Delicious & Easy

Rio Del Rey Pot of Beans

The correct way to cook beans

There is an endless debate about how to prepare dry beans from just cooking them in a pot with water without presoaking to soaking the beans overnight to pressure cooking. The goal in all of these methods is to soften the beans without having them fall apart.

I’d like to suggest a method that we use that fulfills this goal and produces the best-tasting beans. It employs brining your beans before cooking them and adding a small amount of baking soda while cooking. Soaking dried beans in salt water overnight to soften their skins helps them cook more evenly and reduces the number of beans that rupture. For 1 pound of dried beans, dissolve 11⁄2 tablespoons of table salt in 2 quarts of cold water. Soak the beans at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well before using them.

Another suggestion for cooking beans in a shorter amount of time is adding a little baking soda to your cooking water, which causes the beans to soften much more rapidly. Adding a small amount of baking soda (about 1 teaspoon per cup of dry beans) reduces the cooking time by nearly half.

Ingredients for

Rio Del Rey Pot of Beans

1 pound dry pinto, Anasazi, Rio Zape, or Anazape beans, picked over and rinsed

12 cups water or 8 cups water plus 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 bay leaves

1 sprig epazote (optional)

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large white onion, chopped

2 jalapeños, finely chopped (remove seeds and ribs for less heat)

6 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1–2 teaspoons salt to taste

1 1⁄2–2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar to taste

Minced green onions or cilantro leaves, chopped white onions, grated cotija or parmesan cheese, and Mexican sour cream (crema) to garnish

Instructions for

Rio Del Rey Pot of Beans

Cover the beans in water with 11⁄2 tablespoons salt and soak overnight, allowing extra water for expansion.

Drain the beans and rinse in cold water. Pour into pot. Add stock or water to equal 12 cups followed by the baking soda, bay leaves, and epazote; stir. Place the pot over medium to high heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly and continue to boil for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. The liquid should just be simmering. Add more water as needed.

In a small skillet over medium heat, add the coriander seeds and toast while stirring for 2 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and heat while stirring for 45 to 60 seconds. Do not overheat! Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the spices to cool. Transfer to a spice or coffee grinder and process to a fine powder. Add the spices to the pot of beans, stir, and cover again, leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapeños and sauté until the onion is just turning translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 2 minutes.

Stir this mixture into the low-simmering beans.

Cook the beans at a low simmer until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours. Halfway through the cooking, remove the epazote and bay leaves and season with salt to taste.

When the beans are tender and creamy, add the vinegar and stir well. Heat an additional 2 minutes then serve hot with the garnishes of your choice.

Frequently asked

Questions About This Recipe


Notes & Thoughts

Want to know why beans are a perfect food?

Read Magical Fruits by Mike Reeske.

Rio Del Rey Pot of Beans originally published in the spring 2023 issue.

Cover image by Amanda Subish.