Kate's Global Kitchen

by Kate Heyhoe


A Pot of Pintos
Mexican Frijoles de Olla


Serves 8 to 10


In Old Mexico, beans used to simmer all day long in an earthenware pot, known as an olla. Today, modern materials have replaced the olla in most homes, but you can still find the burnished ollas used in rural areas and small remote towns. Frijoles de olla are meant to be quite soupy, with the beans spooned into small bowls or cups along with their flavorful broth. Northern Americanos might serve the beans as a first course or appetizer, but in Mexico they typically come after the main course and before the dessert, ensuring that diners are well fed. Or, they may be simply served by themselves, with just a warm tortilla. By adding beans to other ingredients, you can create other dishes that profit from the sweet taste of these beans, as in my recipe for Eggs with Epazote and Frijoles.

This recipe calls for the herb known as epazote, but you can make the beans without it as well.

Time Saving Tip:
Start heating the beans and water while you quickly dice the onion and garlic. The beans take several minutes to come to a boil, so if you work quickly, you can chop the vegetables and add them before the water even becomes warm.


Preparation time: 5 minutes, plus about 12 minutes for periodic checking and stirring
Total cooking time: 2 to 2-1/2 hours


1 pound dried pinto beans (2 to 2-1/2 cups)
2 quarts water, possibly more as needed
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh epazote (can be omitted)
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste


Pick through the beans to discard any pebbles or other debris. Rinse the beans well and drain.

Place the beans in a heavy pot. Pour in 2 quarts water, or enough to cover the beans by "two knuckles." Turn the heat on high.

While the beans start to heat, quickly dice the onion (about 1 cup diced) and finely mince the garlic. Add the onion, garlic and epazote to the beans.

Bring the beans to a boil on high, then reduce the heat so that the beans are at a bare simmer. Do not cover the pot. Note: A flame tamer will help distribute the heat evenly and keep the bottom from scorching.

Simmer the beans slowly, without stirring, for 1 hour. Then stir the beans up from the bottom. If necessary, add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Simmer another 30 minutes, then stir and check the water level again. If needed, add enough water to cover the beans by 1/2 inch.

When the beans start to feel soft, stir in the salt. Check the beans every 15 minutes or so, stirring and adding just enough water to now just barely cover the beans. When the beans are cooked through, remove the epazote. You should end up with enough liquid to cover the beans. To thicken the bean broth, purée 1/2 to 1 cup of the beans and return them to the pot.

Serve the beans in small bowls or cups with some of their liquid, or drain them and use them in other recipes.


Epazote & A Pot of Pintos


Kate's Global Kitchen for May, 2000:

Mi Casa Es Su Casa Month:
Celebrating Mexican Home Cooking

5/06/00 Tequila Fiesta Recipes: Red Tuna on Green Tomatillos
5/13/00 Mexican Cheeses: The Whole Enchilada
5/20/00 Epazote & A Pot of Pintos
5/27/00 Mexican Shredded Chicken & Toasted Corn Soup

Also visit Global Destinations: Mexico for more Mexican Recipes.


Copyright © 2000, 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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Modified August 2007