Drunken Beans

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I couldn’t resist sharing a recipe template for drunken beans – frijoles borrachos – that we’ve been eating up (literally) like nobody’s business at our house.

A dear friend mentioned she’d just added them to her cooking list, inspiring me to rotate them into our own meal plan for the week. For those of you who’ve never tried drunken beans, they’re basically just beans simmered in dark beer with onion, bacon, and a handful of seasonings, which results in a super flavorful and satisfying meal or side dish.  Virtually all of the alcohol from the beer boils out during cooking, so you don’t have to worry about anyone getting tipsy from eating them.

Though I’m no expert, I think drunken beans are usually made with pinto or black beans, but I picked up some dried local heirlooms at the farmers market last week called Good Mother Stallard, and they turned out deliciosos. Good Mother Stallards look like a speckled pinto and are slightly larger than your average pinto. I picked them for no other reason than they are beautiful, grown locally, and I felt drawn to them. I’m certainly not a drunken bean expert, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use red beans or another specialty bean you enjoy. I’ve heard Peruvian or Mexican yellow beans are another good choice.

During this strange time we’re living in, when COVID-19 is shutting down major meat processing plants and panic buyers are even causing some of our small farmers to sell out, many people are considering the benefits of eating more plant-based dishes, which is usually not a bad idea. The average American needs more plant-based meals in his or her diet. Beans are filling and therefore make an excellent substitution for meat. They’re also nutritious and contain protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, and important vitamins and minerals, such as folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper and magnesium. Beans are also considered helpful for lowering LDL cholesterol, the type we don’t want climbing too high.

Though this template calls for bacon, you could easily leave it out. I hope you give them a whirl!

Drunken Beans

  • 1 lb dried beans like pinto or Good Mother Stallard, rinsed and preferably drained overnight
  • 4 pieces (uncooked) bacon, diced (optional)
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and diced (a poblano would also be delicious)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark, gluten-free beer (or any dark beer, if you’re not sensitive to gluten)
  • 1 tablespoon brown coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 -1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Soak beans overnight or for eight hours. Drain and then place in a large sauce pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, 45-60 minutes. When tender, drain remaining water and set aside.

Cook bacon in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a separate plate. Set aside.

Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the sauté pan and discard the extra. Add onion and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic, and sauté an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add beer, beans, brown sugar, oregano, chili powder, salt, and cumin, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering uncovered for about 15 minutes.

To serve, stir in the bacon and lime juice and top with fresh cilantro. Delicious served with a side of chicken or alongside your favorite tacos or burritos!

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