Norma Jean’s Beans

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Learn 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 pot being stirred with metal spoon. Text reads "Norma Jean's Beans".
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Norma Jean Famous Beans

If you love BBQ beans as much as I do, then you’ve got to try this pinto bean recipe from Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, TX. Made by the matriarch of the Black family, Norma Jean herself, these beans are not your average side dish. Norma Jean graciously agreed to share the time-tested secrets for her legendary beans with me, so now I’m passing them on to you.

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

A sign hanging out from the side of a building that reads "Black's Barbecue Open 8 Days a Week".

What Makes Black’s Beans So Special

Norma Jean’s beans are more than just a side dish at Black’s Barbecue; in fact, they’re a family legacy. Developed over 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, undoubtedly, the careful balance of flavors and textures. Soaked for up to 12 hours, then slow-simmered for another 3 hours, these beans live up to the “low and slow” philosophy of great BBQ. With a blend of simple ingredients and methods honed over the years, these beans therefore offer a taste of Black’s Barbecue tradition that you can now recreate at home.

Susie meeting Norma Jean at a table in Black's Barbecue.

Ingredients for Norma Jean’s Beans

This recipe uses simple, quality ingredients, which then work together to create a rich and satisfying flavor. Here’s what you’ll need to recreate a 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 ground salt pork
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 8 cups water (initially)
  • 4 additional cups water (as needed)
Ingredients for Norma Jean's beans being scooped in measuring spoon.

“Bumping” the Beans

The real magic of these beans lies in a technique the Blacks call “bumping the beans.” This method involves stirring the beans in a specific way, causing them to gently bump against each other. This process breaks the skins slightly, creating a thick, luscious sauce that makes these beans one-of-a-kind. Norma Jean points out that great food requires patience. These beans simmer for 3 hours, taking the “low and slow” approach to create a velvety smooth dish. It’s a labor of love, and it pays off in every bite loaded with flavor and tradition.

Pinto beans in pot being stirred.

How to Make Black’s Pinto Beans

Now that you know what you need to make these delicious beans, let’s go over how to make them. This recipe requires some time and attention, but the result is worth the effort.

  1. Prepare and soak the beans. Rinse your pinto beans thoroughly, ensuring you remove any debris. You want to soak them for at least 8 hours, and overnight if you can. When your beans have soaked, drain them, and then rinse them again.
  2. Start cooking. In a large pot, combine the soaked beans and ground salt pork, diced onion, and 8 cups of water, then bring them to a boil over high heat. The salt pork will give the beans a smoky essence.
  3. Season the beans. Once boiling, add the black pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and salt, then stir gently to combine.
  4. Simmer and “bump” the beans. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours. Stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning and to “bump” the beans. This technique breaks some of the beans’ skins, releasing starch and creating a velvety texture that captures that Texas BBQ tradition.
  5. Maintain consistency. Throughout cooking, add additional water as needed, to keep the beans from drying out. The beans will slowly transform, absorbing the flavors of the spices and pork.
  6. Check for doneness. The beans are ready when tender and surrounded by a thick, flavorful sauce. This consistency 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 enhanced flavor, refrigerate for 1-4 days before reheating, adding water as needed when reheating.
Norma Jean's famous pinto beans being scooped for serving.

More Flavorful Bean Recipes

BBQ beans are a staple side dish that pair well with any grilled or smoked meat. If you’re looking to expand your bean repertoire, then check out these other tasty recipes. Each on 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 that reads "Welcome to Lockhart the Barb-B-Que Capital of Texas".

Norma Jean’s Beans Recipe

Now that you have Norma Jean’s secret beans 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, don’t forget 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’re cooking. If you try this recipe, then be sure to tag @heygrillhey on Facebook or Instagram. And for more grilling inspiration, head over to my YouTube channel where I’m always sharing new techniques and recipes.

Norma Jean’s Beans

By: Susie Bulloch
0 from 0 votes
Learn to make Norma Jean's famous pinto beans from the legend herself, made with simple ingredients, rich tradition, and a top secret method.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Soaking Time8 hours
Total Time11 hours 15 minutes
Servings4 people

Video

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Ingredients
 

  • 2 cups pinto beans raw
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 ounces ground salt pork
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 8 cups water initially
  • 4 cups water as needed

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the beans. Rinse the 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. Let them soak overnight, or for 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, ground salt pork, diced onion, and the initial 8 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
    2 ounces ground salt pork, 1 medium onion, 8 cups water
  • Season the beans. Once boiling, 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
  • Simmer. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 2.5 to 3 hours. Stir every 5 -10 minutes to prevent the beans from burning on the edges and to help break some of the beans' skins / “Bumb the beans”. This will release starch and thicken the liquid.
  • Add water as needed. Throughout the cooking process, add additional water, 1 cup at a time, if the beans begin to dry out. You may use up to 4 additional cups of water.
    4 cups water
  • Check for doneness. The beans are done when they are tender and the liquid has thickened to your desired consistency.
  • Serve. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot as a side dish or as a main course. Flavor will intensify if beans are cooked and chilled in a refrigerator for 1 – 4 days then heated when you want to serve. Add water as needed when re heating.

Nutrition

Calories: 242kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 1004mg | Potassium: 443mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 323IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2mg

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

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