Mylifesamess's Blog

Spicy Pinto Beans Revisited

Posted in cooking, health by mylifesamess on 06/20/2011

A couple months ago, after eating at Q’Doba or whatever, I began to desire a spicy pinto bean recipe that I could make at home.  Some Google searching led me to this recipe :

Spicy Pinto Bean Recipe

It sounded delicious, but I’ve just never gotten along with dry beans in the kitchen.  Or tofu.  Which, as a vegetarian, makes me feel like a hack.  Nonetheless, I decided to use canned beans instead, and drastically reduced the amount of cooking liquid.

I was unhappy with the end result.  Perhaps it was because of the canned versus dry beans, but my tongue told me that it was the vegetable broth.  The small amount I had used to cook the onions before adding in the beans completely overtook the strong flavors of the onions, garlic, and pepper.  The end result was unpleasant.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the recipe, though.  Tonight, I remade the dish with some major modifications.

Instead of using water and broth, I sauteed the yellow onion, green onions, poblano chili, garlic, cumin, and pepper flakes in some olive oil for a few minutes in hopes of retaining more of the flavors of the ingredients.  I rinsed off the contents of two cans of pinto beans in a colander to clean them off, and then added them to the pan, reducing the heat and cooking them all together for another few minutes.  Two cans of beans is about half of what the recipe originally calls for in dry beans.  I decided to use less beans because sauteeing changed the consistency, and also because I wanted plenty of onions to go with the beans.  Then, I just added the pepper, cilantro, and lime juice as the original recipe instructed.

Here’s a crappy cell phone picture of the end result in an attractive plastic container :

The end result was, for me, a significant improvement.  Not only could I still taste the onion and garlic, but there was a very pleasant, satisfying spiciness to the beans that I had been looking for.  I think this may be a recipe I’ll add to my regular repertoire, which is in dire need of expansion.  Maybe I’ll try a different kind of oil next time.  I’m also not completely sold on the cilantro, especially considering how difficult and expensive it can be to obtain fresh cilantro in grocery stores around here.  And, yes, I’ve tried to grow a porch herb garden.  It got scorched to hell within a week, but that’s a topic for a different post.


I had the spicy pinto beans I made last night for lunch today.  While the modifications were, for me, a step in the right direction, there’s a flavor missing from the mix that it needs to push it from sort of good to great.  Allow me to preface my thoughts by saying that I’m not a terribly experienced cook or foodie, so my knowledge base is fairly limited.

I dislike salt, and for that reason, I omitted the salt the recipe called for, which may have been part of it.  Then I wondered if I needed a more flavorful onion.  The beans were hearty and a bit sweet, but I need more of the hearty / sweet flavor that I’m having trouble identifying.  Maybe it’s tangy that I’m looking for?  I’ve never used tomato paste, but I wondered if that might help.  Maybe a more flavorful sautee medium?

Anyway, I’ll keep thinking about it and keep experimenting.  Also, note to myself, chili flakes can be omitted next time.  The poblano pepper has more than enough heat for my taste.

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