Beans are on the shortlist of nominees to become the Official Ambassador of Mexican Cuisine. And it's a well-deserved nomination at that.
These nutritional powerhouses are loaded in protein and fiber, and they've been a staple in Mexican cooking since the beginning.
They also taste better when you make them at home, and once you see how easy it is to keep a stocked fridge of beans you might never go back to buying them in a can.
Three types of Mexican beans -- Frijoles de Olla Recipe
You're probably familiar with black and pinto beans as these have carved out a permanent home next to entrees in Mexican restaurants around the world.
Peruvian beans (far right above) are less common north of the border. Also referred to as Peruano, Canary or Mayocabo beans, they have a creamier consistency with buttery undertones. I'll do a separate post on them soon, but for now just know that you've got a third choice for homemade beans that is definitely worth exploring. (We also recently added a Cranberry Beans recipe to our repertoire.)
The quintessential Frijoles de Olla is a pound of beans simmering in a pot over a lazy afternoon. Onion is the most common addition to the pot. Less common is adding lard to the mix.
Lard has been having an identity crisis over the past few decades as it has slowly fallen out of favor in most kitchens, and it's becoming less common in Frijoles de Olla as well.
Making a pot of beans with just onion and water is still going to produce beans that will taste better than canned beans, but I think adding a bit of lard at the beginning makes them taste even better.
So you've got options. Lard or no lard. (If choosing lard try to source out farm direct lard or make your own.)
Start by rifling through 2 cups of dry beans. Pick out any rocks or shriveled beans and discard them.
Give the beans a rinse and drain well.
Add beans to a pot along with 1 small onion roughly chopped and 2-3 tablespoons of lard.
Cover with enough water so that there is approximately 2" of water above the beans. For this pot that was around 12 cups of water.
Bring to a boil and then let simmer, partially covered, for the next 1.5-2 hours.
Beans need time. But luckily they aren't too picky about when they are done cooking. Start taking bites of them after 1 1/2 hours. If they are still hard or grainy they need a little more time.
If the water level gets low you can add a few more cups. Ideally you always want a bit of water covering the beans. And note that these will be resting in the bean broth when they are done, like this:
That is after about 2 hours of simmering.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt and let simmer for a bit longer, another 10-15 minutes. Taste, and add more salt if you want.
And that's it, hola Frijoles de Olla!
These will keep in the fridge for a few days, but not much longer. Luckily though they freeze really well, making it easy to stock individual sized portions in the freezer.
You can portion them out into cup sized portions (or larger). Include plenty of the broth too. (See our Bean Broth Rice post on making rice using bean broth.)
The broth is delicious and makes it easy to control the consistency of your soon-to-be epic refried beans.
This batch made six 1-cup portions that will last in the freezer for months.
And the best part?
2 cups of dried beans costs about $1 in these parts. This will make 6-7 cups of cooked beans. A typical 15 oz. can of beans is $1.50 and has just under 2 cups of beans inside.
So homemade beans cost 15 cents a cup, store-bought costs 75 cents a cup.
Just one of the many reasons that makes Beans Beans Beans a strong favorite for the Ambassadorship.
Beans, Beans, Beans -- Frijoles de Olla
- 2 cups dried beans
- 1 small onion
- 2-3 tablespoons lard (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- 2-3 quarts water
- Sort through the beans and discard any rocks or shriveled beans. Rinse the beans and drain well.
- Add beans to a pot and cover with 2-3 quarts of water, or so the water level is 2" above the beans. Add the roughly chopped onion and 2-3 tablespoons of lard.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover. Let simmer for 1.5-2 hours.
- Ensure that the water level is well above the beans by adding more water if you need to.
- Start tasting them after 1 1/2 hours. If they are hard or grainy they need a little more time.
- Once they are close add 1 teaspoon of salt and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Salt to taste and add more if necessary. (I probably used a heaping 2 teaspoons total for this batch.)
- If you want, portion into 1 cup sized bags (or jars). Include plenty of the broth in the portion bags. They will keep in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for months at a time.
Got your beans on hand? Try our Pinto Bean Soup.
Or use them to make a fresh batch of Black Bean and Corn Salsa.
We also recently tested out a batch of Yellow Indian Woman Pot Beans.
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Hi Patrick, thanks again for such a wonderful blog and source of interesting recipes!
I'm used to thinking soaking beans overnight was mandatory. Are you of a different opinion, do the beans used in Mexican cooking not require overnight soaking, etc.?
Thanks Joe! I think it's more just a difference in habits between regions. Soaking the beans overnight will reduce the cooking time but usually not by enough to make pre-planning like that worthwhile 🙂 Cheers.
What if I soaked the beans over night? Can I just shave 30 mins off the cooking time?
Hi Jimmy. Yeah, maybe even more than that, but you'll still have to take some bites to know when they are done. Cheers.
The lard is what makes these turn the corner into delicious. I took your suggestion and rendered my own lard, I will never buy the commercial stuff again. My family thanks you for helping me become a better cook. Best.
Ahh good to hear thanks JG, so glad you tried rendering your own lard! Cheers.
Working on a pot right now - we love Rosarita's, but man, 540 mg of salt per serving is just too much! These oughtta be great. I subbed half a slice of bacon for the lard.
Yeah they are so much better when you can control the sodium level. I hope your batch turned out good! Cheers.
These beans are amazing! They come up creamy and delicious. Definitely worth trying. They’re a new favorite at our house