How to Cook Charro Beans

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Black beans are an excellent substitution in lieu of pinto beans.
Black beans are an excellent substitution in lieu of pinto beans. (Image: Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images)

Start to Finish: 2 1/2 to 3 hours, plus 8 to 24 hours for soaking the beans Servings: 8 Difficulty Level: Intermediate

A Tex-Mex take on traditional pork and beans, charro beans are slowly stewed on the stovetop to tender perfection in Southern spices. Inspired by Food and Wine’s recipe for charro beans, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce contribute heat and smokiness to pinto beans while diced tomatoes round out the dish with sweet and subtle acidity. The key to achieving perfectly tender beans is an extended soak in salted water prior to cooking.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of sauce from can
  • 6 to 8 strips of thick sliced bacon, chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, 14.5 ounces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Soak the Beans

Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt in 2 quarts of water in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of dried pinto beans to the bowl of salt water and let soak for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours. When ready to use, drain and rinse well under cool running water. Pick over and remove empty skins or any other debris mixed in with the beans. Two cups of dried pinto beans will yield approximately 5 cups after soaking.

Cook the Beans

Add the beans; broth; Mexican oregano; thyme; chopped chipotle pepper, in adobo sauce; and a few dashes of salt and pepper to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium to medium-low heat and let simmer, covered, for around 2 hours. Check the beans periodically to make sure there is enough cooking liquid and to test for tenderness. Add more cooking liquid, if necessary; don’t be afraid to add too much as the resulting dish should be slightly soupy. As the beans become tender, but are still slightly firm, you will want to begin preparing the rest of the ingredients for inclusion.

Fry the bacon pieces in a skillet over medium-high heat as the beans near the end of their cooking time, around 2 hours. Cook the bacon until it begins turning golden brown and is slightly crispy, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped onion, jalapeno (optional) and minced garlic cloves to the skillet and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly softened.

Pour the can of diced tomatoes into the skillet, mixing well to combine. Cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato mixture is heated through.

Pour the contents of the skillet into the pot of beans. Add a half-cup to a full cup of water to the pot if more cooking liquid is necessary. Stir to combine and continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. The beans should be perfectly tender; if not, continue to cook until desired doneness is achieved. Remove from heat and serve.

Substitutions and Serving Suggestions

To spice or not to spice. If you don’t like spicy dishes, leave the jalapeno and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce out. You can use red or green bell pepper instead to contribute flavor without adding heat. Increase the number of jalapenos or chipotle in adobo peppers to intensify the heat if you enjoy spicy foods, or use other hot peppers like habaneros.

Meat swap. Try using chorizo or a ham hock instead of or in addition to bacon. Or make it vegetarian by leaving out the bacon and using vegetable broth instead of beef.

Serve charro beans with warm flour or corn tortillas for dipping in the bean broth, or ladled over a bed of white rice.

References

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