There are an amazing number of American beans each cooking a little differently but no matter what variety you favor a crock pot is the easiest preparation method. Beans, maize and squash, the sacred female siblings of the Americas, combine to provide a protein rich diet with little or no meat. Beans and corn were combined in various ways appearing in early Spanish records as drinks, breads, tamales and tortillas. The two common bean types, the Lima and the kidney, of the New World are thought to have evolved independently in both Mexico and Peru and quickly entered the European diet where the only known bean was the fava. There are numerous varieties of beans, many unknown commercially, cultivated and eaten in Mexico determined by elevation, rainfall and regional idiocentricities with their numbers further compounded by local hybrids. Some of the most familiar would be pinto, black, Lima and kidney all used in gringo chili and the authentic “refried” side dish at your local taqueria and there are as many local colloquial terms for them as there are varieties.

The old school method for cooking beans calls for an olla, an earthenware casserole, but you can use any thick pot you’d like or a crock pot especially if you’re going to eat like a real Mexican and consume beans at every meal. You really don’t need to soak beans overnight, just cook them covered slowly until tender and then refrigerate them overnight because like most stewed foods they’re always seem better the next day . You should have lots of liquid left like a thin soup and the beans can now be served as they are, in small bowls with their liquid to be scooped up with tortillas perhaps after adding a little white cheese and some chilies, or mashed and fried as a component for other constructs.

Many beans evolved in the new world some still gathered today, some cultivated world wide and some now extinct.  We’re concerned mostly with those called Anasazi, black or turtle, bollito or wild pinto, kidney, Lima, runner bean, navy bean simply because those are the ones available to  most people although the tepary beans, a major food source, is still gathered in the poorer areas of Mexico it rarely reaches the market. There of course are many available in rural location often hybridized from place to place with names used only in their areas of cultivation and I suggest that you just find a type you like and master it nuances before moving on to others.

Many use a pressure cooker for their beans in Mexico as well as the tougher cuts of meat available there. An easy alternative is to microwave the beans several times for 2-3 minutes, leaving them to rest between, and then finishing on the stove.




Frijoles De Olla


1 pound beans of your desire, cleaned and washed

3 quarts HOT water

½ onions chopped coarsely

2 ounces rendered pork fat, oil, or chicken fat

To taste chicken powder


  1. Place the beans, onion, fat and water in a thick bottom sauce or crock pot with a tight lid
  2. Cover with the hot water, bring to a boil, skim and simmer till tender adding more liquid if needed to insure at least two cups liquid
  3. Finish beans with chicken powder or salt to taste

Beans in the Mexican culinary universe are comfort food and like rice in Asia or pasta in the Italy

They’re usually served as a counter balance to other foods. Water is the medium of choice for this peasant staple although a nice stock or some added “pot meat” could certainly be used and there’s  nothing wrong with adding a little garlic, some tomato or a little pureed chipotle for their smoky taste. You could also add a little beer or tequila and serve up a bowl of drunken beans to be scooped up by hand using a flour tortilla all depending on whether you’re Aztec or Mayan.


Charming video recipe in Spanish with English subtitles

Frijoles Refritos


Ubiquitous served with every meal either as an accompaniment, component or with your choice of topping as a center of the plate item. We all know “refried” beans although the term is strictly an English colloquium taking the term re, a Mexican prefix used for emphasis, to mean fried twice when it simply means well fried. So when you mash these beans along with their liquor and they become refritos.  A little rendered fresh pork fat makes them ambrosial, a little lard good, and a little olive oil passable and a thick bottom, like cast iron, saute pan is the vessel of choice.  In many households’ beans, tortillas and a little salsa would be a welcomed main meal. You can also add your favorite selection of spices or chilies to the beans either while or after they’ve been cooked.  Cumin, oregano, canned chipotle or jalapeño peppers, chorizo or ham or almost anything you wish although the purist will insist that they be no more then a bland foil for the piquant elements of the meal which rings true only if you have other elements.

4 cups cooked beans including 1 cup liquor

2 ounces melted lard, pork fat, bacon grease or olive oil

½ finely chopped, processed or shredded onion

To taste white pepper and chicken powder


  1. Using a thick bottomed skillet saute onions in oil till soft
  2. Add a portion of the beans and their liquor to the pan and mash, with the back of a large   spoon, a potato masher or a traditional wooden bean masher, until you have a purée.
  3. Add the rest of the beans in increments and continue the process until the mixture dries and begins to pull from the pan
  4. Roll the beans out as you would an omelet as serve as is or garnish.

You can top this construct with fried tortilla strips, queso blanco, radish slice, chili strips, sour cream, hard cooked eggs or that kind of tasteless shredded Mexican shredded cheese food from the market. You can also use the beans as a component it other dishes like burritos, tacos, tamales or stuffed chayote.