Quite possibly the best baked beans we’ve ever eaten! Invited to a Cinco de Mayo party, we were assigned a couple of side dishes to make, one of them being “Cowboy Beans”. The Hubs found this Mexican Pinto Beans With Bacon and Chiles by J. Kenji Lopez-Alts for Serious Eats and knew these were the ticket.
The ideal potluck or cookout dish is one that is easy to make in bulk, inexpensive, and doesn’t degrade with extended heating or reheating. We found the frijoles charros—Mexican cowboy beans cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, salted pork, and chiles—as the superb potluck dish. It meets the criteria and they’re extremely delicious. Dried beans are lightweight; while onions, garlic, chiles, and fresh or tinned tomatoes last a long time at room temperature.
We made two exceptions to the ingredients. The first was substituting cranberry beans in place of the pinto beans, which we think have more flavor. Secondly, the jalapeños were sautéed and kept as a garnish because we knew one guest was allergic to any type of chile. WOW, the beans got rave reviews!
*Epazote is a Mexican herb that can be found in Mexican specialty shops. If fresh epazote is unavailable, use a large pinch of dried in its place, or omit.
Mexican Pinto Beans With Bacon and Chiles
- 1 lb. dried pinto beans
- Kosher salt
- 6 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs epazote, optional*
- 12 oz. diced bacon
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced (about 8 oz.)
- 2 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño, minced (remove seeds and ribs if you prefer less heat)
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp.)
- 2 14-oz. cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- Large handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems
- Place beans in a large bowl and fill with enough cold water to cover by at least four inches. Add 2 tablespoons (18g) kosher salt and stir to dissolve. Let soak 8 to 12 hours. Drain and rinse.
- In a large Dutch oven, add beans, stock, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and epazote (if using). Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a bare simmer, cover, and cook until beans are just tender, about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat bacon in a 12-inch stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until fat is rendered and bacon is just starting to brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add onion and chiles and cook, stirring, until softened and just starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is thick and the mixture begins to sizzle, about 3 minutes.
- Remove lid from Dutch oven, add bacon-tomato mixture, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until beans are completely creamy and liquid has thickened into a rich, creamy broth, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Discard bay leaves, stir in cilantro, and serve. Beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alts for Serious Eats