Canned Barbecue Beans (El Pollo Loco BBQ Black Beans clone)

If I live to be a thousand years old I will never exhaust the possibilities offered by beans.  And what is there not to like about beans? They are- all at once- so inexpensive, so nutritious, so easy to store, so delicious, so versatile.

If you’ve been with me here at Foodie With Family for a while you’re pretty familiar with my adoration of beans.  They’re a quick, filling, el-cheapo way to feed a growing family.

“Quick?  Beans? Well, surely you aren’t making them from the dried state,” sayeth the doubting crowd.  Ah, but yes.  Yes, I am.  And here is where this post morphs from singing the praises of beans to evangelizing about canning.  Pressure canning, specifically.  And this requires a diversion of some length from beans…

Even if you were raised in a family who canned a great deal of food (as I was) chances are you heard something like this regarding pressure canning, “Pressure canners are DANGEROUS!  My Aunt Bertha had one explode on her once.  She leapt in front of it to protect the baby who was walking through the kitchen. They had to pull shrapnel from her neck.  Just missed the jugular.”  (The preceding cautionary tale was an amalgam of the pressure-canning horror stories from my own family members and friends.)  The truth is that pressure canners were dangerous.

The operative word here is ‘were’.  The reason so many of us have heirloom pressure canner tales of gore from ages of yore is because there were so many of them that actually exploded. But there is a whole new generation of pressure canners on the market now.  They have ratcheting, locking lids with metal-to-metal seals instead of  the inferior rubber gasket seals and their disturbing likelihood to warp, crack or otherwise deteriorate.

The Evil Genius has inspected Carol (Yes, my pressure canner has a name.  Don’t you name your appliances?) and pronounced her to be the domestic equivalent of a small-scale industrial sterilizer.  (And the man ought to know, he stares at/operates/programs/troubleshoots the real thing all day long every day. If the fellow who sits in front of the blast window on an industrial sterilizer waiting for little glass vials to explode says it’s safe, I think you can take his word for it.  And since I’m incapable of remaining on topic for more than three sentences, let me just ask one thing.  Does anyone else find it amusing that a man who is clearly NOT sterile [I remind you we had five sons in nine years] specializes in sterilizers?)


Is anyone out there?

“Get back on topic already!”

I can take a hint…

Yes, well.  Here’s where I was going with this.  Pressure canning is very safe now.  Provided you use a new model pressure canner and follow the safety instructions.  And don’t let Aunt Bertha near it.  Just saying.

As for which pressure canner to use, I prefer this beauty:


This is the second to the largest model made by the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry.  Yes, it’s a little more expensive than its smaller siblings or cheap knock-offs made by other companies, but it can hold and process fourteen quarts simultaneously.  Come on!  That’s seriously amazing.  That means that it twice as efficient as models that hold seven quarts.  And it can double as a big old boiling water canner.  There’s no boiling water canner on earth that can do double duty like Carol.

I have major warm fuzzies for this company.  When I broke my gauge (read: my fault completely.  I didn’t read the directions.) they replaced it –free of charge- even after I confessed what happened to it.  They sent it via Priority Mail.  Did I mention they sent it for free?  As in gratis?  I declared my love for them over the phone.  I think they’re used to it. But we were talking about beans, weren’t we?

Ah yes, these beans.

As if Facebook wasn’t a giant enough time hoover for me, I recently discovered the existence of the fabulous and aptly named ‘Canning’ group.  In this group was a picture of a batch of barbecue beans one member had made. The original recipe described them as being a clone of El Pollo Loco’s  BBQ Black Beans.  Having never been to an El  Pollo Loco, I had no idea what that meant.  One look at the recipe, though, and I knew I had to try it.  The method was so simple.  And the payoff was huge.

The hardest part of the whole project was waiting two weeks after processing to try them. Their hermetically sealed jars beckoned from their shelf in the basement, “Eat me!”

And boy, oh boy, these beans are good.  There is no hint at all of the paltry ten minutes of hands-on time (well, alright, twenty minutes if you count wiping and labeling the jars.) that went into creating this masterpiece. Smoky, spicy, saucy- they taste like beans that have baked for hours upon hours in the oven rather than beans poured from a jar that sat in the basement.  These beans alone are reason enough to justify the price of a new pressure canner even if they’re the only thing you ever make in it. How can that possibly be?

Let me paint you a little mental picture.  Let’s say, hypothetically, that you have five sons.  (Could happen, you know…) And let’s say that two of them are in a play; rehearsal is on Tuesday and the show is on Thursday, a column due Wednesday, paperwork to fill out at the bank on Thursday morning, a house full of company coming for the weekend on Friday and they’re planning on eating with you.  Right.  So, where in there are you going to find time to make a delicious and filling dinner for your company?  Try this one on for size.  Throw on a pot of rice.  Open and reheat a couple jars of Canned Barbecue Beans.  Put a couple links of your favorite sausage on the grill (Kielbasa, smoked sausage, link-chorizo, what-have-you…) and toss together a salad. Fluff the rice, top with the beans and sausage and serve with a salad and something icy cold to drink.

But hang on. It’s cheap, people!  It’s dirt cheap!  You can’t get food much cheaper than this, and you certainly can’t buy food of this quality for anywhere near this little in any store. And more banging of the drum… it’s so very good for you.  Fiber, vitamins, minerals, no funky preservatives or additives.  It’s great food the way food was intended to be.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, with no photos and sidebars, click here!

Canned Barbecue Beans

adapted from Creative Canning and Mary Kay Craig

  • 1 pound (or slightly more) black beans or a mix of pinto and black beans, rinsed, picked over and soaked 8 hours or overnight
  • 2 onions, peeled and small
  • 5 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups barbecue sauce (I used my favorite homemade Kansas City style sauce, but bottled sauce will do the job in a pinch.)
  • 2-3 drops liquid smoke per pint jar
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle powder per pint jar, to taste, or 1/2 of a fresh jalapeno, minced, per pint jar.

After the beans have soaked overnight, drain and rinse them.  What you see below is mixture of black beans and pinto beans that is approximately equal by weight.

Divide the beans between five clean pint jars. The beans should fill the jars about halfway.  Divide the onions and minced garlic evenly between the jars.

Add the chipotle powder (or minced jalapenos) and liquid smoke to each jar.

Add 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce to each jar. Notice how the pinto beans have been stained by the black beans?  That’s just inevitable.  Don’t let it worry you.

Then add clean, fresh water to the jars to within an inch of the top rim.  Insert a chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times per jar to release any trapped air bubbles.

Adjust the liquid if needed to maintain one-inch of clearance  from the upper rim.  Wipe the rims, add new two-piece lids and process, according to your canner’s manufacturer’s recommendations, at 15 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes.

How is that possible that you don’t have to cook the beans first? Pressure canning is more than just efficient, it’s convenient.  As you’re processing the jars, you’re also cooking the beans inside the jars.  It’s like doing a little bit of kitchen magic.

And now comes the tricky part.   You have to wait at least two weeks for the beans to soak up the liquid in the jar.  You could even wait four weeks for the ultimate experience, if you can stand it.  You’ll be making another batch as soon as you open up that first jar, though.  I guarantee you that!

P.S.  There was a really neat phenomenon that happened with these jars.  Because you form a vacuum inside the jars (by design) when pressure canning, the liquid inside the jars can continue to boil long after they’re removed from the canner.  One jar’s contents boiled for thirty-five minutes after it was sitting on the cooling rack!  The Evil Genius assures me that this is perfectly normal and safe.


  1. says

    There’s no photo of Carol and no explanation for the asterisk after Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry. Eep! I’m dying of suspense here.

  2. says

    You can store these for much longer than a few weeks, right? You just need to wait that long initially to get the full effect, right?

    I’m new to this canning thing. By “new” I mean “I’ve never done it.” I want to start, though, and my husband would go nuts for these beans.

    • Rebecca says

      Sacha- these will store practically forever (as long as you view 1-5 years as forever…) That’s part of what makes them so convenient.

      Don’t fear the canning. It’s so easy once you’ve done it a couple times. The important part is attention to detail. Pressure canning is a little easier because you don’t have to pre-sterilize everything prior to canning. It sterilizes IN the pressure canner. Gotta love those things!

      Jen- They don’t heat your kitchen up nearly as much as a boiling water canner. The heat is mainly contained inside the canner- thus, the pressure! Of course, there’s some heat transfer, but it’s minimal.

      Dapapa- Why, thank you. Are you angling for a jar of beans?

  3. says

    I’ve only canned one season, and with one of those big blue-speckled water bath pots (sweet gherkins, peaches, tomatoes, & pickled beets). I own a pressure canner, but I’m afraid of it and haven’t used it yet.

    I have a question: can a pressure CANNER be used as a pressure COOKER to cook meat or beans quickly for just a meal (not for canning)?


  4. ilex says

    I am so impressed that with the All American 30 qt that weighs 30 pounds that you can lift it!!! Now pack cans and food in it and wow!!!

    I have a glass top so that ruled out All American and even the 21 or 23 qt weighs in at 20 pounds. I got the 23 qt Presto and I will be replacing the gasket probably every month, but oh well.

    Can’t wait to try the bean recipe!!!!

    LadyJayPee, yes the pressure cooker canner can be used as a water bath, pressure cooker, pressure cooker/canner, just about anything you want.

  5. says

    This may be a really dumb question but is there ANY way to use this recipe with a waterbath canner? I JUST bought one and don’t have the funds to buy a pressure canner for quite awhile. But I’m dying to try these beans! I’m really hoping there is a way… even if it takes more work. I’m game to try it. Thanks.

  6. Linda says

    I watched my daughter, (who was visiting and I have a pressure canner) make these beans…she left me a jar and I’m waiting impatiently to crack them open!

    While watching her filling the jars I thought that it might be a bit easier if the BBQ sauce was put in the jar under the beans instead of on top. The water would go through the beans more quickly with less chance of spillover.

    Love the site, glad E showed it to me!

  7. spandangly says

    Two things-it seems to me that 90 minutes in a pressure canner is more than enough to cook the beans…. do you think they really need to be soaked? Perhaps it’s an issue of not being able to put enough liquid in the jars for them to absorb (I’ll admit, I’m just trying to be lazy and skip a step).
    Second, I would love to see a follow-up showing their consistency in and out of the can after waiting the two weeks. If you crack a can open, please post! :)
    Can’t wait to try this on all sorts of bean recipes!

  8. Dev says

    I have been looking for electric pressure cooker recipes. I have been on the internet, phone, bookstores etc. I am able to find only a few recipes. Usually I “guesstimate” cooking time. I also live in a high altitude that may affect timing. Any thoughts?

  9. Dee Bertelsen says

    I have not tried this recipe…HOWEVER.. I used 8 lbs of pintos and made 15 qts —
    6 using a BBQ sauce[canned] recipe I have from a smoker, and 6 using a taco spice and onions, and just plain beans to later as refried beans.
    I tried one jar with out presoaking, and they were definetly tougher. SOoo, here is what I do: pick thru them place them in cold water, bring them to a rolling boil, shut off let cool. Meanwhile get every thing else ready. Prep jars in hot water from canner, place spices in jars. Add beans, and liquid place in canner and your done. Nobody in my house knows abt waiting…I found a jar in fridg next morning half eaten. So I took them out, wahed them off placed some oil in ban and fixed refried beans for egg

  10. Marrina Frederick says

    MMMM…. I love to can. Been doing it since I was 20. Also, was raised on a farm with lots of siblings and this is just what the women in my family did. I was blessed with patient women in my life to teach me I’m for sure going to try this.I love having some thing to can that just isn’t during garden time in the fall. If I put bacon or ham in this, will I have to process it different than the recipe? Thanks for sharing.

  11. says

    Well, I have never seen an approved agency okay canning beans without cooking them first. The science of it demands that they be cooked because the intention is to time it such that the botulism goes away, not merely to cook the beans.

    Until that happens, I won’t be using this recipe as it is. I’ll cook the beans, first, then add them in with the other ingredients.

    But it looks fabulous and I can’t wait to try it!

  12. Anna Fee says

    90 minutes of pressure canning will take care of the botulism issue. The reason most approved recipes for dry beans require pre cooking is because of all the other things that might go wrong…. if not soaked or quick boiled first they will soak up all liquid and possibly break all your jars open in the canner. Also, some see it as “no point”…canning is for food storage and dry beans are already able to be stored. The only reason for canning them is “quick convenience”.

  13. Catie Herman says

    Your recipe calls for fresh garlic minced, but it appears in the photos that you used dried. How much did you use per pint?

    Also, is it safe to can these in quarts? I know that some things you’re not supposed to since they won’t heat all the way through in the larger quantity.

    Thanks for posting this, it looks delicious!

  14. Maria says

    After soaking the beans overnight, rinse and add fresh water and boil for 30 minutes. It’s an extra step. The beans are not cooked through but this will produce a better product, a soft bean, out of the jar later. The barbecue recipes given make two cups. This recipe calls for half cup in five jars so no, one recipe will not be enough. I’m making this recipe this morning and really looking forward to trying them in a few weeks.

  15. Tabitha says

    Does it have to be canned at 15 pounds of pressure I live in Georgia and I think 10 pounds would be enough?

  16. Nancy says

    Do you think this would work with navy beans? I am looking for a “Bush’s” style beans and hubby didn’t like the “Renees” beans recipe. Thanks

    • says

      Hi Nancy! I have only tested this with the combined pinto and black beans, so I’m afraid I can’t speak specifically to whether the mixture would work with Navy beans. I would love to know whether you try it, though, and how you like it if you did!

  17. says

    Hello, I just found out that El Pollo Loco was no longer making their BBQ Black Beans so this recipe is timely.. And I also wanted to start pressure canning so it’s doubly timely.

    My questions are: El Pollo Loco’s beans are/were smokey, not spicy per se and also sweet. But I see no added sweetener, so will the BBQ sauce supply the sweet as well?

    Also, I went to the WAFCO site and the pressure canner you speak of specifically warns: **We do not recommend cooking beans, lentils, etc. in our pressure cooker. WHAT? Can you comment? There must be a “ya but” about you cooking beans since you adore them so much? (By the way, I do as well!)


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