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Pinto beans in large pot being stirred with metal spoon.

Learn how to make Norma Jean’s famous pinto beans from the legend herself, made with simple ingredients, rich tradition and a top secret method.

Beans in the pot stirred with a metal spoon. The text reads "Norma Jean's Beans".Beans in the pot stirred with a metal spoon. The text reads "Norma Jean's Beans".

Norma Jean's Famous Beans

If you love BBQ beans as much as I do, then you need to try this pinto beans recipe from Black's Barbecue in Lockhart, TX. Prepared by Black family matriarch Norma Jean herself, these beans are not your average side dish. Norma Jean has graciously agreed to share the tried-and-true secrets of her legendary beans with me, so I’m passing them on to you.

With a carefully crafted blend of spices and Norma Jean’s signature “bumping” technique, these beans are packed with deep, smoky BBQ flavor and a velvety texture that will keep you coming back for more. With just a handful of quality ingredients and a little patience, you can make these mouthwatering beans right in your own backyard, and I’ll show you how. So, let’s get started.

A sign hanging on the side of a building that reads "Black's Barbecue open 8 days a week".A sign hanging on the side of a building that reads "Black's Barbecue open 8 days a week".

What Makes Black Beans So Special

Norma Jean's beans are more than just a side dish at Black's Barbecue; they are, in fact, a family heirloom. Developed over the course of several years, this recipe blends influences from Norma Jean's grandmother and mother, along with her own personal touches. As one of the first sides offered at Black's, these beans have become an important part of the restaurant's history.

What sets these beans apart is, without a doubt, the careful balance of flavours and textures. Soaked for up to 12 hours, then simmered for another 3 hours, these beans live up to the “low and slow” philosophy of great barbecue. With a blend of simple ingredients and methods honed over the years, these beans offer a taste of Black’s barbecue tradition that you can now recreate at home.

Susie meets Norma Jean at a table at Black's Barbecue.Susie meets Norma Jean at a table at Black's Barbecue.

Ingredients for Norma Jean Beans

This recipe uses simple, quality ingredients that then work together to create a rich, satisfying flavor. Here's what you'll need to recreate the taste of Black's Barbecue at home:

  • 2 cups raw pinto beans
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces minced and salted pork
  • 1 medium onion (in cubes)
  • 8 cups waterfall (initially)
  • 4 additional cups waterfall (as necessary)
Ingredients for Norma Jean Beans, poured into measuring spoon.Ingredients for Norma Jean Beans, poured into measuring spoon.

“Bumping” beans

The real magic of these beans lies in a technique the Blacks call “bumping the beans.” This method involves mixing the beans in a specific way, gently bumping them together. This process slightly breaks down the skin, creating a thick, delicious sauce that makes these beans one of a kind. Norma Jean emphasizes that good food requires patience. These beans simmer for 3 hours, using a “low and slow” approach to create a velvety, smooth dish. It’s a labor of love, and it pays off in every bite that’s loaded with flavor and tradition.

Pinto beans mixed in a pot.Pinto beans mixed in a pot.

How to Make Black's Pinto Beans

Now that you know what you need to make these delicious beans, let's see how to make them. This recipe requires a little time and attention, but the result is worth the effort.

  1. Prepare the beans and soak them. Rinse the pinto beans thoroughly, making sure to remove any debris. Soak them for at least 8 hours, and overnight if possible. Once the beans are soaked, drain them and then rinse them again.
  2. Start cooking. In a large pot, combine the soaked beans and ground brined pork, diced onion, and 8 cups of water, then bring to a boil over high heat. The brined pork will give the beans a smoky flavor.
  3. Season the beans. Once it reaches boiling point, add the black pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt, then stir gently to combine.
  4. Let it simmer and “beat” the beans. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2.5-3 hours. Stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning and to “flush” the beans. This technique breaks down some of the bean skin, releasing starch and creating a velvety texture that captures the tradition of Texas BBQ.
  5. Maintain consistency. During cooking, add more water if necessary to prevent the beans from drying out. The beans will slowly transform, absorbing the flavors of the spices and pork.
  6. Check the cooking. The beans are done when they are tender and surrounded by a thick, flavorful sauce. This texture is the hallmark of Norma Jean's famous recipe. Patience is key. These beans are all about slow-cooked perfection.
  7. Serve or store. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot as a side dish or main course. For best flavor, refrigerate for 1-4 days before reheating, adding water as needed during reheating.
Norma Jean's famous pinto beans are picked and served.Norma Jean's famous pinto beans are picked and served.

Other tasty recipes with beans

BBQ beans are a basic side dish that pairs well with any grilled or smoked meat. If you’re looking to expand your bean repertoire, check out these other tasty recipes. Each one brings its own unique flavors to the party, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find your favorite:

A brick wall with a painted mural of a cowboy reading "Welcome to Lockhart, the Barb-B-Que Capital of Texas".A brick wall with a painted mural of a cowboy reading "Welcome to Lockhart, the Barb-B-Que Capital of Texas".

Norma Jean's Beans Recipe

Now that you have Norma Jean's secret bean recipe, you're ready to bring a taste of Texas BBQ history to your table. Remember, patience is key when making these beans. For more BBQ tips, tricks, and recipes, be sure to check out the Hey Grill Hey app. It's packed with everything you need to become a backyard BBQ master.

As always, I want to see what you cook. If you try this recipe, be sure to tag @heygrillhey ON Facebook OR User profileAnd for more grilling inspiration, head over to my Youtube channel where I always share new techniques and recipes.

  • Prepare the beans. Rinse pinto beans thoroughly under cold water. Remove any debris or damaged beans.

    2 cups pinto beans

  • Soak the beans. Place the rinsed beans in a large pot and cover with water. Soak overnight, or at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.

    2 cups pinto beans

  • Cook the beans. In a large pot, add the soaked beans, brined ground pork, diced onion, and the initial 8 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.

    2 ounces ground pork in brine, 1 medium onion, 8 cups of water

  • Season the beans. Once it boils, add black pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt. Stir to combine.

    ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ¼ teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Let it simmer. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2.5-3 hours. Stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent the beans from burning on the edges and to help break down some of the bean skins / “Bumb the beans”. This will release starch and thicken the liquid.

  • Add water if necessary. During cooking, add additional water, 1 cup at a time, if the beans begin to dry out. You can use up to 4 cups more water.

    4 cups of water

  • Check the cooking. The beans are cooked when they are tender and the liquid has reached the desired consistency.

  • Serve. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot as a side dish or main course. The flavor will intensify if the beans are cooked and chilled in the refrigerator for 1-4 days, then reheat when ready to serve. Add water as needed when reheating.

Calories: 242kilocalorie | Carbohydrates: 26G | Protein: 9G | Fat: 12G | Saturated fats: 4G | Polyunsaturated fats: 2G | Monounsaturated fat: 6G | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 1004mg | Potassium: 443mg | Fiber: 8G | Sugar: 2G | Vitamin A: 323IU | C vitamin: 3mg | Soccer: 72mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and should only be used as an approximation.

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