Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

¡Frijoles! Mexican Pinto Beans

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 powder and smoked paprika give it a nice smokiness.  It’s a favorite of my friends and family.

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.

Add chipotle powder to taste depending on how spicy you like it. I pick mine up at Mexican markets in the cellophane packets. If you can’t find chipotle powder, you can add a one or two whole dried chipotles, and snap off the stems before adding them.

8 cups of water

1 chopped onion

4 minced garlic cloves

2 – 4 tsp. chipotle powder (to taste)

1 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)

1 Tb. cumin powder (comino)

1 tsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 diced Roma (plum) tomato

1 diced bell pepper or 1 cup frozen diced bell peppers

3 cups dry pinto beans

2-3 tsp. salt to taste

Wash beans thoroughly, checking that there are no stones.

Heat water to boil in large pot.

Add  chopped onion, garlic and seasonings.

When water is boiling again, add beans and boil for a minute or two.

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. 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!