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Aaron Franklin’s pinto beans

Aaron Franklins pinto beans DSC5414

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.

Would you like more Homesick Texan? Well, I’ve started offering additional recipes for paid subscribers to help with the costs of running the site. While I’m not taking anything away, if you’d like to support Homesick Texan and have access to exclusive, never-seen-before subscriber-only posts, please consider becoming a member; annual subscriptions are as low as $25. Thank you for reading, your consideration, and your support!

Aaron Franklins pinto beans DSC5414
4.8 from 58 votes

Aaron Franklin’s pinto beans

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


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


  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. Lisa Fain

    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. Lisa Fain

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

  6. Lisa Fain

    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.

  9. Lisa Fain

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

  10. Lisa Fain

    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. Lisa Fain

    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. Lisa Fain

    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?


  16. Lisa Fain

    Pete–I know just how you feel!

  17. Dave Cearley

    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!

      • My parents ate cornbread and milk, too, Julie. Apparently it was a favorite of my maternal grandfather, whom I never knew. I thought it was just our kinda weird tradition!

  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. Lisa Fain

    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. Lisa Fain

    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. Lisa Fain

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

  26. Lisa Fain

    Kathie–Thank you for the kind offer!

  27. Lisa Fain

    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. Lisa Fain

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

  32. Lisa Fain

    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 if you missed it.

  34. Anne Adams

    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. Ellen Daehnick

    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. Trav ice

    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.

  45. Rachael

    We are questioning if there is a typo…..1/4 *CUP chili powder. Is this accurate? We are wanting to double the recipe, so that would require almost 5 X 2.5 oz of chili powder bottles?! Please review recipe for accuracy.

  46. Thomas Pollan

    There is either a typo in the recipe. I have made these beans on 4 different occasions. Each time they were awful. They were way too spicy and too salty. The reason I made them 4 times was because I love Franklin’s bbq. I love his brisket and his ribs. I am not too crazy about his potato salad – too mustard-y for me – but at least it is edible. I cannot say as much for his beans. They have an awful aftertaste as well. Does not matter how much brisket you add. I am a Texan and I can throw down hot stuff (jalapeno peppers) with the best of them, but these beans are really bad if prepared per the recipe. Please let me know what I may be doing wrong. I am using regular McCormick chili powder and kosher salt. I have double checked your recipe’s proportions to Franklin’s 2-cups of bean spice and everything looks fine. I must be doing something wrong or there is a typo in Franklin’s book for this recipe. Have you personally tried the recipe? Appreciate any help you can give.

    • Lisa Fain

      Thomas–There are no typos so I’m sorry you don’t like the beans. I make this recipe all the time and love them so I reckon it is just a matter of taste. A tablespoon and a half of salt for a pound of beans is pretty standard. Is there salt, perhaps, in your chili powder? Maybe your brisket is overly salty, as well. In any case, if you want to give them another chance, perhaps try cutting all the spices in half if you find it too overpowering.

  47. 123ziggy1

    I made a few mods to the recipe:

    I was cooking in an Instant Pot so some of these relate to the special requirements of Instant Pot cooking.

    First I used 1 teaspoon of salt rather than 1 1/2 Tablespoons. The recipe is FAR TOO SALTY both for good taste and good health made as written.
    Second instead of black pepper (I don’t use it) I substituted one whole dried De Arbol pepper (small red Mexican chili pepper) placed in the mixture just before cooking and removed after.
    Third all spices were added after a 4 hour soak in lukewarm water. The water was retained per the original recipe however I removed about a cup of it to facilitate easier cooking.
    Fourth because I’m a vegan I substituted Textured Vegetable Protein sausage crumbles for the beef (I’m sure the flavor is different but really it’s pretty good) I used about 1 cup which was placed in the pot along with the spices just before cooking.
    Fifth I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of liquid smoke just before cooking.
    Sixth I added 1 Tablespoon of Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce just after cooking.

    Now for cooking procedures used for the Instant pot:

    With all ingredients in the pot and well stirred close the lid and set the release valve to pressure. Press the ‘manual’ button and adjust the time for 28 minutes. When cooking is done allow at least 10 minutes of natural pressure release before venting to avoid frothing up the beans and clogging the vent. When vented, remove the lid and remove the red chili pepper (depending on your tastes. If there is still too much liquid push the ‘saute’ button and run the pot with the lid off to reduce the liquid. It’s a good idea to stir the pot occasionally or the instant pot may scorch some of the beans on the bottom of the pot.

    When done, serve as desired.

    I hope that’s useful to some who read this.

    As far as I’m concerned the above modified recipe is one of the best I’ve ever tasted for making Tex-Mex rice and beans. This will be a go-to for a long time.


  48. What brand of chili powder do you use. I used Whole Foods Chili powder and it already has cumin.

    I added a table spoon of maple syrup to cut the heat.

    • Lisa Fain

      David–My Whole Foods sells pure ancho chile powder, though I’m not sure of the brand. I can also find it at Mexican grocery stores and at HEB/Central Market, too. A chili powder blend with cumin, etc. works, as well, though, and I also use Whole Foods chili powder if I don’t make my own.

  49. Overall, really great flavor, but WAY to salty.

    • Lisa Fain

      Sue–Glad you liked the flavor though I’m sorry you found the beans too salty.

  50. Hello, I made this recipe meatless and they actually come out more like a mild chili due to the 1/4 cup chili powder. My guess is to reduce the chili to 1 tbs per lb leaving everything else alone. After making per the recipe I doctored these with diced tomatoes, a mild jalapeno and fresh cilantro. In our opinion Coopers BBQ has the best tasting beans around.

    • Lisa Fain

      Austin–Thank you for sharing your adaptations! And I can’t remember the last time I went to Coopers so I look forward to trying their beans.

  51. 5 stars
    Best bean recipe ever. These are easy and delicious. Lots of flavor. They are my go to recipe for now on.

  52. Chris Hansen

    Hi Lisa,

    Curious why there is a ‘vegetarian’ tag and if you have a different definition of brisket than I do if it is indeed ‘vegetarian’. 😀

  53. Derek Williams

    not a fan, boiled put lid on and let them sit for four hours, then cooked them on low for couple hours then had to kick them up to a hard boil for about three hours, beans were still pretty hard. total of 9 hours, juice tasted great but beans were still not tender.

    • Lisa Fain

      Derek–I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. It’s odd because l;ots of people have made this recipe with success so my thinking is the beans were too old. This is the first time I’ve heard of someone not having a pot of tender pintos after 9 hours!

  54. 5 stars
    I made these beans this weekend and they turned out great. We were looking for a bean recipe to go with BBQ instead of our regular standby baked beans. We cooked them in a Dutch oven on the cooktop and used our own smoked brisket. This recipe is a keeper!! Thanks for sharing.

  55. Thomas Pollan

    My guess is that the Franklin recipe is using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and I used Morton’s. Perhaps this is why my product ended up tasting salty. Here is the difference between the two salts:

    1 cup of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt = 137 grams = 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons of Morton’s Kosher Salt.


    This reply is a little late, but I think you are right about people commenting about the beans being too salty. I had no idea that there was a difference in kosher salts until I read about this last month on a cooking website. I read that most professional cooks like the Diamond Crystal kosher salt better. I weigh my ingredients when I bake so there is never an issue. I think we should all cook with a scale! Can’t wait to try these.

  57. Michael Young

    Lisa, has anyone adapted this recipe to an instant pot. I’m wondering if 40 mins on high, and 20 mins natural release might work. BTW, I’m adding sliced & browned smoked sausage instead of brisket. Thanks

  58. We love these beans! Can you give any tips if we want to double the recipe & use 2 lbs of pinto beans? Would you recommend doubling all seasonings too?

    Thank you!

    • Lisa Fain

      Nicole–Yes, I’d double the seasonings and you may have to cook it longer, too.

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