These eminently satisfying pinto beans from Smitten Kitchen‘s new cookbook are baked with bacon, onions, garlic, tomato paste, and plenty of spices for a rich and satisfying side dish or dinner. Truly, once they’re topped with creamy avocado, tangy sour cream, a piquant onion-jalapeño-cilantro relish, and whatever else you like (cheese, tomatoes), all you need are fresh-baked tortilla chips to make it an easy, filling meal everyone will love. And feel free to leave out the bacon if you don’t eat meat; there are so many other flavors, it’s not at all necessary for a delicious feast.
- Yield: 6 servings
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 30 min to 2 hrs, depending on beans used (dried or canned), plus soaking time for dried beans
- Active: 30 min
For the beans:
- 1 pound dried pinto beans (pink beans) or four 15-ounce cans cooked pinto beans
- 1/4 pound bacon, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons chili powder (the spice blend)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or shakes of your favorite hot sauce or chipotle purée to taste
- 2 teaspoons coarse sea or kosher salt (for lightly salted broth; use more for unsalted broth, and less for salted or canned beans)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (for dried beans) plus 1 cup water (if beans weren’t presoaked), or 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (for precooked/canned beans)
For the fixings:
- soft corn tortillas for tortilla chips (estimate 2 tortillas per person)
- fine salt, to taste
- 1/2 medium-large white onion, minced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- juice of half a lime, plus more lime wedges
- 1 large avocado, diced or sliced
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- sour cream, Mexican crema, or plain yogurt
- hot sauce
- Soak the dried beans, if using. Do you have to soak beans before you cook them? No, nope. But it will save a lot of cooking time, making this more of a 1-hour weeknight meal. So, if you can plan ahead, soak the pintos in an ample amount of water at room temperature for 24 hours. Don’t have 24 hours? I soaked mine for 3. Using canned beans? Skip this step entirely.
- Prepare your beans. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the bacon in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven or a deep sauté pan, and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the bacon is brown and crisp and the fat has rendered out, 5 to 7 minutes. Scoop the bacon bits onto paper towels to drain, spooning off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add the onion to the pan and cook (still over medium) until soft and lightly golden at the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomato paste, spices, and cayenne or chipotle, and cook for 1 minute. Add the salt and the canned or drained soaked beans. Then, for precooked or canned beans, add 1 1/2 cups broth; for soaked dried beans, add 4 cups broth; for unsoaked dried beans, add 4 cups broth and 1 cup water to start.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 1 full minute. Place a lid on the pot and transfer it carefully to the oven.
- Bake your beans. Please keep in mind that cooking beans isn’t a perfect science, and the amount of liquid absorbed if the beans are presoaked, the age and freshness of the beans, and even the softness of beans from a can are all going to affect how much cooking time and liquid are needed. But these estimates are fairly solid in my experience. Bake already cooked or canned beans for 15 minutes; bake soaked dried beans for 45 minutes (estimate for 24 hours or longer soaking) to 75 minutes (estimate for 2 to 3 hours soaking); bake dried beans that have not been soaked for 1 hour 30 minutes, but after 50 minutes, start checking every 10 to 15 minutes to see if more liquid or cooking time will be needed.
- The beans are done when they’re firm-tender and moist, with most of the liquid absorbed.
- About 30 minutes before the beans are done, bake the chips Brush the tortillas lightly with oil. Stack them and cut into 8 wedges. Spread the wedges in one snug layer on a large baking sheet or two (because the beans are baking, you may need to do this in two batches). Season lightly with fine salt. Bake for 10 minutes, check for color, and then add more baking time as needed until they’re golden and crisp. Let them cool.
- Make the relish. Combine the onion, jalapeño, and cilantro with the olive oil and lime juice. Season with salt to taste. This is easily tweaked with more of any of the three ingredients to your taste.
- Beans are served right in their cooking pan. Chips and each fixing go in their own bowls. Everyone assembles their bowls to their taste, and everyone wins.