There are a myriad of methods for cooking dried beans, all with their own merits. The earliest methods used by the Aztecs ans Maya was simply boiling the beans in water that were then eaten along with the cooking broth. That said, after many years of cooking beans I have arrived at what I think produces the best results, cooked beans with a clean fresh flavor, a silky texture, and easily digestible.
Pre-soaking, which may shorten the cooking time for beans, sometimes brings a slight sourness to the cooked beans and detracts from their clean natural flavor. With that in mind, a better alternative is to cook the beans, essentially twice, adding seasonings to the second cooking and optionally adding epazote (if available) during the last 20 minutes of the second cooking which will reduce flatulence, which is often a consideration for most of us when we think of eating beans!
Epazote, also called worm seed, is a native plant now found in most of the Americas; originating in Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It has a strong aroma and a flavor that might be described as peppery, minty, or resinous. There is no substitute, but easily grown in pots for those who wish to have a fresh supply at hand. Delicious added to soups, stews, tamales, and quesadillas.
Another golden rule of bean cookery is do not add salt to the beans until the cooking is finished! Salting during cooking will harden the skin and the beans will be slightly tough.
Total cooking time; about 2 hours (depending on the age of the dried beans)
Dried Beans; how to cook Makes 4 cups.
- 1 1/2 cups pinto, pink, white, or any other dried bean
- 6 cups of water
Pick over the beans and remove any small stones that may remain from sun drying. Place in a stock pot and add the water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
Drain the beans and discard the cooking water.
- 6 cups water
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 peeled garlic cloves, crushed (optional)
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 1 chipotle chile (smoke dried jalapeno), whole (optional)
- 2 sprigs epazote, chopped and added in the last 20 minutes of cooking (optional)
- Salt to taste after the beans are cooked.
Place the drained beans back in the pot and add the water, onion, and optional garlic, bay leaf, and chipotle chili, if using.
Bring to a boil and lower the heat and cook for about 40 minutes. Add the epazote, if using, and cook about 20 more minutes, or until the beans are soft, but still retaining their shape. At his point you can salt the beans to taste and serve.
Otherwise allow the beans to cool to room temperature, remove the chipotle chile (if used), and store the beans in there broth in a lidded container and refrigerate.
The cooked beans have many applications including being pureed for soups ( see here) or for Frijoles refritos (re-fried beans).
Serve hot or cool to room temperature before refrigerating for later use.