“Olla De Frijoles Negros”: Mexican Black Beans

Beans have been a staple of Mexican and pre-hispanic American societies since antiquity. Eaten with maize they provide complete protein as well as plentiful amounts of folate, vitamin B1, iron and magnesium.

Mexican beans are often eaten re-fried, that delicious réchauffé of days-old bean paste, sautéed with garlic, chilli, cumin and other herbs and spices, ever tastier for each day they survive.

The mother-dish, Olla de frijoles, is deep and subtle –  tender, succulent little parcels in a broth of sweet onion, ancho and chipotle chillies brought together by the complex aromas of epazote (Chenopodium Ambrosoides) an herb known in Europe as wormseed and reputed to bring relief from any tiny tendency to flatulence.

True or not, epazote is ubiquitous in Mexican cuisine and one of its defining flavours. The herb can be easily grown from seed in warm and temperate climates. Otherwise the dried herb keeps its flavour fairly well.

You can get this quintessentially Mexican herb from the Cool-Chile-Company online (http://coolchile.co.uk) or from their stall in London’s Borough market.

If you can’t get hold of epazote try tarragon for sweet subtlety or a pungent herb like oregano for a high savoury note. Parsley makes a good pairing with both of the these.  Add the stalks to the raw ingredients, removing them at the end of cooking then adding in the finely chopped leaves.

Mexican Black Beans

Olla De Frijoles Negros - Mexican Black Beans

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Cuisine: Caribbean, Latin American, Mexican
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


  • 2 cups black beans Soaked overnight
  • 1 large onion peeled & cut in four
  • 1 bulb garlic topped & tailed to expose the flesh
  • 1 bunch epazote or 1 tsp dried
  • or flat leaf parsley & tarragon
  • 1 whole ancho or Pasilla chilli Or 2 Kashmir Chillies
  • 1 whole chipotle chilli Or 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Bay leaves Optional
  • Salt to taste


  • Put the drained, pre-soaked beans into a large pot. Add all the other ingredients except the salt & cover with water
  • Cook for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker or up to 90 minutes in a conventional pot 
  • Remove the garlic remnants & bay leaves anf season to taste
  • The beans should be very tender but hold their shape and the liquid should be thick enough to coat the beans. Cook for a little longer if necessary to achieve this consistency



Refrigerate left-over beans once they have cooled down.
The following day put them in a pot, add a teacup-full of water and cook them covered over medium high heat for at least 10 minutes.
Stir them occasionally to break them up then re-fry (see following post)

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