If you’re feeling homesick for the ranch back home, you may want to consider making these ranch-style beans. Ranch-style beans are culinary staples in the Midwest – particularly in Texas! – and they’re ridiculously easy to make. Here’s how.
What You'll Learn Today
What Are Ranch Style Beans?
Since 1872, ranch-style beans have been part of classic Texan cuisine. They offer a unique spin on chuck-wagon flair and have a distinctive flavor. They aren’t necessarily sweet, they aren’t necessarily spicy, and they aren’t necessarily savory – but they’re absolutely delicious.
You can eat ranch-style beans by themselves or alongside your favorite dishes. They taste great in enchiladas, with some rice and cheese, or even as a base in classic bean salad.
They can even be incorporated in various types of casseroles!
Ranch-style beans are iconic and versatile. You can buy canned varieties of these beans at the grocery store, but there’s nothing quite like whipping up a batch for yourself.
How to Make Ranch Style Beans?
Unfortunately, the recipe for store-bought, classic ranch-style beans is somewhat of a closely guarded secret. Some people argue that they’re just pinto beans in chili sauce – while others say that it’s more of a gravy-like recipe.
However, the core ingredients usually remain the same – things like vinegar, beef tallow, paprika, tomatoes, and of course, beans.
There are some variations on the recipe you can make, of course. This basic recipe is a great place to start, though, especially if you’re new to making ranch-style beans.
Here’s a guide.
Type of Cuisine
- 1 lb dried pinto beans
- 6 cloves minced garlic
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 diced onion
- 6 chiles, with the seeds and stems taken out
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp salt
- Black pepper, to taste
- 6 cups broth (beef preferred)
- 1 tsp brown sugar
1. Begin by soaking the beans in water. This is an essential step for cooking beans. It not only helps to draw out the starches but it makes them easier to digest, too.
There are several steps you can take to soak your beans. You can soak them overnight for 12 hours (the recommended method) or quickly soak them. Just place the beans in a stockpot, cover them with water, bring them to a boil, and remove them from the heat and allow them to sit for at least one hour.
Here’s a video detailing the quick soak method for soaking beans:
Which method you choose, when the soaking is finished, you should drain the beans. Give them one good rinse.
2. Next, heat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high. Cook your chili peppers on each side until they bubble and open up. Turn the heat off, then fill the skillet with water. Let the papers fully dehydrate. This step helps to unlock the deep, spicy, and complex flavors of the anchos.
3. In the pot you’re planning on using to cook your beans, heat a teaspoon of olive oil. Cook the onions for about five minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Put these two ingredients in a blender or food processor, then add other ingredients for a complex puree. You’ll add brown sugar, tomatoes, vinegar, cumin, paprika, water, oregano, hydrated chiles, and salt to the mix.
Set them aside once they all are pureed together.
4. Next, add the broth and pinto beans to the cooking pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for an hour, stirring every now and then so it doesn’t stick to the side of the pot.
5. Last but not least, stir in the puree. You can cook the beans for an hour or so until the sauce has reduced to just a light glaze and the beans are tender. Adjust your seasonings, adding more if necessary, then serve.
These beans can be served on the cool side, but most chefs recommend serving them piping hot. This will allow for the best, most complex flavors.
Substitutions in Ranch Style Beans
There are a few substitutions you can make for these ranch-style beans if you don’t have – or don’t like – any of the ingredients that are included.
This recipe calls for apple cider vinegar, but if you don’t like apple cider vinegar – or simply can’t find any in stores – you can use white vinegar. If you want the white vinegar to totally match the flavor profile of the apple cider vinegar, add a dash of lemon juice or some other type of citrus juice.
Otherwise, just know that your ranch-style beans might not be quite as sweet.
Dried ancho peppers are usually the go-to for this recipe. However, if you can’t find any you can use regular chile powder or ancho chili powder. Just use a quarter of a cup – or if you want your beans to be extra spicy, you can use even more than that. You may want to wait until you’re done cooking the beans to make sure they don’t get too spicy, though.
Again, pinto beans are the standard for this recipe. If you don’t have any, you can use black beans, navy beans, great northern beans, black turtle beans, or kidney beans. The flavor will differ slightly but for the most part, the end result will be the same.
You can adjust any of the spices and herbs in this recipe as you see fit and based on what you have available.
Finally, some people recommend adding baking soda to the soaking beans. This doesn’t do much to alter the taste or cooking process but can make them easier to digest. If you tend to have issues with beans, it’s a good tip to try!
What to Add to Beans to Make Them Better?
These beans taste great on their own – but there are plenty of other things you might consider adding to this recipe.
Try red pepper flakes or additional herbs like sage, oregano, or thyme. COriander and mustard are two other ones to try,
To make your beans softer, the baking soda tip as mentioned above should do the trick.
For example, you can add a flour tortilla and some cheese and sour cream for a deeply filling, satisfying meal. You can throw in additional vegetables if you want to upgrade these beans’ nutrition game or some extra spices for a tastier take on the recipe.
What is a Substitute for Ranch-Style Beans?
Can’t find ranch-style beans in stores – and don’t have the time to make your own? That’s ok, too! Chili beans are, for the most part, a good substitute for ranch-style beans.
They use many of the same ingredients and have some of the same fixtures as a base. Give these a try if you find yourself in a pinch – but do yourself a favor and make ranch-style beans someday soon, too!
For more farm-style cooking, check our guide here.