This hearty bean recipe comes from Mexico, where it is known as frijoles charros. It is believed that the stew is named after the famous Mexican charros or horseman. The English translation of this dish is horseman beans or cowboy beans.
Mexican families love to eat a bowl of these beans alongside a freshly grilled piece of steak. In my family, we could not have a cookout without a huge pot of frijoles charros to accompany our carne asada. Across Mexico and expat Mexican communities these beans area always present at cookout parties and special occasions or celebrations. They are also commonly found in restaurants that specialize in grilled meats.
There are several tales that claim charro beans originated in the Northern states of Mexico, then there are others that say the Western Mexican state of Jalisco created the dish. The disagreements don't end there. Some prefer the beans as a side dish, while others as a main meal. Additionally, there are people that like a soupier bean stew, while others want them drier. People also disagree as to what ingredients must be included in the recipe in order to call them true frijoles charros. The basic or most common ingredients are pinto beans, bacon, chorizo sausage, hot dogs, tomatoes, onions and so on; but every family has their own unique recipe and ingredients list. I believe that there is no right or wrong recipe. I alone have three different charro bean recipes that I've created and like to switch between depending on my mood.
For this version of Mexican cowboy beans, I gave the recipe a twist. Instead of using Mexican chorizo I used longaniza sausage (similar to chorizo but longer links and spicier), and I also added poblano peppers. Typically charro beans are a mild dish, but adding serrano chilies and longaniza sausage makes the stew spicy. Additionally, by omitting the bacon we create a healthier meal.
You'll notice the recipe calls for dried pinto beans, I always start off this way so that the boiling broth may be used later. I highly recommend that you to do the same -- the difference in taste is amazing! Lastly, if Mexican longaniza is not available feel free to use Mexican chorizo instead. You can even make your own like I do.
- 14 ounces/400 grams dried pinto beans (If using pre-cooked beans the weight is 2.1 pounds or 980 grams)
- 4 cups water for boiling (or more as needed)
- Splash of vegetable oil
- 13 ounces/370 grams Mexican longaniza sausage, remove from casing and broken up into large pieces
- 2.6 ounces/75 gm white onion (evenly chopped)
- 4 medium sized Poblano peppers, seeded and sliced into long strips
- 4 garlic cloves (minced)
- 3 serrano chilies, evenly sliced (use fewer chilies or remove membrane and seeds for milder stew)
- Half a tablespoon of fine sea salt, adjust to taste
- Half a tablespoon of ground cumin
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Optional: 5 fresh leaves of epazote
- 6 cups (1.4 liters) of boiling broth from beans or a mixture of it and water
- Pick through the beans and remove any rocks or debris.
- Throughly rinse, place in a large pot and pour in enough water to cover by 3 inches or 7.5 centimetres.
- Partly cover and simmer until cooked through. You will most likely need to add more water to the pot, do not let them dry out and always keep plenty of water in the pot. Once the beans are cooked, separate them from the broth and reserve the broth.
- Please make sure you have all of the ingredients ready to go because the following process moves fast.
- In a large pot heat a splash of oil, then add the longaniza and sauté until it begins to brown slightly.
- Drain the sausage but leave a bit of the oil in the pan, set the sausage aside.
- Next add the onion and sauté until soft, then add the Poblanos and sauté them for about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and Serrano chilies and sauté for about 3 minutes — be careful not to breathe in the chile smoke, it will make you cough.
- Now we’ll add the salt, ground cumin and bay leaves; the gently pour in the drained-cooked beans.
- Finally, we will very carefully pour in the broth and give the stew a gently stir, then place the epazote inside the pan.
- Partially cover and simmer under medium-low heat for about 45 minutes or longer if desired. The amount of broth that will be left in the pot is entirely up to you. Some people like their beans more soupy while others chunkier. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve as a main dish topped with finely chopped cilantro and with warm corn tortillas on the side. Alternatively, these beans may be served as a side-dish to grilled meats like steak -- or arranchera is my favourite.