Pot Beans

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

NotesFrijoles (Phaseolus Vulgaria Spp.) (Dry Beans):

The dry goods stores in Mexico that sell dried chiles, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and rice are a colorful sight with their open sacks of multicolored beans: bayos (bay), flor de Mayo (mottled with mauve), canario (dull yellow), peruano (pale yellow), which is actually mayo cabo, morado (mauve), cacabuates (large bay-colored, mottled with reddish-mauve), shiny little negros (black), and small white frijoles blanco, to name a few. They provide a broad spectrum of regional varieties that play an important part in the nutritional value of the Mexican meal, especially in that of the campesinos (farm workers).

While there are slight regional differences in their preparation-s-with different herbs, with or without garlic, with or without chile, etc. there are some general rules that govern the cooking of them. The most common and flavorful way of cooking dry beans is in an earthenware bean pot, but care has to be taken that they do not scorch. Always have ready extra hot water to add from time to time, or do as my neighbors do-put a small cazuela full of water on top of the bean pot. It prevents some of the evaporation and provides hot water whenever it is needed.In the United States, unless you are at a high altitude, I find a slow cooker (Crock-Pot, etc.) with a ceramic liner the most useful for cooking beans. I leave the beans on medium heat and let them cook all night; the water does not tend to evaporate as quickly as with other methods of cooking. (The slow cookers work much better if they have a glass rather than a plastic top.) I prefer not to use a metal pot, but if you are in a hurry, a pressure cooker is the first resort. Take care to keep the pot over very low heat and make sure there is plenty of water so the beans do not scorch.

Cooking times can never be given exactly. It will all depend on how old the beans are: pintos, for instance, can be cooked in a Crock-Pot on high heat in 2½ hours, but I have known some black turtle beans that have taken 7 hours, and the skins were still tough. Try to avoid this by cooking beans the day before; they are more flavorful anyway and the broth nice and soupy.

Cooking Methodslow cooking



Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course, tapas/small plates

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentcrock pot

Five Ingredients or LessYes



Taste and Texturecreamy, savory


  • ½ pound (225 g) dry beans, such as pinto, California pink, or black turtle in the U.S. (bayo, fior de Mayo, canario, etc., in Mexico)
  • ¼ white onion; roughly sliced
  • 1 heaped tablespoon lard
  • Sea salt to taste


  1. Run the beans through your hands to pick out any small stones or pieces of earth, which can be found in even the best of brands. Rinse twice in cold water and drain. Put into a bean pot and cover with enough hot water to come at least 3 inches (7.5 cm) above the beans. Add the onion and lard and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until the skins of the beans are soft, then add the salt and continue cooking until the beans are very soft and the broth soupy (see Notes).

  2. Frijoles de olla are usually served alone at the end of the main course, sometimes on the same plate and mopped up with a tortilla, or often in a small bowl apart.

  3. Do not soak the beans first; the skin gives off an unpleasant flavor. If you do, then don’t throw out the soaking water with all the minerals and flavor. Instead throw out the book that tells you to do so.

  4. Do not add the salt until the skins of the beans are soft; some Mexican cooks will say that the skins will toughen.

  5. Always use the bean broth-again, throw out the book that tells you to discard it (believe it or not, I have seen these instructions).

  6. Do not leave the beans at room temperature for any length of time; they ferment easily.


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