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In Mexico, a slow-cooked pot of beans is freshened by a finishing onion-chili sofrito
Milk Street Bowtie Mexican Stewed Beans with Salsa Fresca

Mexican Stewed Beans with Salsa Fresca

1¾ hours plus overnight soak and resting

Mexican Stewed Beans with Salsa Fresca

Free

In Mexico City, we learned to prepare traditional stewed beans, as well as a version enriched with pork. Sofrito—a sauté of aromatics cooked separately from the dish’s central ingredient(s)—is a key flavoring for the beans. Our sofrito consists of onion, garlic, tomatoes and jalapeños cooked down to concentrate their essences and is added only after the beans are fully cooked. Instead of the pinto beans so common in Mexican cooking, we opted to use cranberry beans (also called Roman or borlotti beans). We found that the pinto beans available in the U.S. do not cook up with the same plumpness and velvety texture as the ones we tasted in Mexico; cranberry beans were a closer approximation. Though tan in color with speckles of red, dried cranberry beans, when cooked, resemble pinkish beige pinto beans. If you wish to make this dish with pork, see the recipe below; it yields a meaty broth for cooking the beans and shredded pork for stirring in at the end. A fresh tomato salsa served on the side brightens and lightens the earthiness of the beans. The most efficient way to approach this multi-component recipe is to prep and cook the sofrito during the 1 hour that the beans simmer and make the salsa while the cooked beans rest for 30 minutes. Note that the pork and broth need to be made before you begin cooking the beans, but can be made up to three days in advance.

1 pound dried cranberry beans (see headnote), picked over and rinsed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lard or neutral oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately
1½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth, pork broth (recipe follows; optional) or water
2 tablespoons lard or neutral oil
1 large white onion, chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
2 jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups shredded pork (optional)
Salsa fresca
For the beans:
  • 1

    pound dried cranberry beans (see headnote), picked over and rinsed

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 2

    tablespoons lard or neutral oil

  • 1

    medium white onion, chopped

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 1

    bunch cilantro, stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately

  • quarts low-sodium chicken broth, pork broth (recipe follows; optional) or water

For the sofrito:
  • 2

    tablespoons lard or neutral oil

  • 1

    large white onion, chopped

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 4

    medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 2

    pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

  • 2

    jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

To serve:
Directions
  1. 01
    To prepare the beans, in a large bowl, combine the beans with 2 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt; stir to dissolve salt. Cover and soak the beans overnight at room temperature.
  2. 02
    Drain the beans. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cilantro stems. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the beans and broth, then bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover, reduce to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  3. 03
    While the beans cook, make the sofrito. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, heat the lard until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and jalapeños and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have broken down, the liquid they released has cooked off and the mixture begins to sizzle, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. 04
    When the beans are done, remove the pot from the heat and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes to allow the liquid to thicken slightly. Return the beans to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally. Add the sofrito and shredded pork (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cilantro leaves. Serve with salsa fresca on the side.
Tip: Don’t forget soak the beans overnight. Soaked beans cook more evenly and quickly than unsoaked ones. A couple tablespoons of salt in the soaking water produces a creamier, more velvety texture in the cooked beans.
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Mexican Stewed Beans with Salsa Fresca

Get Ready to Cook

6-8

Servings

1¾ hours

plus overnight soak and resting

Tip

Don’t forget soak the beans overnight. Soaked beans cook more evenly and quickly than unsoaked ones. A couple tablespoons of salt in the soaking water produces a creamier, more velvety texture in the cooked beans.

For the beans:
  • 1

    pound dried cranberry beans (see headnote), picked over and rinsed

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 2

    tablespoons lard or neutral oil

  • 1

    medium white onion, chopped

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 1

    bunch cilantro, stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately

  • quarts low-sodium chicken broth, pork broth (recipe follows; optional) or water

For the sofrito:
  • 2

    tablespoons lard or neutral oil

  • 1

    large white onion, chopped

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 4

    medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 2

    pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

  • 2

    jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

To serve:
Step 1 of 4

Soak Beans

1
pound dried cranberry beans, picked over and rinsed
Kosher salt

To prepare the beans, in a large bowl, combine the beans with 2 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt; stir to dissolve salt. Cover and soak the beans overnight at room temperature.

Step 2 of 4

Cook Beans

2
tablespoons lard or neutral oil
1
medium white onion, chopped
Kosher salt
2
medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1
bunch cilantro, stems finely chopped
quarts low-sodium chicken broth, pork broth (recipe follows; optional) or water

Drain the beans. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes.


Stir in the garlic and cilantro stems. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the beans and broth, then bring to a boil over medium-high. Cover, reduce to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.

Step 3 of 4

Prepare Sofrito

2
tablespoons lard or neutral oil
1
medium white onion, chopped
Kosher salt
4
medium garlic cloves, minced
2
pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
2
jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

While the beans cook, make the sofrito. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, heat the lard until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Add the tomatoes and jalapeños and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have broken down, the liquid they released has cooked off and the mixture begins to sizzle, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Step 4 of 4

Taste, Season and Serve

2
cups shredded pork
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1
bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped
Salsa fresca

When the beans are done, remove the pot from the heat and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes to allow the liquid to thicken slightly. Return the beans to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.


Add the sofrito and shredded pork (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cilantro leaves. Serve with salsa fresca on the side.

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Mexican Stewed Beans with Salsa Fresca

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