Frijoles Charros

This recipe is an old classic, taken from my teenage recipe collection. Behold the binder of my youth!

My sister Erica and I bought matching binders when I was about 16 years old, and faithfully copied in our favorite family recipes. However, in my enthusiasm for Tasty Kitchen, America’s Test Kitchen, and various and sundry food blogs, I haven’t accessed the lore in this little book for quite a while. I wonder what else is in here . . .

. . . oooh! Pork Shreds with Hoisin Sauce! I must mend the error of my ways and make some Mom classics.

As for these beans, I just love them.

When I was first drafting this post, I was under the impression that Mom learned how to make this dish when she studied abroad in Mexico during her college years. Thankfully, I took the time to check my sources, and it turns out that she learned it when we lived in Valencia from our neighbor Wendy, who in turn learned how to make it in Mexico. I think. Either way, for me it brings back so many comforting childhood memories. Thanks for so many years of quality food, Mom. You fed us well!


(Serves 6-8)

2 1/2 – 3 cups brown, black, red or pinto beans
1 onion
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
1 lb bacon
1 bunch cilantro
2 jalapeño chilies
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cover the beans with water and soak them overnight.

That picture kind of looks like a cloud of darkness, but I promise–there are beans in there.

The next day, when you’ve rolled up your sleeves and you’re ready to cook, rinse and wash the beans under running water.

Yep, that stream of water is looking quite weak. In fact, in about an hour our water was about to be turned off for the rest of the night. Why the City of Chicago waited until 5pm on Monday to start working on a leak that had reduced our water to a thin trickle 3 days prior is a mystery to me–all I can say is that we fell asleep to the tune of drillhammers tearing up the street at 11pm. Thankfully the project manager warned me that our water was about to be off just as I turned into our apartment complex, which enabled us to stockpile the H2O like aquabandits:

But back to the beans! Once they’re nice and clean, return them to the pot . . .

. . . and cover them with water (about 1 inch above the beans). If perchance you forget to soak the beans, just increase the cooking time by about 1 1/2 hours.

Let’s gather the remaining ingredients to our collective bosom:

Add the can of tomatoes to the pot:

Mince the garlic and toss it into the pot–or you can squeeze it straight in with a garlic press. I think I’ll call mine a ‘garlique press.’ It makes me feel more French.

Chop the onion finely (okay, my chop was quite rough) and toss that in the pot too:

Mince up the jalapeño chilies:

You can remove the seeds to suit your preferred level of spiciness–I cut out the seeds from one and left them in the other.

Toss ’em in the pot!

Are you sensing a pattern here? A ‘tossing in the pot’ pattern? In fact, it’s beyond me why this recipe isn’t just called ‘Toss ‘Em in the Pot Beans.’

Roughly chop the cilantro . . .

. . . and you guessed it. The thing with the pot again. But only toss in half of the cilantro, because the other half is going to be a garnish!

This is my bowl of reserved cilantro–it will add a note of brightness to what could otherwise be a very brown dish.

Dice the bacon . . .

. . . and fry it until crisp.

Nope, still too floppy.

Zer ve go, fraülein! This blog brings out the weird accents in me–it just can’t be helped.

Reserve a small amount of bacon for a crispy garnish . . .

. . . and then add the rest to the pot as well.

As you can see in the above picture, I didn’t wait until the bacon was done to start cooking the beans. Basically, as soon as the beans are rinsed and covered in water again, I turn the heat on medium high and bring the beans to a boil. Then I add ingredients as they become available. This saves time, which is key since this dish has a looooong cooking time. Once the beans are boiling, lower the heat, cover the pot, and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (until the beans are very tender), stirring occasionally.

The colors were very bright to begin with, but as it cooks all the ingredients will start to Become One. Unfortunately, the bacon will also become floppy again–there’s no way around it. That’s why setting some crispy pieces aside is so key.

See? Uglier, but so much more delicious!

During this time, add generous amounts of salt and pepper:

Check the pot periodically and add water as needed so that the beans stay covered. During the last half an hour of cooking, remove the cover so that the excess water evaporates:

As soon as you’ve tasted it, the beans are soft enough, and the seasoning is to your satisfaction, serve over rice!

Don’t forget to sprinkle that extra bacon and cilantro over top.

This always hits the spot.

I love this dish like it was my own child.

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10 Responses to Frijoles Charros

  1. I have been blinded by bacon Jenna ; )

  2. Sarah says:

    oooh i’d definitely make this! yum!

  3. I want this. I want this now. I want this so badly at 8 am that I am ashamed.

    But not really.

    I’m pretty sure I’d eat this for five straight days.

  4. Veronica says:

    Awww, I love that you shared an old childhood favorite with us, and that you still have the binder from your youth! I made a binder in high school, taping and copying all my Mom’s recipes that she had collected in her “recipe drawer” and found it again recently. I stole it with the intention of making some of those old faves…but still haven’t!

  5. Heidi says:

    I love your pictures! I mean… yay for fijoles… but the pictures are awesome!

  6. You have very nice penmanship, my dear. I am jealous.

  7. Twinky says:

    I believe you girls started your recipe binders the first summer you had to be in charge of planning and cooking meals… and thus began your culinary adventures!! I partivluarly recall the Scottish eggs: the hardboiled eggs that were breaded and fried… very tasty but VERY rich!!!

    I also added some of the bacon grease to the boiling beans for the additional flavor.

    The fresh, reserved cilantro is great, plus saving some crispy bacon! And if you have a LOT of beans left over, they can be turned into refried beans by mushing then and boiling off the remaining excess liquid…. that is if you like refried beans!!

  8. NanaBread says:

    We make something very similar, but we use cranberry pinto beans. Something about beans, bacon, jalapenos, tomatoes and cilantro just make my heart sing! I’l be trying your version soon. And congratulations on being featured on The Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen page today!

  9. Tracy says:

    This sounds soooo comforting and delicious. I’ve never used dried beans before, only canned, so now I want to give them a try with this recipe…yum!

  10. okielicious says:

    I could live on beans and rice, but THESE beans… be still my heart. And way to go on capturing the “salt action” again — very excellent photography, as always!

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