Recipe: New Mexican Frijoles

Food & Beverage

Growing up in northern New Mexico has left an indelible mark on my senses, particularly my sense of taste. I love spicy food, I hate cilantro (it’s not commonly used in New Mexican cooking), and I’ll always pick pintos over black beans.
In the fall, you could walk into any kitchen in almost any northern NM village and find a pot of pintos beans simmering on the stovetop. If you were even luckier, there’d be fresh red chile sauce simmering next to the beans, some homemade flour tortillas wrapped in foil in the oven, and maybe even some crumbled chorizo sitting in a skillet nearby.
A pot of frijoles is easy and economical to make, plus fills your tummy with something yummy and satiates the craving for warm, nourishing food I get when the weather starts to cool down. The only hard part of the recipe at all is that you need to soak the dried beans overnight, so plan ahead!
When I was setting out to write down the recipe and document the process, it got me thinking about other New Mexican dishes I’d like to share — calabacitas, posole, homemade tortillas, sopapillas, and more. Stay tuned!

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Recipe: Pinto Beans
Pinto beans about 2 cups dried
Stock or water
Onion 1 medium, chopped
Garlic 3-4 cloves, minced
Red chile powder New Mexico is best. Found in the Hispanic section of the grocery store, usually in cellophane packets.
Vegetable oil for sauteing garlic and onions (optional)

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  1. Rinse the dried pinto beans, and sort through them for any stems, rocks, etc. that might have come along for the ride.
  2. Put the beans in a bowl, cover with water, and let soak overnight. This softens the beans and cuts down on the cooking time substantially.
  3. Drain the beans and rinse them again.
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  1. Chop the garlic and onions, and saute them for 5 minutes or so in the bottom of a large cooking pot or Dutch oven. Add the drained beans and saute for a few more minutes. (If you’re using a really rich stock, adding meat to the pot, or wanting a very low-fat version, you can omit this step.)
  2. Cover the mixture with water or stock and bring to a soft boil. Turn down to very low, and let simmer for a couple of hours, adding water as needed.
  3. When the beans change color but are still firm to the touch, add a couple of tablespoons of chile powder and some salt and pepper. Stir well, and continue to simmer for another hour.
  4. The beans are done when they’re soft and mashable. Season with salt and chile powder as needed.
  5. Serve in a bowl with chile sauce, chopped onions, and/or crumbled chorizo. Warm flour tortillas, preferably homemade, are a mandatory accompaniment.


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Sometimes helpful editor and digital media director at MAKE and CRAFT.

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