Charro beans are smoky, savoury, spicy pinto beans. Perfect as a side to any BBQ or Mexican meal. Bacon, tomatoes, chipotles, onion and garlic. Hello tasty.
I think beans are the perfect side for BBQ. Real BBQ I mean. Low and slow. Ribs. Brisket. Chicken. Hot links. Charro beans are more Mexican than Texas. But I don’t care. They work. They work well.
Charro beans aren’t just good with Mexican
Charro beans are good with backyard grilling too. In fact, they are good on their own. Eat them out of the pot. I do. Leftovers make a wicked lunch. Lots of ways to enjoy them.
These are the original cowboy beans. Meant to be cooked over a campfire. Everyone gets upset when I light a campfire in the kitchen. So the smoke flavour has to come from somewhere else.
Turns out that’s not so hard. Bacon is smoky. Check. Fire-roasted tomatoes are smoky. Check. Chipotles are smoked jalapeños. Big check.
Smoke taken care of. No campfire required. Bit disappointing but at least I didn’t burn the house down…
Making fire-roasted tomatoes is easy
Saw a great tip for fire-roasted tomatoes on Serious Eats. Use a blow torch and just scorch them. Takes about 15 seconds per tomato.
Toss them in a cast iron pan (safety first – see the note above about no campfires in the kitchen) and just hit them with some flame. Instant fire-roasted tomatoes.
If you don’t have a torch, fire-roasted from a can work too. Not as much fun though.
Charro beans are best when you use dried pintos
I like to start with dried beans. Doesn’t mean this won’t work with canned. Either is fine. I just find the texture tends to be a bit better with the dried beans.
I use a pressure cooker when I prepare dried beans. Speeds things up nicely. Probably my number one use of that particular kitchen gadget.
That’s pretty much it. Smoky charro beans without burning down the house. And you get to play with a blow torch. What’s better than that?
Cook the beans
- 1 lb dried pinto beans or 3 15 oz cans
- 1 bay leaf
Cook the charro beans
- 1/2 lb bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 white onion - diced
- 1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced
- 4 tomatoes scorched with a blow torch (see above) or a 15 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic - crushed
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano - if you can't get it, leave it out. Regular oregano is not the same thing.
- 1/2 tsp epazote (optional)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1-3 chipotle in adobo minced - depends how spicy you like it.
- 1 handful cilantro chopped
- 2 tsp kosher salt - you may need more. Creep up on it.
- 2 cups chicken stock - thin to make the beans a bit soupy
Cook the beans
- I use a pressure cooker. Pressure cook the beans and bay leaf for 22-25 minutes (check your manual). I use 2 cups of water per cup of beans. Once you depressurize your cooker, add 1 tsp kosher salt and simmer the beans for another 15 minutes or so. You want them tender. Not falling apart, but not toothy either. Do not discard the water.
- Alternately you can cook them conventionally. Cover the beans with 1 inch of water and simmer until tender. This can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours. Add the salt after about an hour.Sometimes it even takes longer. Beans are annoying that way. Do not discard the water.
Make the charro beans
- Add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat.
- Fry the bacon until the edges start to get brown. This takes around 7-8 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium low. Add the onion, jalapeño and cumin. Fry, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and soft, around 10 minutes. When they get close, add the garlic and stir. Cook another minute or so.
- While the onions are cooking, seed and dice the tomatoes. To seed, cut them in half and just squeeze. A few seeds won't kill you.
- Add the tomatoes, Mexican oregano and epazote if using. As the tomatoes release liquid, scrape up any fond that might have formed in the bottom of the pan. Fond is flavour! Cook until the tomatoes start to break down, around 10 minutes.
- Add the tomato bacon mixture to the beans and water. Mix in the chipotle. Simmer about 30 minutes to let the flavours combine. You may need to add some or all the chicken stock. You want soupy. This part is up to you.
- Add the cilantro. Simmer another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt. You will probably need to add another tsp depending on how salty your bacon is.
- Garnish with a bit more cilantro or some pico. Enjoy!
10 thoughts on “charro beans – frioles charros”
Hi Romain, I hope you are enjoying the summer! I haven’t had the opportunity to cook any new Glebe-dishes for a month (rather, I have been doing old favorites). I finally had the chance today and went for this one. Of course, I had to refill my blowtorch first to do the tomatoes – brilliant idea 😉
I love the how the different smokey flavors come together to create something overly delicious. Just couldn’t stop eating! Will cook more Mexican in August. Thank you as always!
Mexican and summer. Just goes together so well I think!
I have been enjoying summer tremendously. Hope you are as well!
I want to try this but not sure what to substitute the bacon with (don’t eat pork). Any recs?
It adds smoke and fat to the dish. Do you ever do things like BBQ (low and slow) brisket or beef ribs? That would be amazing in lieu of bacon.
I’m starting to feel weird about commenting so much, but if I had a food blog, I’d want people
to let me know how things went down when they made my food. Another set of winner recipes. Last night we had the Yucatan grilled chicken, your charro beans and your pico de gallo. The beans were out of this world amazing. We actually set it all up and took the Yucatan chicken off the bone and had sort of a ‘bean bowl’ with the beans on the bottom, a layer of your chicken, your pico and a final layer of queso fresco. Our teenage boys destroyed their bowls and told us it was better than a restaurant. My husband refused to let anyone else have leftovers today. Your trick for draining the pico was spot on- a day later and the pico is still awesome! My sister and I have become obsessed with your blog and argue about what to make next. Hope you don’t think we are too weird!!! Keep these high quality recipes coming!!
Far from thinking you are weird I am absolutely delighted. Please keep the comments coming. You are right. I love comments!
Love your bowl idea as well. I am going to make that for myself very, very soon!
Changed up to fresh Epazote and seriously increased it( 1/2 cup chopped) while cutting the salt by 3/4. I like the flavor from herbs, but salt, not so much.
Did you start with canned beans? 1/2 tsp of salt in 1 lb of dried pintos would be pretty under seasoned I would think.
I love the idea of taking a blowtorch to a tomato…especially some of the white styrofoam ones you get in the winter. But seriously I WILL expand my use of my creme brûlée torch to tomatoes and other veggies like peppers and eggplant. Should work equally well, no?
Haha. Lots of fun to be had with a blowtorch. You can get the char on the peppers and eggplant but they won’t cook through so you will still need to find a way to do that. And you don’t have to limit yourself to a small torch. I use the one I have for plumbing (full size). Works great.