Whole Foods 28-Day Challenge: Vegan Frijoles de la Olla

There are a few recipes that I’m known for and serve often at Casa de los Condes. Green chile chilaquiles, gluten-free mixed berry pie with dark sweet cherries, and pinto beans cooked with bacon.

My beans are my mom’s recipe and it’s one of my favorites. The pinto beans are soaked overnight and cooked the next morning with bacon and bay leaves. After they simmer on the stove all day, she puts in garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, cheese and a chili powder I can’t find anywhere outside of Arizona. (The ingredients are chili and natural spices and flavor. God knows what’s really in it, but it sure tastes good!)

Part of the challenge of the Whole Foods 28 Day Challenge is cooking without meat and dairy so there goes the bacon and cheese. Beans without bacon and cheese?? Why even make them??

Because I was starving, that’s why. I hadn’t been eating enough protein and needed something that I could go to all week long if I needed something quick. Last Sunday I tried making a vegan version of Frijoles de la Olla. I combined recipes I found in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday and in Marcela Valladolid’s Fresh Mexico.

Rick Bayless had directions for making beans in the slow cooker without soaking them first. He writes that soaking them doesn’t help much with digestion and you end up throwing away the flavorful soaking water. I had never gone without soaking beans, but thought it was worth a try. Chef Marcela had a recipe that called for garlic, onion and bay leaves.

Here is the combined recipe and it turned out amazing. Really tender and flavorful beans that I think are just as good as the bacon and cheese version.

Frijoles De La Olla

1 pound pinto beansonions
4 garlic cloves
½ a large white onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano to taste
Rinse and sort beans. Bring the beans and 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, chop the onion and mash the garlic. Put the onion, garlic and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Once the beans are boiling, pour the beans and water into the slow cooker with the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Cook for six hours or until beans are tender. Add the salt, pepper, and spices to taste.

cooked beans

The beans will be more of a bean soup the first day. By the second day, they should be thick enough to use in a tortilla, taco or as a side dish.