No traditional Santa Maria Style Barbecue meal is complete without pinquito beans. But what are pinquito beans, and where did they come from?

Pinquitos are small pink beans that are native to the Santa Maria Valley. No one is quite sure about the origins of the pinquito bean, but after all these years it remains a commercial crop exclusive to the Central Coast.

Pinquito beans have long been considered an essential component of the Santa Maria BBQ menu, making them one of several indigenous ingredients that are integral to this regional culinary tradition.

In his seminal book on Santa Maria Style Barbecue, R.H. Tesene writes about the community barbecues of the 1920s and 1930s, and remarks, “The only beans used were the pinquito, a miniature cousin of the pink bean that has a very distinctive flavor and is only grown in the Santa Maria Valley.”

Pinquito beans are prized for maintaining a firm, plump texture even when fully cooked. The beauty of pinquito beans is that they are relatively easy to prepare. Check out this simple recipe for preparing a classic side dish of pinquito beans as part of the Santa Maria barbecue meal. Local purveyors such as Susie Q’s Brand and Cowboy Flavor offer pinquitos for sale.