April 15, 2010 5:30 PM
Beans: Frijoles de Olla or Beans from the Pot
POSTED IN: Cooking Techniques , The Basics
TAGS: Beans , Black , Food , frijoles , Mexican , Olla , Onion , Peruvian , Pinto , Pot , Pressure cooking , Salt
Print This Page | Print Recipe | COMMENTS (7)

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!

Moni | April 21, 2010 11:48 AM

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 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!

Char | April 27, 2011 1:26 PM

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!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Char | May 2, 2011 3:33 PM

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.

Robert | May 19, 2011 1:02 PM

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:

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Robert | May 23, 2011 1:58 PM

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 :)

Ana | June 17, 2011 8:44 PM

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!

Cynthia | October 19, 2012 1:56 PM