Beans 101

Beans are one of the quintessential ingredients in Mexican gastronomy. From refried beans to beans sauce, it all starts with beans from the pot or frijoles de la olla. Homemade cooked beans are a simple but beautiful thing. Here's a simple way on how to make a batch of beans that you can then use in many different ways. 

Beans de la olla (from the pot)

-500g dry beans, this recipe can be used for either black beans or pinto beans. 

-½ white onion

-1 jalapeño pepper, halved lengthwise

-1 1/2 l water

-salt to taste

1 Rinse the beans under running water to remove any dirt. This is the time to check also for any foreign object. In Mexico, beans usually come with little pebbles or sticks that must be removed before cooking. In England, this is very unusual but it’s worth a quick check at this stage. 

2 Once the beans have been rinsed clean, add them to a large pot and cover with at least three times their volume in water. Leave them to soak for at least 2 hours. The longer you leave them to soak, the quicker they will cook. Ideally, soaking beans overnight works great. Note that beans do not need to be soaked, it just helps them to cook faster. 

3 Once the beans have been soaking for a while, strain to remove the water, return them to the pot and cover once again with at least as much water as before (three times their volume). More water could be needed if they dry too much but this should be enough. Add to the same pot the onion and the jalapeño. 

4 Bring the beans up to a boil and maintain for 15 minutes. After this, turn down the heat to the lowest setting, cover the beans and cook for 1 hour to 1 ½ hour. It is worth checking around the 1-hour mark to test their doneness. This is the perfect time to salt the beans so you can taste them once they are almost done. 

5 Done! You have a white canvas with a million possibilities to enjoy homemade beans. The remainings of onion and jalapeño can be removed or left in there. Cooked beans can be stored in the freezer in small containers to be used as needed. 


  • As with any other recipe, there are many variants on how to cook beans from scratch. Some people don’t soak them, some others parboil them and then leave them to rest before finishing the cooking process.
  • Some people add salt at the beginning of the process and others wait until the end of it. It all depends on personal tastes and preferences but in the end, the result is a beautiful batch of homemade beans with nothing but raw ingredients added. 
  • Adding onion and jalapeño brings a little bit of extra flavour but is not necessary. Some people add chipotles en adobo too. By using this recipe, you are left with basic and tasty beans that are ready to be transformed into many dishes after they have been cooked.
  • If you end with a lot of liquid after having cooked the beans, please see below to see how you can leave no waste behind by using that water to make a delicious and nutritious soup. 

Serving suggestions

Freshly cooked beans are a wonderful thing! In Mexico, is common to have a big bowl of them as they come out from the pot and garnishes such as fresh onion, cilantro, cheese and salsa are added for a wholesome and warming meal. This is where Frijoles de la Olla (Beans from the Pot) comes from. 
Once cooked, beans can be mashed and fried for refried beans, or they can be flavoured with chipotle peppers, or mixed in salads or many other dishes. 


Sopa Tarasca or No-Waste Black Bean Soup

-2 cups water from cooking the beans

-½ cup cooked beans (or more for consistency purposes)

-1 tomato

-½ white onion

-1 large garlic clove

-1 Poblano Pepper San Miguel, stem and seeds removed

-1 corn tortilla

-salt and pepper to taste

1 Add the tomato, onion, garlic, poblano pepper, tortilla and the drained cooked beans to a blender and blend until smooth. 

2 Pour the soup base with the 2 cups of water from the beans into a saucepan and bring it up to a boil. Season to taste and let it simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. 

3 Serve with tortilla chips, fresh onion, feta cheese or cream 



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