Reba McEntire’s Pinto Beans and Cornbread

An elevated version of the musician’s forever favorite

Photo: Kris D’Amico Photography

“This is hands-down my favorite food,” writes country music legend and actress Reba McEntire in her new cookbook, Not That Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating, and Dusting Off Your Boots. “I’ve loved pinto beans and cornbread forever. And I still love them. This is the ‘fancy’ version we make at the restaurant, but you don’t need a fancy occasion to enjoy them.” Read our interview with McEntire and find more recipes here.

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    • 1 lb. dry pinto beans (about 2 cups)

    • 1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

    • 1 (4-oz.) end piece bacon slab, roughly chopped (or 6 slices thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped)

    • 1 yellow onion, whole, peeled

    • 1 carrot, whole, peeled

    • 4 bay leaves

    • 8 cups light chicken stock

    • 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar

    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    • Hot sauce, for serving (optional)


    • 1½ cups fine cornmeal

    • ½ cup all-purpose flour

    • 1 tsp. baking powder

    • ½ tsp. baking soda

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt

    • 2 large eggs

    • ¼ cup honey

    • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted

    • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup whole milk whisked with 1 tsp. vinegar)


  1. Make the pinto beans: Rinse the beans thoroughly with cold water, then transfer to a large bowl. Fill the bowl with enough fresh water to cover the beans by a few inches. Stir. Allow the beans to stand at room temperature for 12 hours. 

  2. Drain and rinse the beans, then transfer them to a large pot. Fill the pot with enough fresh water to cover the beans by a few inches. Add the salt. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, remove the pot from the heat. Drain the beans and rinse gently.

  3. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it begins to render fat. Add the onion and carrots. Sauté until the bacon is browned and the vegetables are softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. Add the beans and bay leaves to the pot. Pour in the chicken stock, ensuring the beans are covered by at least 3 inches of liquid.

  5. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue cooking until the beans are fully softened, about 11/2 hours. Keep an eye on the pot and turn down the heat if the mixture begins to boil.

  6. Add the vinegar and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pot from the heat. Discard the bay leaves and any large pieces of carrot and onion.

  7. Ladle 1 cup of beans with a bit of liquid from the pot into a blender. Puree on low until fully smooth, increasing the speed if needed.

  8. Pour the pureed beans back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve immediately with a side of hot sauce, if desired.

  9. Make the cornbread: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

  10. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  11. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, and melted butter until combined.

  12. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and begin to whisk. Add the buttermilk and continue whisking until the ingredients form a thick batter. A few lumps are okay!

  13. Remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour the batter into it. Return the skillet to the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  14. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Taken from Not That Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating, and Dusting Off Your Boots by Reba McEntire. Copyright © 2023 by Reba McEntire. Used by permission of Harper Celebrate.