It is the most common bean in the United States and north-western Mexico, and is most often eaten whole in broth or mashed and refried. Either whole or mashed, it is a common filling for burritos.
The young pods may also be used as green beans.
In the south-west United States, the pinto bean is an important symbol of regional identity, especially among Mexican Americans.
Along with the chilli, it is one of the official state vegetables of New Mexico (under the name frijol).
The prepared beans are commonly known as frijoles.
This type of bean is also referred to as “Cowboy Beans” in Texas, all along the Mexican border and wherever Mexican cowboys were employed. In areas where Mexican cowboys did not travel on the trails north from Texas, it was probably not known.
This is the bean most commonly used for refried beans (fresh or canned) and in many dishes at Tex-Mex restaurants.
Rice and pinto beans served with cornbread or corn tortillas are often a staple meal where there is limited money for meat; the amino acids in this combination make it a complete protein source.
This variety is often used in chili con carne, although the kidney bean, black bean, and many others may also be used in other locales (see below).
In the southeastern part of the United States, pinto beans were once a staple of the poor (usually eaten with cornbread, milk, and cabbage), especially during the winter months. Some churches in rural areas still sponsor “pinto bean suppers” for social gatherings and fund raisers.