities for bean pie combinations are endless!

Pinto bean pie | Homesick Texan
When my grandmother was telling me about these Depression-era pies, I asked if she’d heard of pinto bean pie. She replied that she hadn’t. She added, “But as long as it doesn’t taste like raisin pie, which is another pie that my mother made back when I was growing up, then bean pie is probably pretty good.”

Raisin pie? Very interesting. But I guess that’s another subject for another day.

Print
5 from 8 votes

Pinto bean pie

Servings 22
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans with juices
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • A pinch salt
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
  • Ice cream or whipped cream, for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  • In a blender, cream the sugar, butter, and eggs. Add the beans, vanilla, 
    cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and salt then blend until it’s thick and smooth.
  • Pour pie filling into an unbaked pie shell, and bake for 1 hour or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Serve warm topped with ice cream or whipped cream.

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66 Comments

  1. lifeinourlane says:

    raisin pie! oh, my word! my grandma made raisin pies all of the time. i loved them. maybe because i loved her, maybe they were delicious. i haven't had one in years!

  2. Beutler Family says:

    When I use a can of pinto beans, am I supposed to drain them first or use them in the surrounding juice?

  3. Lisa Fain says:

    Beutler Family–It's been a while since I made this, but I believe the beans were drained. Save the liquid, however, and if you have a hard time making the bean puree in the blender with the eggs and such, maybe add a bit of the liquid.

  4. Frank Tellez says:

    We’re eating this right now. I left out the butter and it tastes very good! You wouldn’t know it contained beans unless someone told you. It’s very good. We’re eating it with vanilla ice cream. Oh, I only used 1/3 of a cup of sugar and I used Black Beans instead of Pinto. Will make again!

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      Frank–Thank you for the feedback and I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!

  5. The is a very common bean pie (navy or pinto beans) in the African-American community. Black Americans have making these pies for at least 100 years— my great grandmother made these as a young girl. It’s astounding that so many readers were unaware of this.