A few summers ago, a friend generously offered me her family’s vacation condo in Mexico for a week after she had to abandon her holiday plans at the last minute. With my hubby tied up with work commitments, I grabbed a girlfriend, along with the kids (hers and mine), and off we went.

It wasn’t until we pulled up to the luxurious grounds of the resort that we realized we’d hit the vacation jackpot. The place was breathtaking, as were the prices at the resort restaurant. Since we were staying in a condo, it made sense to hit the local supermarket rather than spend our children’s college funds in the dining room.

Our cooking goals were twofold: prepare dishes that 1) were in keeping with our south-of-the-border locale, and 2) wouldn’t eat up too much of our precious pool time (this was vacation, after all). We loaded up a goodly haul at the market –fruits, veggies, herbs, and the requisite chips and salsa– as well as a couple of pounds of dried black beans, which we tossed in as an afterthought.

Back at the condo, we brewed up a delicious pot of beans that proved to be the staple of our diet for the week. We found ourselves working them into our meals at all hours of the day: underneath fried eggs at breakfast, pureed with lime and chili for a chip dip, tossed cold with corn alongside salad greens, served as a side to grilled fish with the tender, home-made tortillas we bought in town. Who knows whether it was the sun and cerveza, but somehow nobody tired of the beans.

Black beans (and other beans for that matter) are a mom’s kitchen workhorse. With just a bit of planning and very little effort, you can turn this dirt cheap ingredient into a multitude of meals. They are also enormously nourishing, loaded with fiber, iron, protein and folate, along with the highest level of antioxidants of any other bean (thanks to its dark skin).

Unfortunately, beans have a bit of a naughty reputation for, ahem, the gassiness that sometimes ensues after eating them. However, the manner in which they are cooked can help ameliorate this unseemly side-effect. Overnight soaking and cooking them with certain varieties of herbs and spices can help soften the skin of the beans, which is where much of the trouble making lies. In Mexico, we used the herb epazote for this purpose; in the recipe below, I’ve included cumin.

Although black beans take time to cook, it’s an easy task since no hovering is required. Rely on a pressure cooker or slow cooker for help if you have one. Make a big batch, a pound, or even two. Then, find ways to use them here and there throughout the week. The ideas below are a good start. If you tire of the beans, simply pack them into a storage container and stick them in the freezer for another day, perhaps in the sunshine with a cerveza in hand.

Black Bean Breakfast Tostada



Note: For those days when any sort of cooking just isn’t doable, you can tackle any of these dishes with canned black beans.


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  1. Pamela Hommeyer
    02.01.2011 at 7:29 PM #

    I haven’t even read this yet and I already love it! I’ve been thinking about what do do with black beans. So, thanks, Katie.

  2. morewithles
    02.02.2011 at 3:34 PM #

    Printing these recipes right now. THANKS!

  3. Michelle
    02.02.2011 at 4:29 PM #

    I have a question regarding the nutritional difference between canned and dried beans. I generally try to avoid buying canned (and other prepared) foods, but I will admit to having a full pantry of canned beans (all varieties) as well as a few other items such as canned tomatoes in different forms. I know that canned beans have added sodium, but otherwise, are there any nutritional disadvantages to using the canned ones? Thank you in advance for addressing a long-time question.

    • 02.03.2011 at 5:47 PM #

      Good question, Michelle. While fresh food is preferable, I too have the same canned pantry staples in my house. As you saw in today’s “hot tip,” I’m a fan of canned beans. They compare quite favorably to dried from a nutrition standpoint. Buying low-sodium beans and rinsing them will help cut down the salt.

      • susan
        02.03.2011 at 6:07 PM #

        I, too, like to rely on the convenience of canned beans, but have stopped… You need to be careful about using foods packed in cans and plastic containers, as research has shown that they contain BPA, which is toxic to our health. I.e., here’s this from the Canadian gov’t, which is in the process of banning BPA: “The primary health concerns center on BPA’s potential effects as an endocrine disrupter, which can mimic or interfere with the body’s natural hormones and potentially damage development, especially of young children.” So if we’re feeding canned beans to our kids, we should consider switching to dried. EWG (Environmental Working Group) has provided some research results as well (

        • 02.04.2011 at 2:58 PM #

          You make an excellent point. The issue of BPAs in food storage is a concern indeed, particularly for the most vulnerable: pregnant women and young children. It’s something I plan to address in a future post. In the meantime, good for you for putting your money where your mouth is. It’s called voting with your fork. It’s folks like you, along with consumer watchdog groups that appear to be making the food industry wake up and take notice. A number of manufacturers have set timelines for eliminating BPAs from canned goods; some have done so already. To find out which ones, have a look here. Also, Eden products, available in organic food markets, is BPA-free. As for myself, I do still stock a handful of canned favorites in my cupboard, BPA-free when possible. However, since most of my cooking is using fresh foods I have limited concern about excessive BPA exposure. It’s that balance all of us moms are seeking: nutrition and health versus practicality, frugality and what’s realistic. My hope is that our government will step up and push the canned food industry along a little more quickly.

  4. Sarah
    02.08.2011 at 6:19 AM #

    Because of this post I started my week with a big pot of black beans. I used a different recipe so I could make them in the crockpot. We had the huevos rancheros tonight and tomorrow there will be a few thermoses of beans in the lunchboxes. Thanks for the ideas!

    • 02.08.2011 at 6:31 PM #

      I’d love it if you would share how you did the beans in the crockpot and how it turned out.

  5. Karla
    08.21.2011 at 7:07 PM #

    Thanks for the recipe. I love beans

  6. Kerri
    10.18.2012 at 3:32 AM #

    I have recently started to add beans to my diet. I must say I absolutely love them. Do you have some suggestions for seasonings to use rather than salt?

    • katiemorford
      10.18.2012 at 7:39 AM #

      It really depends on what direction you want to go flavor-wise. Dried cumin, fresh cilantro, lime juice, and lemon juice and my usual suspects for beans. Any type of chili sauce or salsa, other favorite spices.

  7. Pam H
    10.24.2013 at 10:16 AM #

    Can you cook these in a slow cooker, like your pinto bean recipe?

    • katiemorford
      10.24.2013 at 11:09 AM #

      The cooking time may vary, but yes.

  8. Jamie
    02.23.2014 at 12:11 PM #

    How long do these beans keep in the refrigerator, roughly?

    • katiemorford
      02.23.2014 at 1:46 PM #

      I would say about three days. They freeze very well.

  9. 05.20.2014 at 7:35 PM #

    i love these beans!


  1. 15 Minute Fix: Taco Night « Mom'sKitchenHandbook - 04.25.2011

    [...] A warm bowl of pinto or black beans, either doctored up from a can, homemade such as this recipe here, or picked up from your favorite Mexican take-out. – Corn, either on the cob when it’s in [...]

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