Updated: May 8
Reliable, tried and true, everyday bean recipe. This was mom's go-to pinto bean recipe but I have used this same method with black, canary (peruanos,) red and kidney beans and it worked perfectly for all.
Sometimes less is more and when it comes to beans that statement couldn't be truer. I can remember growing up and hearing others share their recipes for Mexican pinto beans and grew curious about all the different spices that can be used, what if they were better, tastier? As my mom made her usual weekly pot of beans, I asked her why she didn't use the commonly used epazote, comino, garlic or onions that other's added to their beans. She explained she had tried all those things in the past but she found those things took away from the genuine delicious taste of pure beans. Once cooked however, feel free to top them with crushed bacon, cheese and our Mountain Screamer green salsa, or any other toppings you prefer. This might be the simplest bean recipe you will find out there but I believe it's also the best.
The best, creamiest beans I've had. –Lali Arambula
This is the same exact recipe my grandmother taught my mother and the same recipe my mother made every week for almost 60 years! My mother always said, "We will never be without food at home as long as we have beans and rice." Teaching moment? I sure didn't see it that way when I was a teenager asking for McDonald's and she would retort, "Que McDonald's ni que nada, there's beans and rice at home!" Now in my late forties I can certainly appreciate her words more than ever and the wisdom she tried passing on thru her cooking.
Second version: When my mother had more time and remembered, she would at times soak the beans overnight. She would allege this version made them less gassy. I will say this method gives them a slightly less-stronger taste and lightens them up a bit, they don't turn out as brown as the first version. However, either version is just as yummy! I will include the extra steps in the recipe details and will call it out as, "second version."
Mom's Simply Delicious Beans
Sizing the amount of beans we are to use: Remember, beans expand to about double their un-cooked size so make sure whichever size pot you use, you put the dry beans in there first to get a good measurement and stay well below the half way point of the pot. Beans take about 3 hours to cook, so best practice is to make enough of them to last you all week since they keep in the refrigerator very well for that long. You can also make a big batch and freeze the remaining in several portioned freezable containers to pull out and use whenever you you need them. If you don't eat beans often I would start with a 16 oz bag of beans which should be enough to use as a side for about 7 people and still have leftovers. You will need:
A pot with a lid. Size of pot depends on how big a batch you're making. (Please read paragraph above for sizing.)
Uncooked dry beans of choice. I recommend Pinto or Canary (Peruanos,) or a mix of both together. (How many beans you ask? Please read above paragraph.)
Enough water to cover beans for over four times their size amount.
Salt to taste.
Olive Oil, (or any oil of preference,) if you will be frying them afterwards. No need if not frying.
Sorting/cleaning the beans: Pour the beans you will be using over a clean area of your kitchen table, grab a large plastic container, big enough for the beans to fit, making sure its extra spacious for them to be easily rinsed in. Take a seat in front of the beans and place the plastic container in your lap grasping it firmly with your thighs and the bottom of the table. Mold the beans into a small mountain about 1 foot away from you. From that small mountain you'll use both hands to bring a small amount of beans towards you, small enough for your eyes to be able to inspect for any pebbles, sticks or "ugly," beans. If that pile looks good, keep it coming towards you so it can land into the plastic container. Pick out any pebbles or sticks or anything "odd," that you find and put that to the side or in a trash bin.
Washing the beans: Take the beans in the plastic container to the sink, add some warm water to the container. With your fingers churn the beans around the water with your hands thoroughly making sure to rinse them well. Strain the water out and repeat a couple more times till the water comes out clear.
First Version: (If doing 2nd version, skip to #7) Place the beans in the pot with four times the amount of water, turn heat to HIGH, DO NOT ADD SALT! When the water first starts almost boiling, you may notice a layer of bubbles floating on the top, we want to get rid of that so use a spoon to scoop out as much of the bubbles as you can and throw down the sink. Once the top is clean of bubbles and you get the water to a light simmer, lower temp to slightly higher than LOW but not as high as MEDIUM. Cover the beans and monitor for about 5 to 10 minutes. We do this because covering the beans creates more heat and if your heat/fire is too high, you will have liquid spilling into the stove from under the lid. If this happens, simply remove the lid, lower fire a bit more and replace the lid again. Repeat- monitor for another 5 - 10 minutes, if the liquid spills again from under the lid, remove the lid, lower temp a bit more and replace lid again. Keep repeating these steps until you have a nice continuous rolling boil WITH the lid on, and water isn't spilling or overflowing to your stovetop. At this point you can leave it alone for 1 hour.
In about 1 hour, come back, uncover lid and mix the beans making sure to scrape the bottom with the spoon to assure no stragglers have gotten stuck to bottom of pan. Evaluate the water level- if all beans are still covered in water (bean broth,) you are good to cover them again, leave them alone for another hour. If the beans are not completely covered with the bean broth you will need to boil water separately, enough to cover the beans, add it to the pot till all beans are covered. Then cover the beans again for another hour.
After the second hour has passed, open the lid again and repeat same instructions as #4.
After 3 hours of cooking your beans should be fully cooked and ready to be salted. Start with a teaspoon of salt and mix it in well. Taste the beans, if they need more salt, add a 2nd teaspoon and so on. You don't want to add too much salt from the get-go because you can always add more salt if need be, but if you over salt, it can be almost un-edible. Once they are salted your beans are ready to serve. Enjoy! (If you will be frying your beans, go to last paragraph.)
Second Version: If using 2nd version, you need to start this step the evening prior to cooking the beans. (If you're not sure what "2nd version," is please read 2nd paragraph above where it states, "second version," for explanation.) For Second Version, follow steps 1 and 2, after beans have been thoroughly washed, cover them with double their size in water and set them to the side to soak overnight.
The day after soaking beans, strain the water out and rinse beans again.
Follow steps 3, 4, 5 & 6.
* Hint- You can use a pressure cooker so they can be done sooner. I admit, I'm a sissy when it comes to pressure cookers and never used one before but if you have one, simply figure out the 3-hour conversion to your pressure cooker timer.
Refried Beans: Depending on preference or what you are using the beans for, you can have several different consistencies of refried beans. For example if you are making enfrijoladas (picture an enchilada but covered in a bean sauce instead of chili sauce,) then you will need your refried bean consistency to be almost gravy-like. If you are using as a dip for chips, you will need the texture to be a more dry, thick paste-like consistency. The consistency is controlled by the amount of bean broth (or water,) you leave or omit. If your beans came out pretty dry, and you need more moisture for enfrijoladas, you can always add water (or even milk,) to make it saucier. With that said, heat some oil in a pan. About 1/4 cup of oil to every cup of beans you use. The oil should be hot enough to fry, you can test it by adding in 1 bean and if it starts frying quickly, your oil is ready and there is two directions you can take from here. If you have a fresh, hot pot of beans, you are wanting all of them to be fried, and they are ready for the oil to lather them, then you can slowly pour the hot oil over the pot of beans, then start squishing the beans with a bean/potato smasher, continue smashing for about ten minutes or until they reach your preferred texture and you are done! If you only want a small portion of your beans refried, then once your oil is hot enough, slowly spoon beans into the hot oil and immediately start squishing them with a bean/potato smasher. Cook them on low heat and keep smashing them as they cook. About 10 minutes later you should have perfect refried beans! Smother them in cheese and Mountain Screamer green salsa or use as a side for any dish you need. Beans are super versatile, delicious and nutritious.