¡Frijoles! Mexican Pinto Beans
These beans are a favorite of my friends and family. This recipe evolved from my mother-in-law’s frijoles al charro. She made hers with bacon to flavor the beans. I usually omit the bacon, but it’s good either way. The chipotle and smoked paprika give it a nice smokiness. You can either use powdered chipotle or a whole one. I discard the chili after cooking.
There are many opinions in this family about cooking beans. My husband is insistent about not soaking the beans first, as he swears that takes away the flavor. I boil the beans with all the flavorings on the theory that they will soak up the flavors. My mother-in-law says the garlic will help eliminate the gas from the beans. She told me never to put salt in until the end because it will toughen the beans. And I add cocoa powder to bring out the flavor of the chilies, just as the ancient Aztecs did.
I sometimes add epazote leaves, which are popular in southern Mexican cooking. My mother in-law, who came from northern Mexico, didn’t use them. They have a sharp smell, akin to turpentine, but they adds wonderful flavor to the beans and are supposed to eliminate gas and bloating. I add them to the beans towards the end of cooking since they don’t stand up to cooking for a long period. If you buy a bunch, you can chop the rest and freeze in an ice cube tray with water.
I also made these beans in my 6 quart Instant Pot Duo. I did not heat the water ahead of time, just put cold water, beans and seasonings directly into the pot. I set it for 50 minutes pressure cook and let pressure release naturally. The whole process took about 2 hours.
1 chopped onion
1 diced bell pepper (green and/or red) or 1 cup frozen diced bell peppers
4 minced garlic cloves
8 cups of water
1/2 – 1 tsp. chipotle powder (to taste) or 1 dried chipotle pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin powder (comino)
1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Bay leaves
1 diced Roma (plum) tomato
1 sprig of epazote leaves, chopped, stems discarded
3 cups dry pinto beans
2-3 tsp. salt to taste
Wash beans thoroughly, checking that there are no stones.
Add water and seasonings (except salt) and bring it to boil. Add beans and boil for 5 minutes.
Pour into a crock pot. Cook on low until very tender, usually 5 hours. You can make it in the evening and let it cook overnight or make it in the morning and it will be ready for dinner. (If you are short on time you can cook it on high.)
As noted above, skip the boiling and cook in Instant Pot for 50 minutes, using Natural Pressure Release.
Add 2-3 tsp salt to taste when cooked. Serve with fresh cilantro, either queso cotija, queso fresco, cheddar or jack cheese, and chopped onion if desired. Serve with warm corn tortillas.
Excellent for making tostadas. Simply mash well-cooked beans with the pot liquor, no frying necessary.
Vegetarian/ Vegan tacos: Fill a warmed tortilla with beans, fresh tomato, avocado and cilantro. Top with salsa and a shake of sea salt.
Store beans in small containers in the freezer. Sure beats opening a can!