Add pinto beans to a large pot and cover with cool water (at least a few inches above the beans as they will expand). Soak for at least 6 hours or overnight* uncovered at room temperature. Once beans are soaked, drain and set aside.
Heat your large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add oil (or water), diced onion, and bell pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, or until onion is soft and translucent.
Next, add drained beans and vegetable broth and cover with water about 1 inch over the top, as the beans will expand while cooking. Bring to a low boil. Then reduce heat to low or medium-low so it simmers but doesn’t boil. Cook uncovered for 1 hour or until beans are tender.
Once the beans are tender and cooked through, add remaining seasonings: Mustard, tomato paste, coconut sugar, salt, pepper, chili powder, liquid smoke, and hot sauce (optional). Stir to coat and cook on low for 10-15 more minutes to let the flavors meld.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt to taste, chili powder or hot sauce for heat, coconut sugar for sweetness, mustard for tanginess, or tomato paste for depth of flavor. You want them very well seasoned, so don't be shy!
Your beans are now ready to enjoy! Store leftovers well covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Will keep in the freezer for 1 month (oftentimes longer).
*For reference, 1 pound dried beans typically equals about 2 cups dried or 4 cups cooked. *The chili powder I used was from Whole Foods and contains a blend of chili peppers, cumin, garlic, oregano, coriander, cloves and allspice. *6-8 hours is the optimal amount of time for soaking your beans. The longer you soak them, the more tender they will become, and the more likely they will split and separate during cooking. So if you can't get to them right away, simply drain, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. *I recently discovered that Trader Joe's beans are BPA-free, which is great news if you forget to prep ahead of time. In a pinch, buying cans that are BPA-free is still a good option. Just use about 5 cups well-drained beans (measured after draining) in place of the dry beans. Cook the onion and pepper as instructed. Then add beans but omit the vegetable broth and water, skip the 1-hour simmering time, and go straight for the tomato paste, mustard, and spices, etc. Cook as instructed from there. *Recipe method adapted from Ree Drummond. *Nutrition information is a rough estimate for 1 half-cup serving (of 10) servings. The recipe as written yields roughly 5 cups cooked beans.