How to Transform Protein-Packed Pinto Beans Into 5 Easy, Delicious Dinners

Photo: Stocksy/Ivan Solis; Art: W+G Creative
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Each week, Well+Good's Prep School helps take the stress out of meal prep. Enlisting the help of healthy meal prep pros, we arm you with full game plan for the week. This week, check out how to use the pantry staple pinto beans in easy, weeknight meals.

There are some pantry foods most people wouldn't mind eating every night. (Sign me up for repeated pasta dinners!) But there's one healthy staple likely hiding in your pantry that you may seriously doubt you could eat all week and enjoy: pinto beans. Really all you need is the perfect pinto beans recipe to kickstart your love—and a meal prep pro to show you how to transform it.

Plant-Based Cooking creator Diane Smith is a huge fan of pinto beans. As someone who helps create recipes and meal plans for people living a plant-based life (including those who are completely new to the eating plan), she likes that it checks the boxes for both protein and fiber at the same time. (Pinto beans are also full of magnesium.)

If all you've used pinto beans for is a side dish, get ready to be amazed. Here, Smith shares her tried-and-true pinto beans recipe (that you can make using an Instant Pot or on the stove) and five meal ideas that use the bean in fun, delicious ways.

Scroll down to see your plan for the week:

pinto beans recipe shopping list
Art: W+G Creative

Ingredients to buy:


  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 bag frozen red peppers
  • 1 bag chopped cabbage
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bag frozen mango
  • 5 limes (or lime juice)

Pantry goods


What you'll need from your fridge/pantry:

The pinto beans recipe to cook on Sunday for a week's worth of healthy dinners:

pinto beans recipe
Photo: Diane Smith

Easy pinto beans

Meal prep tip: Follow this recipe to make enough pinto beans to be used in your dinners throughout the entire week. (Don't worry, you won't get bored when you see the creative ways they'll be reused!) The recipe here makes six servings, enough to eat for dinner tonight (pair it with quinoa, which you'll also be meal prepping) and for dinner each weeknight.

Yields 6 servings

1 lb. dried pinto beans, rinsed and debris removed, soak at least 8 hours or overnight.
6 to 8 cups water, divided
2 Tbsp low-sodium vegetable bouillon
3 cloves minced garlic
2 bay leaves

If you're making on the stove:
1. Drain the soaked beans and place them in a large pot over medium-high heat.

2. Add water to the pot, reserving about a cup and setting aside. Make sure the beans are covered by a couple of inches. Mix the bouillon into the remaining cup of water and microwave for 40 seconds. Stir to combine and add it to pot along with the garlic and bay leaves.

3. Cover the beans and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about two hours or until the beans are tender. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

5. Save one serving to eat tonight; store the beans in a covered container for five days.

If you're making using an Instant Pot:

1. Drain the soaked beans and place them in the Instant Pot.

2. Add water to the pot, reserving about a cup and setting aside. Mix the bouillon into one cup of water and microwave for 40 seconds to combine. Stir and add to pot along with the garlic and bay leaves.

3. Seal the Instant Pot and make sure the vent is set to close. Push the “manual” button and move the time down to 20 minutes. Make sure it’s on “high pressure.” When you're done, allow steam to slow release. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

4. Set aside one serving for dinner tonight; store remaining beans in a covered container for five days.

Here's what else to meal prep on Sunday:

Quinoa: Quinoa is a super versatile grain that pairs well with pinto beans and is an easy way to up the fiber in a meal. Cook two cups of dried quinoa according to package directions. You want to make enough for dinner on Sunday and to incorporate into a few different dinners later in the week. Store the cooked quinoa in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to one week.

Here’s how to rework the pinto beans recipe into a whole week’s worth of tasty dinners:

monday dinner: burrito bowls

Leftovers: 1/2 cup pinto beans, 1/2 cup quinoa

New ingredients: 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin,  1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup frozen corn, 1/2 cup frozen red peppers, 1/4 salsa, 1/2 cup chopped cabbage, 1 tsp lime juice (from 1/2 lime)

De-thaw the frozen corn and red peppers (a half cup of each) by heating in the microwave for 30 seconds. Combine them in a pot on the stove with the quinoa, beans, chili powder, and cumin, then heat until the mixture is warmed through. Add the contents from the stove to a bowl, along with chopped cabbage, salsa, and a tablespoon of lime juice for flavor.

tuesday dinner: pinto bean quinoa salad with mango

Leftovers: 1/2 cup pinto beans, 1/2 cup quinoa

New ingredients: 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup frozen red peppers, 1/2 cup frozen mango, 1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1/3 cup lime juice (from 3-4 squeezed limes), 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 clove garlic (minced), 2 tsp low-sodium tamari, 2 Tbsp maple syrup 

Combine the pinto beans, quinoa, chopped red onion, pumpkin seeds, and mango (thawed) on a plate or bowl. Then make a dressing by mixing the lime juice, olive oil, rice vinegar, minced garlic, tamari, and maple syrup in a separate bowl. Drizzle the dressing on top of the mango-bean salad, then toss to combine.

wednesday dinner: Bean quesadillas

Leftovers: 1/2 cup pinto beans

New ingredients: 1 tortilla, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1/4 cup frozen red bell peppers, 1/4 cup chopped cabbage, 1/4 cup salsa, 1/2 avocado (cut into slices)

Re-heat your pinto beans in the microwave or on the stove and use them as a satiating filling for a yummy quesadilla. Heat a tortilla on the stovetop until heated and crispy. Remove from heat, then on one half of the tortilla, add the beans, thawed red bell peppers, a quarter cup chopped red onion, and a quarter cup chopped cabbage. Top with salsa and sliced avocado. (Save the rest of your avocado in the fridge. We'll use it Friday.) Fold in half and enjoy.

thursday dinner: tortilla soup

Leftovers: 1/2 cup pinto beans

New ingredients: 2 tortillas, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/2 can diced tomatoes , 1/4 cup frozen red peppers, 1 cup vegetable broth, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 Tbsp cumin, 1/2 salt

Make crispy tortilla chips for this hearty soup by slicing two tortillas into strips and baking on a pan in the oven for 10 minutes, at 350°F. While they cook, pour the vegetable broth, pinto beans, diced tomatoes, red peppers, spices, and olive oil into a saucepan on the stove. (Save the rest of the diced tomatoes for tomorrow.) Cook on medium heat until everything is warmed through. Serve in a bowl, with a few crispy tortilla strips sprinkled on top.

friday dinner: tacos

Leftovers: 1/2 cup pinto beans, 1/2 cup quinoa

New ingredients: 2 tortillas, 1/2 can diced tomatoes (drained), 1/4 cup chopped cabbage, 1/2 avocado (cut into slices), 1/4 cup shredded Mexican-style cheese, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder

Reheat the pinto beans on the stove or in the microwave. Put both tortillas on a plate, covering them lightly with a paper towel and microwave them for 45 seconds. Fill the warmed tortillas with pinto beans, chopped cabbage, drained diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, and avocado slices to your taco, serving as the filling. Serve with heated up quinoa seasoned with cumin and chili powder on the side.

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