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3 Tips for Making Frijoles de la Olla
In Mexico—not to mention anywhere within the Mexican diaspora—perfectly cooked, expertly seasoned beans are a ubiquitous presence at most meals. Consider these tips when making frijoles de la olla yourself:
- Use the right pot. Great homemade beans require a low and slow cooking process, which allows the flavors to deepen gradually over hours. While a crockpot or a slow cooker will get the job done with a minimum of effort (and attention), you can also use a Dutch oven.
- Season your beans with epazote. Epazote—an herb native to both Mexico and Guatemala used for its aromatic oregano-like flavor and as a digestive aid—is often cooked with beans. It can usually be found in most Latin American grocery stores.
- Make frijoles the centerpiece of a meal. There are enfrijoladas, enchiladas drenched in a chile-laced black bean puree rather than sauce; there are frijoles charros, named for traditional Mexican cowboys and cooked in the flavorful fat of chorizo, bacon, or salt pork and spiced with serrano or jalapeño pepper.
Classic Frijoles de la Olla Recipe
Prep Time12 hr
Total Time12 hr 45 min
Cook Time45 min
- 1 pound dried pinto beans or black beans
- 3–4 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 2–3 sprigs fresh epazote
- 1–2 teaspoons salt
- Queso fresco or crema, for serving
- 1 small white onion, medium diced, for serving
- Cilantro, for serving
- The day before cooking, soak the dried beans overnight in cold water (this will ensure that the beans cook faster and more evenly). The next day, rinse the beans thoroughly in a colander with cold water to remove any debris.
- Place the beans in a medium pot and cover with water until the beans are completely submerged and there’s an extra few inches of water above them. Add the garlic, cumin, bay leaf, and epazote. Remove any beans that float to the surface.
- Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Cover the pot. After about 30 minutes, remove the lid, stir the beans, and add more water if needed to cover the beans. Replace the lid and simmer for another 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, taste a bean for doneness—it will likely still be firm, but check every 10 minutes from this point, stirring gently between each test and adding more water as needed. Cook the beans until soft but still whole with skin intact. Season with salt. If using a slow cooker, cook on low heat for anywhere from 6–8 hours (you can start checking in on them around the 3-hour mark), until beans are plump and soft but not mushy. Taste, and season to preference.
- Serve with a few crumbles of queso fresco or a drizzle of crema, topped with chopped cilantro.
To make these into refried beans, heat 1–2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Spoon the frijoles de la olla and their liquid into a blender (or a tall vessel if using an immersion blender). Blend until the beans are smooth and resemble a light yet watery paste, adding more water if need be. Pour into the cast-iron skillet and stir well with a wooden spoon to combine. The mixture should be silky smooth and not too thick—it should coat the back of a spoon but still drip off. Taste the beans for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Top with fresh cilantro and raw chopped onion.
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