The word borracho was a 19th-century north-of-the-border term for a drunkard, so the name of this delicious and simple recipe, frijoles borrachos, literally means “drunken pinto beans.” Scoop up with fresh tortillas or serve as a simple, protein-packed side dish with other Southwestern or Mexican-style specialties that don’t themselves contain beans.
The traditional recipe calls for cooking the beans from scratch, of course; these days many are doing this in an Instant Pot® to save time. This recipe gives you the option of using home-cooked beans (use whatever method you prefer) or canned. Some traditional recipes include bacon, so this recipe gives the option of adding a small amount of vegan bacon, though personally, I don’t think the dish needs it.
This recipe is a cousin of another Southwestern U.S./Mexican classic, frijoles charros (cowboy beans), which is pretty much the same dish without the beer. However, simmering the pinto beans in beer gives them their unique, indescribably delicious flavor. And that’s true whether you like beer or not — I definitely do not, though I love what it does for this dish!
Serve with plenty of fresh, soft tortillas — corn or wheat —for scooping up. Or just serve as a protein- and flavor-packed side dish with other Southwestern tortilla specialties that don’t themselves include beans. (I’ll link to the recipe above here, and perhaps a couple of others.
Recipe adapted from American Harvest by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 to 4 pieces vegan bacon, cut into small bits, optional
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups well-cooked pinto beans (from about 1 1/2 cups raw), or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
- 1 to 2 fresh jalapeños (depending on how spicy you’d like it), seeded and minced, or one 4-ounce can chopped mild green chiles
- 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes
- 3/4 cup beer (any kind, though Mexican beer is appropriate)
- 1 tablespoon natural granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon each: chili powder, ground cumin, and dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a roomy skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and optional vegan bacon and continue to sauté until both are golden.
Add the beans, chiles, tomatoes, beer, sugar, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Mash a small amount of the beans with a potato masher or large fork, just enough to thicken the base.
Season with salt and pepper (you may not need much salt if using canned beans). Cook over very low heat, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes longer. Serve at once, straight from the skillet.
Variation: Replace the beer with an equal amount of water or broth, resulting in frijoles charros (cowboy beans).
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