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Pati Jinich

The uses of beans in Mexican cooking are immense. Although you can buy them already made, if you make them at home they have a much nicer flavor and you will give your kitchen an irresistible smell. You can make a lot of them and refrigerate a batch which should last in the refrigerator for about 4 to 5 days. You can freeze another batch which will last for months.

I will give you two tips, included in the recipe below, if you make them at home:

1. Don’t add the salt in the beginning or it will toughen the beans. Add it at least after an hour of cooking when the beans are already a bit soft.

2. You don’t need to soak them the night before cooking. Yes, that helps to reduce the cooking time, but it is not necessary. If you do soak them, don’t soak them more than 12 to 14 hours, because they may begin to ferment and you will finish with a Chinese rather than Mexican tasting dish.

I like making them with either Black beans, traditional in the South of Mexico, Peruvian beans, which are more used in the Central part of Mexico, or with Pinto beans which are more customary in the North. The latter ones have a creamier feel and more subtle flavor.

Traditionally Frijoles de la Olla are cooked in an earthenware pot. It does impart a special Pueblo style flavor.

Many cooks in Mexican kitchens make them in pressure cookers, as it cuts the time almost in half, but I am a bit weary of them, as I have seen one too many explode!! Plus, cooking beans only requires you to be home for a certain amount of time, you don’t need to do anything but peek in every once in a while to make sure that there is still enough liquid.

I cook mine sometimes in an old earthenware pot and sometimes in a normal large cooking pot. They both work very well.

Makes about 5 cups beans and 2 cups cooking broth

1 pound or about 2 1/4 cups, Pinto, Peruvian or Black beans
1/2 white onion, about 1/2 pound, peeled of outer skin
10 cups of water, may add more if necessary
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste

Rinse the beans in cold water and drain. Place them in a big heavy pot and cover with enough water to come up to at least 3″ above the top of beans, about 10 cups of water. Incorporate the onion and bring to a boil. Let the beans simmer, partially covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, until the beans are soft and then add the salt. Don’t add the salt in the beginning or it will toughen the beans.

Let them continue simmering, for about another 15 minutes, or until the beans are so soft they come apart if you hold one between your fingers, and the broth has thickened to a soupy consistency. If the beans are not yet soft and the broth is drying out, add more water. Before eating, remove the cooked onion with a slotted spoon.


Ya te lo dije, pero te lo digo de nuevo… Esta receta y este post me hacen tener mucha nostalgia de la patria.. ¡Qué antojo de unos frijoles de olla en casa de mi abuelo!

Hi Pati!
I’m so glad I found your site! It’s wonderful! I’m a Filipina married to a wonderful Hispanic man, so learning to cook authentic Mexican food is a must! lol I grew up eating Mexican food because my best friend is half…so I got to enjoy the wonderful flavors it has to offer!
I noticed that every household makes different rice and different beans. Though the ingredients are similar, the taste is slightly different. My husband’s grandma makes a different tasting rice and beans than my friend’s mom & grandma. I just thought that was interesting. I favor my friend’s mom’s rice & beans just because I grew up on it, but of course, I had to learn how to make my husband’s grandma’s rice and beans. For some reason though, I just can’t seem to make my beans look like his grandmother’s. She doesn’t put onions in her beans—just a clove of garlic and some bacon or fat of some sort. Have you tried it this way? The beans come out good. They just don’t seem to taste the same, and I can’t figure out why. :\ Anyway, this is just me trying to make sense of everything. Like I said, I’m glad I came across your food blog! I love it!

Hi Char! I agree, there are as many ways of cooking beans are there are cooks! I always make mine with onion, though I would tell you to just choose what you like the best and/or to make what your hubby likes to keep him happy. Thanks for visiting!

Hi Pati! I’m just about to try my hand at making the beans. I have fond memories of when I was growing up we would go visit my Nana and she ALWAYS had beans on the stove. I think she would add a dried chile in the pot if I remember right. I thought about trying this but would you recommend putting one in in the beginning or at the end or does it matter? Thanks in advance.

Hola Robert!
I remember growing up and always seeing a pot of beans on the stove too! And now, I usually just make my beans with some onion, though I do know people that cook theirs with some garlic too. While I’ve never tried cooking them with dried chiles at the beginning of cooking, sometimes I add the chiles in at the end. Here is a link to my recipe for charro beans, where I use jalapenos for another layer of flavor with my beans:

I put a dried chili in my beans when cooking them, also in chicken soup, turkey soup and stews. Take the chili out before serving. It adds a very subtle touch and a hint of spice and heat. Most people can not tell what the flavor is, but love it.

Hi Bekka, Thank you for sharing!!

Thanks for the recipe. I’d like to make a small observation, if after 1 1/2 hr the bean as not yet cooked,and you need to add water to the beans make sure to add hot water and not cold water. Cold water will harden the beans and will slow down the cooking process. As a variation you can also add and herb called epazote about 20 min before there done to give it a different flavor. Saludos :)

Beans are it, this I know.
I like to make my beans with an overnight light soak, then epazote, beer and tiny bit of onion and garlic, to give them a slight savory layer.
I love your recipes and this site!


I bought a small olla. 20oz. I’ve been trying to find a good black bean recipe for this size olla, but I can’t seem to find one. Do you have any tips on how much water, garlic, onions, etc. I should use when cooking black beans in an olla this small? And how long I should cook them for?

I would use a quarter or a white onion, cover with as much water as you can, and cooking time will be about the same, as you are starting with dry beans…

My parents are from Mexico so I grew up on rice & beans. My mother (and I think every mexican woman that I’ve asked) always ‘cleans’ the beans by sorting out the ‘ugly’ ones. Picking out blackened, shriveled, and other odd looking beans makes a huge difference to the flavor. Sometimes I’ve found little rocks and very strange beans amongst, yes, even store bought, bagged beans. A NECESSARY STEP for the perfect Frijoles a la Olla!

Yes, a very important step!! Thank you, Jessica!

Hi Patti, am going to try this recipe today, thanks for the sharing.
I am trying to find a Mexican bean recipe that a local Mexican restaurant uses. Is it considered bad taste to require of the recipe? It is so very good.
What do you think of using lard in a recipe and also bay leaves? I have not done so, but am wondering.
Thanks for the tip about the salt.

It is not bad taste at all, on the contrary! I always find it super flattering when someone asks me for a recipe, it will probably make them fill proud. Lard and bay leaves sounds fabulous: go for it.

So true, a Mexican home always has beans. I have a fresh pot I just made. I love caldo de frijoles sprinckled with fresh cheese. So easy and delicious!

Thank you!!

I have been making beans for some time now and they have never tasted as good as these. I followed your recipe exact using Peruvian beans and WOW! Estan deliciosos! Perfect amount of broth, beans nice and soft and the salt is just right. Thank you. These will go great with chilaquiles tomorrow morning.

Me da mucho gusto Annette!

Hi Pati,

I’ve made beans before and will definitely try it the way you have in the recipe. However, how in the world does one get past the gas factor? The household seems to be gassy after a nice bowl of beans and I’ve gotten many tips; use garlic, use olive oil, use baking soda. I’m overwhelmed. Any suggestions?

Absolutely love that I discovered you on my local PBS station. I look forward to your show every weekend.

Oh well, there are many tricks people use. Some cooks like to soak the beans. Some cooks like to bring the beans to a boil and then drain that water and refill again. I just like to cook them until they are almost coming apart from being so soft… it works!

Hi Pati,

I bought a new olla for making frijoles. I have always cooked them in an iron pot, but now I want to use the clay pot. Should I prepare it in a special way? I want to use it on my gas stove and also in my outdoor wood-fired oven. Do you have any tips for doing this?
Having traveled by car through many parts of Mexico, I love the many regional food styles. I enjoy your show on PBS that re-awakens my memories of those travels. It also inspires me to try cooking the foods I remember and the new ones you show us. Muchas gracias. Myrleen

Thank you so much for watching my show, Myrleen. I am so glad it brings back memories and recipes! Yes: to use your clay pot all you need to do is wash it well with soapy water, rinse throughly. Fill it to the rim with water and place it over low heat, let the water come to a gentle simmer and evaporate. Once you have very little left, like an inch, let it sit there over night. Rinse and use. However, you can’t use your clay pot over high heat even if you have cured it.

I love your show, and have made many of your recipes and have enjoyed them all. I have a kamado barbecue called the big green egg. I have been making pot beans for years slow cooking them over wood charcoal. I use pinto beans, add lard or bacon fat, onions and water, in a earthenware bean pot. I let this mixture cook for 4 hours at around 225 deg. I then cube up some of my homemade bacon, sautéed with more onion and a Serrano or jalapeño. I also add some chicken broth to boost the beans broth flavor. Usually I let the beans stay on this low slow cooking for around 8 hours. The broth thickens, and the flavors are just amazing. I dont think they are traditional pot beans, but in our home they are a huge staple. Is there a name for beans adding bacon or smoked pork in Mexico? Is that charro beans? Thank you for your inspiring recipes!

Hi Cathy! Yes, Charro beans would be it! Your recipe sounds delicious btw…

Hi Pati!

I am making this recipe and I really hope I did it right. Your method seems to not require the beans to soak at all, is that right? I hope I am doing this the right way! My husband loves Mexican food more than anything and I really want to impress him with this. Does the 1TBSP of salt add an overpowering salt flavor to the beans? If so I might want to cut back on the salt a bit. Thanks in advance for any answers!

No soaking! The 1 tablespoon of salt is just enough, for that 1 pound of beans, for my taste. But if you are not sure, you can start with half and add more as you go.

Hi there,
I just love your show, you inspire me to do more and try new things.
I just watched you cook black beans in a clay pot for your Big Brunch Enchiladas and you used an herb that is comparable to cilantro. I could not understand the name of it so please let me know what it is.
Thank you for all you do. Looks like your are a proud mama and a busy one.

Thank you,

And thank you of your very very lovely message, Elizabeth.

Not sure if my request was submitted or not, so here I go again.
I watched your show cooking black beams for Big Brunch Enchiladas and you used an herb comparable to cilantro, but I could not quite understand the name of it. Will you please let me know what the herb is?

Thank you

Of course Elizabeth, it is called Epazote. Available fresh and also dried in Latino or international grocery stores.

i want to purchase an you use a lid with your beans??

Yes I do, I always cook them partially covered….:)

Our family loves this recipe! It is so easy and so delicious! I look forward to trying more of your recipes!

Thank you!

I love your show especially when you go to San Miguel. We go there often and stay at La Questa me encanta. LA receta para chilaquilles porfavor. Muchas graces.
La Yola

Hola Yolanda, I wish I could go to San Miguel more often! Such a wonderful place!! Here’s my chilaquiles recipe:

Hi pati, i just wanted to thank you, I am a white woman narried to a mexican man and i dont know what i would do without your recipes.. thanks again so much.

So glad I can help! =)

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