Beans are one of America’s most popular grocery items. And it’s no wonder. They are healthy, satisfying, and loaded with nutrition. And with many Americans choosing Vegan, Vegetarian, and gluten-free lifestyles, beans are a pantry staple more so now than ever.
If you go to the grocery store, chances are you’ll find rows of canned beans and quite a few varieties of dried beans. You may even notice that the section for pinto beans is larger than the rest. That’s because the pinto bean is America’s number one bean choice.
It’s also an important part of regional cooking. In Texas, they use pinto beans to make cowboy beans. In New Mexico, frijoles are one of their two official state vegetables. And in West Virginia and the Appalachians, pinto beans are part of a regional dish served with cornbread and found in home kitchens everywhere.
But what is unique about this dish is that they are not two side dishes. It’s a complete one-dish meal with the pinto beans served “soup-style” and the cornbread on top.
And though pinto beans and cornbread can be a satisfying meal by itself, you may want to know what else to serve with it. Popular choices are ham, or ham hocks, and toppings such as cheese, onions, and sour cream. Vegans and Vegetarians will enjoy a crisp lettuce salad, coleslaw or even a side of cooked collard greens. Those with gluten allergies can choose 100% cornmeal bread for a gluten-free option. Iced tea (sweetened or unsweetened) pairs nicely as well as an ice-cold beer. Fruit pies and ice cream go well for dessert.
- Pinto Beans And Cornbread, A One-Dish Meal
- What Meat Goes With Pinto Beans And Cornbread?
- What Else Is Good To Serve With Beans And Cornbread?
- What Type of Dessert To Serve With Pinto Beans And Cornbread?
- What Sides Would You Serve With Pinto Beans And Cornbread?
- What Is A Good Side Dish For Beans?
- Final Words
- Related Guides
Pinto Beans And Cornbread, A One-Dish Meal
Pinto Beans and Cornbread takes on legendary status in West Virginia, the Appalachians, and many parts of the South. Found at county fairs and church socials, pinto beans and cornbread is part of down home-cookin’.
The two are usually served as a bowl of pinto beans with a side of cornbread on top. Or just as often, the cornbread is crumbled in a bowl and topped with pinto beans. Either way, the pinto beans are served “soup-style”, not refried, or baked.
What Meat Goes With Pinto Beans And Cornbread?
Ask any Southerner, and the first choice will be ham. Most people simmer a ham hock with the beans. It adds extra richness and flavor to the dish. And when it’s cooked, you can pull off the meat and add it back in with the beans.
I know bacon is a type of ham, but it’s a pretty special one. You can crumble a little on top for some extra crunch and flavor.
Either grilled sliced Bratwurst or precooked Kielbasa would be a good choice of meat to serve with pinto beans and a crowd pleaser too.
4. Turkey on the bone
Many Southern recipes suggest adding a turkey neck to the beans when they simmer. Turkey is another good choice of meat to serve with beans and cornbread because it gives some extra flavor and has the added benefit of being a leaner meat than ham. And just like the ham hock, you can remove the meat and serve it with the beans.
What Else Is Good To Serve With Beans And Cornbread?
5. Leafy Greens
I asked many of my Southern friends what they serve with their pinto beans and cornbread other than meat. It was a tie between a fresh lettuce salad and a variety of cooked leafy greens – collard greens being the most popular side dish. Leafy greens are a powerhouse of nutrition. They also would give this dish a distinctive Southern flavor.
Another favorite of Southern cooking is coleslaw and the perfect side dish for pinto beans and cornbread. This dish of shredded cabbage and carrots with a tangy dressing is the perfect accompaniment to lighten up the meal.
I’m not going to recommend one recipe over another. There are as many recipes for coleslaw as there are families who eat it. Everyone knows their Grandma’s is the best. Just a quick look at Instagram and you’ll see over 673,000 very passionate posts for coleslaw.
Coleslaw is easy to make and there are thousands of varieties. Once you’ve found your family’s favorite, you’ll find there’s no end to what you can pair it with.
Pinto Beans Toppings
This is where you can really customize your bowl of beans. Serving onions, diced bell peppers, and shredded cheese is a nice addition to the dish.
Some families will enjoy some added spice and heat by adding jalapeños to their pinto beans. But whether or not you like it hot, don’t forget the sour cream. Everyone loves a dollop or two on top.
Cornbread Toppings – Honey
I feel like I’ve jumped out of the proverbial “which coleslaw” pot and now wading into the “sugar in cornbread” fire.
As a California girl, I’m neutral. My family didn’t have a cornbread philosophy and my early experiences were from the restaurants that served sweetened cornbread with honey. I have to admit, it’s pretty tasty straight out of the oven.
But historically speaking, Southern cornbread doesn’t have any sugar. According to Serious Eats, Sugar Has No Place in Cornbread. In fact, it doesn’t have flour either. It was a simple dish of stone-ground meal, buttermilk, and a smoking hot pan to brown the edges.
I’ve been lucky enough to have tried this wonderful delicacy and taste why unsweetened cornbread is so cherished. But I wouldn’t fault anyone who also wanted it a tad more sweetener and put some honey on top.
I was surprised that just about all my Southern friends mentioned iced tea as something good to serve with beans and cornbread. To be more precise, it was “sweet tea.” (Ah – this sugar is not controversial). They said it’s what they always drank when eating pinto beans and cornbread at county fairs and friends’ homes.
Beer has always been a good pairing for beans of all types, and pinto beans are no exception. A medium-bodied beer would be better than a dark beer. Choose your favorite and enjoy.
What Type of Dessert To Serve With Pinto Beans And Cornbread?
1. Fruit Pies
Pinto beans and cornbread is American home cooking from the heart. In fact, the entire dish is indigenous to the Americas from the pinto beans to the cornmeal. So the ideal dessert to serve would be apple pie and ice cream.
Of course, all fruit pies would be a delicious dessert for this meal. The sweet fruit of the filling and the buttery crunch of the crust would make a nice contrast with the hearty beans and bread.
2. Ice Cream
Ice cream, any flavor, would make a nice ending to this homestyle meal. The sweet cream would go nicely after the earthy flavors of beans and cornbread. I think I’d prefer vanilla, but I’m not too adventurous with ice cream. A rich butter pecan or tres leches ice cream would also make a nice ending to this simple meal.
3. Peaches And Cream
For a simple dessert that can be made in moments, try peaches and cream. Just peel and slice fresh peaches and add some whipped cream on top. Everyone will appreciate this quick dessert; especially when peaches are in season.
What Sides Would You Serve With Pinto Beans And Cornbread?
Many families are familiar with beans as a side dish. They are a protein-filled addition to meat dishes and easily incorporated into stews and casseroles. Pinto beans especially are an important part of Mexican cuisine and Texas BBQ recipes.
Nevertheless, Pinto Beans and Cornbread together is the main course, not just two sides. Whether you crumble the cornbread and serve the pinto beans on top, or keep it whole, it’s the combination of the two that makes this iconic dish so delicious.
Because you already have the main dish, keep the sides simple. My recommendations are:
- Fried Chicken
- Vegetable Casserole
It’s no denying that all these main courses would go very well with a side of beans. But pinto beans and cornbread is too substantial to add a second main course dish.
What Is A Good Side Dish For Beans?
Now, this is where you can cook once and eat thrice. Cooked pinto beans are excellent to freeze. There’s very little effort in making them, but they do take a few hours to simmer.
Most families cook a batch and freeze them in family portions for fast weeknight meals. Freezing doesn’t affect the quality or taste.
As a side dish, beans pair with many of your family’s favorites. Most things that you can BBQ would make a suitable side dish for beans. Beef, pork, and chicken would make nice accompaniments.
Potatoes are a popular side dish for beans. In fact, I’ve seen two very interesting variations. One is diced potatoes added to cooked beans and simmered for 20 -30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Be sure to add lots of spices to brighten up this dish.
Another version that even your little ones will love is tater tots with beans. I’ve seen the tater tots baked and added to the cooked pinto beans. Or just as commonly, tater tots are placed onto of the beans and cooked as a casserole. Either way, a little sour cream on top would make a quick and tasty weeknight supper.
The nice part of serving a pinto beans and cornbread supper is that most of the meal is already on the table. A few simple side dishes are all you need to elevate this iconic home meal.
Just a few extra touches like cooking the beans with a ham hock or a little honey for the cornbread will add more depth and flavor. For extra freshness and crunch, coleslaw is a good side for this meal. Don’t forget the sweet tea. Again, it’s a simple addition, but a nice pairing for the meal.
Kelly is a native of California. After graduation from UCLA, she began her travels living and cooking in Europe, Asia, and the Northwest. In Tokyo, she earned the Grand Diplôme, for both Cuisine and Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu.
Kelly is a freelance food writer. She started the website, Tokyo-Table.com, where she reviews Tokyo restaurants from the perspective of a professional chef. Kelly has written for publications in Asia and North America on all aspects of cooking. Kelly now lives in Los Angeles with her family and her vegetable garden.