Pinto Bean Pie

(Note: While published in early August, this was written in late March before summer fruits .)

My grandmother Mimi was known to play pranks and pull legs. She’d take a pinto bean pie to church gatherings but not tell anyone what it was. Sweet and creamy, the congregation gobbled it up then asked what kind of pie. “Pinto Bean,” she’d smile. They'd accused her of lying. Lying. In Church. She'd just smile all the way home.

Researching this pie led down the “make-do” pie hole. Vinegar pies. Chess pies. Hoosier Cream Pie. And to the History Bandit's deeper exploration of where desperation pie fit into the pie calendar. That's what this project is for. I had always heard they came out of the Great Depression when creative cooks extended what little they had. Desperation Pies: A Slice of Seasonal History makes a solid argument that desperation pies came much, much earlier in colonial America. Larders and pantries would run empty before the first fruits of Spring, and cooks had to make do with eggs, sugar, flour, butter, and milk. I also happened upon a different bean pie's significance to the Nation of Islam, but that will be for a later post.


It’s interesting and different—rich, nutty, and not too sweet. The filling has a heft. Definitely good, but I’m not sure it cracks my personal top ten list. Next time, I'd substitute brown or toasted sugar to add some caramel flavor.

All the recipes I read called for an unbaked crust. At 350˚ and for 45 minutes, there’s no way the crust would fully bake, so the filling went into half-baked crusts.



1 half-baked 9" pie crust


  • 3/4c pinto beans, cooked/canned
  • 1c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4c butter, melted
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Mash the pinto beans, add in sugar, butter, salt.
  3. Stir the eggs in one at a time, then the vanilla.
  4. When fully combined, pour into pie shell.
  5. Bake 40-50 minutes, till center is almost set.
  6. Cool & eat.