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I'm sure it sounds cliché, but my mom makes the best frijoles de la olla, beans cooked in a pot. As often as I try her seemingly very simple method, I can't seem to quite replicate the perfect texture of the beans.
It's subtle, but even my kids can tell the difference. Once, after one of my mom's visits, I offered Luisa some of the leftover beans my mom had made.
"Are those Nana's beans?" Luisa asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Yay!" she squealed. (Sigh.)
Oh well. I'll keep working on mastering tradition, but in the meantime, I've embraced my own go-to method: my Instant Pot!
If you have an Instant Pot, you know it's not always very "instant." It often takes as long to do things in an Instant Pot as it does on the stove or in the oven. But it does cut the time and some of the unpredictability of cooking a pot of beans. I'm consistently happy with the results.
Customers often ask our recommendations for spices to add to beans. My mom, for her part, strictly uses fresh garlic, water and salt. But I often suggest Mexican-Style Adobo because it has the basic ingredients you might find in a pot of Mexican beans (onion, garlic, cumin, Mexican oregano and salt) plus a few nice extras (lemon and orange zests and black pepper).
For this recipe, I reduced the amount of water I usually use to avoid dilution of the spices. I also added a dried chile for a little smokiness. The result was really delicious -- although not traditional. The beans and onions absorb most of the water, creating a sort of creamy and thick texture. If you prefer your beans more soupy, double the amount of water.
The chile I used, Pasilla de Oaxaca, has a very mild heat. Coupled with the black pepper, it makes the beans very mildly spicy. (My kids did not find them too spicy.)
And if I ever master my mom's beans, I'll let you know!
Serve these beans on their own with warm tortillas, avocado and crumbled queso fresco. Tuck them into a burrito. Or use them as a side dish with tacos or enchiladas.
Instant Pot Pinto Beans with Mexican-Style Adobo
1 tbsp olive oil1 yellow onion, diced4 cloves garlic, minced1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)1 tbsp Mexican-Style Adobo1 whole dried Pasilla de Oaxaca chile or other dried chile, stem and seeds removed (optional)1 lb dried pinto beans4 cups water
Rinse and pick through the beans, removing any stones or undesirables. Set the Instant Pot to Sauté and add olive oil.
When the oil is shimmering, add diced onion and sauté 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft.
Add garlic, salt and Mexican-Style Adobo and sauté for another 30 seconds, stirring.
Add the beans, chile and water and stir. Cover and seal the Instant Pot. Set to cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. After the timer goes off, allow the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally for 20 minutes.
Open the pot carefully, remove the chile and taste. Add more salt if necessary. There may be some beans on the dry side on top. If that's the case, stir the beans, cover the pot again and keep on warm setting for another 10 minutes.
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