Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mexican Whole Beans

This post is part of a handful of posts that I'm working on in preparation for my upcoming Ten Days series. It is going to be Ten Days of Pumpkin, but you'll have to be flexible with me because a handful of the posts will feature other winter squash, and I didn't like the sound of "Ten Days of Winter Squash."

The dried beans I used to make the soupy, Mexican-restaurant-style ones described below were from an Iowa heirloom bean grower/vendor called Seed Savers Exchange. I'd had a Rancho Gordo sample box on my Christmas list for a couple years now, but apparently nobody took that request seriously, so I decided to buy them for myself. After doing a bit of research, however, I found Seed Savers Exchange, for which I opted over Rancho Gordo because it's nearer to Minnesota and has a comparable (or maybe even greater) selection of heirloom beans. I bought about ten pounds of various beans. They arrived within two days of ordering online and they are all beautiful and unique. I'd been working through them slowly until I read recently that beans should be used within a year of harvest, and that's galvanized more bean-making in our home lately. I shouldn't need an expiration date to motivate me, though. I love beans, and they are so simple to make, and you can do so many things with them. My experience with Seed Savers Exchange was awesome, so if you are interested in ordering heirloom beans, I highly recommend the company.

Seed Savers beans

I used Tiger's Eye beans, which are beautiful when dry. When cooked, they look and taste like oversized, creamy pinto beans. They were a good choice, if I do say so myself.

Tiger's Eye

The recipe I played with to make these beans is an Emeril recipe from Emeril mashes them and makes them "refried" style, and you can too, but I did not.


I love whole beans in all their soupy, salty glory. Good thing, since the recipe makes a lot of them, so beans made an appearance in several dinners the week I made them. They shine best in simple dishes: arroz con pollo or weeknight huevos rancheros (bonus recipe following the bean recipe). But you'll read about a fancier way of using them when I finally get to my Ten Days of Pumpkin...

Mexican Whole Beans
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Yield: 4-5 cups

1 pound dried pinto (or pinto-like) beans, soaked overnight in a large bowl with water to cover by 2-inches, and drained*
1 bay leaf
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons bacon drippings (or lard or butter or olive oil)
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano or epazote
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

In a medium, heavy pot or dutch oven, combine the beans, bay leaf, and enough broth to cover by about one inch (about 4 cups). Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more broth or water as necessary to keep the beans always covered. When the beans are soft, remove pot from heat.

In a large, heavy skillet, melt the bacon drippings and butter (or whatever combination of fat you choose to use) over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, spices, and salt, and, stirring constantly, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove the bay leaf from the beans. Pour the onion-garlic mixture into the beans and stir to combine. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the flavors combine and the mixture thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes. If needed, add a tablespoon of water at a time to keep the beans from getting dry. (I didn't have to do that.)

*A soaking shortcut is to cover the beans with water, bring to boil, boil for 2 minutes, turn off the burner, cover, and let them soak for 2 hours. Drain, rinse, and then start recipe.

huevos rancheros

Weeknight Huevos Rancheros
From yours truly
Serves 2

4 corn tortillas
4 eggs
1 cup (or more) Mexican Whole Beans
1 cup shredded cheese or crumbled queso fresco
olive oil (in a spray bottle is best)

Toppings: salsa, hot sauce, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro

Preheat oven on broil setting. Spray or brush olive oil on both sides of each tortilla. Place tortillas on baking sheet and broil for 2 minutes on each side, until firm and toasty.

In a nonstick skillet, cook your eggs however you like them best. Season with salt and pepper. Reheat Mexican Whole Beans if necessary.

When tortillas are done baking, place one egg on each tortilla and, using a slotted spoon, top with 1/4 cup whole beans, followed by 1/4 cup cheese. If you like your cheese melty, place under broiler again for another minute. Otherwise, top with fixings of your choice and dig in.


  1. had some tiger beans from the garden this year, and wasn't sure what to do with them other than pretend they were pintos and make refritos out of them.

    this was definitely a yum.

    thank you.

    1. You're welcome! I think I'm going to have to make these again soon myself. We've just used up our stash of beans and I'm ready to order more. Jealous of your garden. I forget that people can have beans from a garden!