Beans: They're Better Than You Think

Beans: They're Better Than You Think

National Bean Day is celebrated on January 6th, the same day that Gregor Mendel, the famed geneticist, died in 1884. Mendel utilized bean and pea plants to test his plant genetics hypotheses. So, actually, National Bean Day has more to do with scientific discoveries than delicious dishes, but we won’t let that stop us from celebrating and enjoying one of our favorite Latin-American foods!


Frijoles, habichuelas if you’re a Caribbean Latino, or porotos if you’re Chilean, are a staple food in many Latin American countries and a significant source of protein and fiber. Low in fat and high in complex carbs, folate, and iron, beans make a nutritious meal and a healthy snack choice. When prepared with a lot of additional fats or oils, like refried beans, for example, they can be a higher calorie food, but overall, beans get a bad rap and are actually a highly nutritious food that can often be low in calories as well.

Many different types are grown and consumed in Latin America, including black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and navy beans. So, in honor of this versatile and delicious legume, here are some of our favorite Latin American dishes, along with recipes for you to make and enjoy.

Feijoada

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Regarded as Brazil’s National Dish, feijoada is a rich stew made with black beans and various types of meat, such as pork, beef, and sausage, complemented with tomatoes, cabbage, and carrots. It is typically served with rice or collard greens and topped with farofa, toasted cassava flour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into small pieces
  • 1 pound beef brisket, cut into small pieces
  • 1 pound sausage (such as chorizo or linguica), cut into small pieces
  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked white rice, for serving
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the beans and pick out any debris. Soak the beans in water overnight, or quick-soak them by bringing them to a boil in a pot of water, then removing the pot from the heat and letting the beans sit for 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the pork, beef, and sausage to the pot and cook until the meat is browned on all sides.
  4. Add the soaked and drained beans to the pot along with the ham hock, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, water, beef broth, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours, or until the beans and meat are tender.
  5. Remove the ham hock from the pot and shred the meat, discarding the bone. Return the shredded meat to the pot and stir to combine.
  6. Serve the feijoada hot, over cooked white rice and garnished with chopped fresh cilantro.

Gallo Pinto

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A traditional Costa Rican dish made with black beans and rice as a base. It is often served for breakfast alongside fried or scrambled eggs and garnished with tasty toppings, such as diced onions, cilantro, and cheese. Very easy to prepare and absolutely delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry black beans
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the beans and pick out any debris. Soak the beans in water overnight, or quick-soak them by bringing them to a boil in a pot of water, then removing the pot from the heat and letting the beans sit for 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the soaked and drained beans to the pot along with the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours, or until the beans are tender.
  4. While the beans are cooking, prepare the rice according to the package instructions.
  5. When the beans are cooked, mash some of them against the side of the pot to thicken the broth. Stir in the cooked rice.
  6. Serve the gallo pinto hot, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro.

Frijoles Charros

This typical Mexican dish, named after Mexican cowboys, or “charros,” is a spicy, savory stew made with beans, bacon, pork, sausage, ham, chorizo, diced tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, and spices. Bring a batch of these, and you’ll be the life of the party at your next potluck.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry pinto beans
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup diced cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the beans and pick out any debris. Soak the beans in water overnight, or quick-soak them by bringing them to a boil in a pot of water, then removing the pot from the heat and letting the beans sit for 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bacon and cook until the onion is translucent and the bacon is crispy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the soaked and drained beans to the pot along with the jalapeno pepper, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours, or until the beans are tender.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes, onions, and cilantro to the pot and stir to combine.
  5. Serve the frijoles charros hot, garnished with additional diced onions and cilantro if desired.

Which one will you make today? Share with us your delicious dishes at @theluzmedia!