One dish at the very heart of Texan, Tex-Mex, and southwestern cuisine is Ranch style beans.
If you’ve ever visited The Lone Star State, you’ve mostly enjoyed this Texan staple topped with cheese and rice, an enchilada side dish, in a meat and beans salad, or all of these at the same time!
Sadly, as quick as the addiction the sets in once you try these unique canned beans is the immediate realization of its absence outside of the Friendship state. What’s worse, the craving for it quickly follows.
If you feel the same way, complete with a somewhat paralyzing need, then you might want to get this nine important things for great ranch style beans substitute.
Additionally, making these at home will give you control over its ingredients and seasoning. In other words, you might even end up with something healthier and more delicious!
The Best Ranch Style Beans
Is There A Quick Substitute?
We believe no other commercial product can substitute for the one-of-a-kind flavor of Ranch Style Beans. Unsurprisingly, these idea applies to most region-specific cuisine.
Hence, short of getting the exact thing – The Ranch Style Beans – online, or permanently moving to the Southwest (which isn’t that much quicker), making ranch style beans at home will be your best option.
This point becomes even more valid if you have an upcoming barbecue on the calendar. More importantly, if you’re a Texan far from home, then you have no time to spare.
So, what important things will you need for that quick fix of the delicious beans?
9 Essentials For Homemade Ranch Style Beans
#1: Pinto beans
Like nuts, all beans have distinct and characteristic textures and flavors. It’s this variety of tastes among beans that prevent experienced chefs from substituting one bean for another in recipes.
For homemade ranch style beans, we recommend using the same bean that cooks use for the much-coveted canned food: pinto beans. You can buy canned pinto beans, but the dried variety usually has a better texture.
If you do get dried pinto beans, make sure to soak them for at least an hour or until they’re soft before cooking.
You’ll typically find pinto beans in most markets. However, if they’re not available, then you can opt for kidney beans. This particular bean, especially the light red variety, has the flavor and texture closer to pinto beans.
If for some reason kidney beans are also scarce, another adequate substitute would be red beans.
Unfortunately, all other bean varieties will not be as robust as the three above and will be overpowered by ranch style sauce.
#2: Chicken stock
Any cook or chef that knows their stuff will tell you that stock is more than just diluted meat, bones, and vegetables. In fact, it’s one of the most significant ingredients in many dishes, serving as its base.
By adding stock, you’re improving a soup or sauce’s flavor, complexity, depth, and mouthfeel.
We’d recommend using homemade stock that you’ll have made from scratch. However, if you’re in a hurry, the occasional bouillon cube won’t hurt – just avoid making a habit out of it. Instant broth can never compare to freshly made stock.
#3: Pork - chopped bacon or chopped ham hocks
Pork, especially bacon or the hocks, will further add richness, dimension, and complexity to the flavor of your ranch style beans.
But who needs an excuse to add bacon? Nonetheless, moderation is still key so try to avoid using more bacon than pinto beans.
#4: Brown sugar
Some cooks prefer molasses while others may like white sugar. Although both these options are adequate substitutes, for us, brown sugar is the right sweetener to use for your homemade ranch style.
Brown sugar’s sweetness and its subtle hint of taste will perfectly complement the spice and smoke of the cumin, chilies and the paprika.
Ranch style beans are spicy for a reason! Where do most of that heat, and some of the smokiness come from?
Black pepper may be a staple ingredient in everyday cooking, but it’s also incredibly important for the spice that you’ll taste in ranch style sauces. A good tip on black pepper is always to use freshly-cracked or freshly ground peppercorns. Pre-ground black pepper has a tendency to leak out all that heat and aroma.
One of the foundations of flavor and smokiness that you taste in ranch style beans is because of the ground cumin seeds. This spice is so strong that you’ll recognize its distinct aroma from several feet away! Also, finding a substitute for cumin is almost impossible due to its unique flavor profile.
However, if you’re desperate for a cumin substitute, then powdered caraway seeds or powdered coriander will suffice. Naturally, they can never fully replace cumin so you might want to visit your local spice vendor.
A familiar aroma in Italian pasta, oregano is yet another spice that has a singular taste and smell. Depending on how you like you ranch style beans, oregano typically shines from the dishes complex mix of flavors.
Although you might get away with substituting cumin and even oregano, replacing both at the same time will leave you with ranch style beans that are next to tasteless.
Paprika is another spice that adds smokiness as well as color in a wide variety of dishes. In addition to the color from the tomato puree, paprika lends its red shade to the sauce of the beans.
#6: Onions & Garlic
Onions and garlic are a duo as iconic as salt and pepper. In fact, in many Asian countries, sautéing onions and garlic is the starting point of numerous dishes.
Due to the long cooking time of ranch style beans, the once pungent onion and garlic provide tang, sweetness, and a hint of nuttiness to the resulting dish.
#7: Chilies powder/ancho chilies
The majority of the spice in your homemade ranch style beans will be from the chilies or chili powder you use. Also, If you can find ancho chilies, using them instead of powder will add both heats and that all-important smoky flavor!
#8: Tomato puree
The tomato puree is a strong base and flavor additive to any dish. Additionally, when you add this ingredient in the last hour or half hour of making you ranch style beans, the puree will add a tangy, acidic, and sour note.
If the cumin, paprika, or ancho chilies are still not smoky enough for you, the adding some liquid smoke might do the trick! Just remember to buy the unflavored variety, so your other ingredients will still be fresh and distinct.
Homemade Ranch Style Beans Recipe
- 1 lb dry pinto beans, washed and soaked until soft
- 2 tsp chicken stock
- 4 oz chopped bacon or diced ham hocks
- 3 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp paprika
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 6 ancho chilies, removed of seeds or 1.5 tbsp California chili powder
- Optional: if you’re using the California chili powder instead of the ancho chilies, then you’ll need ¼ tsp liquid smoke
- 5 cups of water
For the last hour of cooking:
- ¼ cup tomato pureea
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp brown sugar
What we love about this recipe is how incredibly easy it is.
- Simply mix all the ingredients except the last three (reserve the puree and the single teaspoons of salt and sugar until the last hour of cooking) into a large pot.
- Then, cover the pot and let simmer for at 5 hours. During the cooking process, you might need to add some more water to keep the beans covered.
- Finally, in the last hour of cooking the beans, add the last three ingredients. Season to taste.
Enjoy your very own homemade ranch style beans!