Basic Mexican Beans

Basic Mexican beans recipe

The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
265 Calories
1g Fat
49g Carbs
16g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 265
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 12mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 49g 18%
Dietary Fiber 14g 49%
Protein 16g
Calcium 147mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Though beans are eaten in many countries in Latin America and around the world, there is probably no other country as closely associated with this foodstuff as Mexico. Beans are prepared in a thousand different ways there, but the most basic (and the manner in which most other bean dishes start out) is what is called frijoles de la olla, or “pot beans.”

Frijoles de la olla is traditionally cooked in an earthenware pot, which adds a wonderful rustic flavor to the beans, but they can also be made in a standard metal cooking pot, pressure cooker, or slow cooker with delicious results.

As happens with so many foods that are fundamental in culture, each Mexican cook has his or her own particular way of preparing beans. What follows is a basic recipe to get you started on your way to your very own version.


  • 1 pound of dried beans (pinto, black, flor de mayo, or another variety)
  • 1/2 medium-sized onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 quarts (3 liters) of water
  • 1 sprig of​ epazote (if preparing black beans)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for basic Mexican beans
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  2. Spread the dried beans out on a table or other flat surface. One by one, slide each bean off the table with one hand, catching it with the other, leaving behind any tiny stones or other debris. Place the beans in a strainer and rinse.

    Spread the beans out
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  3. Place the rinsed, drained beans in a medium- to large-sized cooking pot over medium-high heat. Add the water.

    Beans in a pot
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  4. Dice the onion and the garlic and add them to the pot. Cover the pot and allow to come to a boil. Once the boiling point has been reached, reduce heat to medium-low to keep a steady simmer that does not produce large bubbles.

    Dice onion
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic 
  5. Cook beans until they are soft. Make sure there is always plenty of water in the pot, adding boiling water when and if necessary. Cooking time will vary depending on the freshness of the beans. Typically, though, beans will take an hour and a half to two hours to soften, though they could take a little less or quite a bit longer. Beans are cooked when one can be easily smashed between your thumb and forefinger.

    Beans on spoon
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  6. If you are making black beans, it is traditional to season them with a sprig of fresh epazote. Add the herb just a few minutes before taking the beans off the stove, as epazote’s wonderfully rustic aroma and flavor cannot withstand long cooking.

  7. Once the beans are cooked, add the salt and stir. If salt is added before beans are thoroughly cooked, it prevents them from becoming completely soft.

    Salt the beans
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  8. Enjoy your delicious, soupy beans in bowls as a side dish to grilled or fried meats, or use a slotted spoon to dish out just the beans to accompany any savory dish—you will be amazed at how delicious this simple preparation is.

    Mexican beans
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic


  • Use leftovers as an ingredient for other dishes such as refried beans, bean soup, or ranchero beans or refrigerate leftovers for reheating; they will thicken and become more delicious each time they are eaten.