I’m going to try my hardest not to perpetuate a stereotype. Let’s preface this post by saying that not all Latinos like, or eat, beans. Now, my family isn’t among them, nor are any of the Latinos I’m friends with. Every single Latino I know enjoys beans. Hell, we even have our Black and White friends eating beans, and the Koreans too! Drunken Beans are just the icing on the cake of typical stereotypes. Booze infused beans. My Latina card is getting revoked as you read this.
I’m already tottering on the fence after having named it “frijoles” instead of “habichuelas“. My Abuelita is up in heaven all, “She done forgot her roots.” I haven’t, Abuela, I promise. It’s just, people can pronounce frijoles, whereas just the mention of habichuelas causes people heads to tilt in confusion.
Beans have a very long, rich history- especially here in the Americas. As a homeschool mom, I loved teaching my Twinks about Tisquantum (Squanto); who taught the pilgrims how to farm their new land by burying rotten fish with their seeds. Indigenous tribes like my ancestors, the Tainos, have been planting, growing and eating beans for centuries. Here recently we’ve begun to get more creative in our preparation of them. The result of our access to many different cultures and ingredients is that others are now enjoying, as novelty what some of us had to survive on.
I remember how often my mother spoke of her diet growing up in Brooklyn, NY.
“Every day we ate the same thing: chicken, rice and beans. Chicken, rice and beans. Every. Single. Day.”
Beans were cheap, easy to make, and provided an abundant amount of protein. For poor migrant families like my mother’s who had come to New York City from their small tobacco plantation in Puerto Rico; it was all they could afford. My mother was the oldest of nine children; due to that status, she was responsible for preparing all of the family’s meals. Mami’s food shopping budget allowed for rice and beans, and sometimes (if she were lucky) chicken.
Surprisingly enough, my mother didn’t hate beans. One of her favorite meals was fried pork chops, rice and beans, twice fried plantains and salad (no dressing). Beans reminded her of where she came from, she used to tell me. They kept her grounded- no matter her financial status in life. Beans kept her humble.
I know many Latinos who feel the same. My husband told me that he can never go too long without having rice and beans; it makes him miss his island. At least once a month I make rice and beans for my family. This past week, in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, drunken beans (or frijoles borrachos) were on the menu.
The “drunken” in drunken beans comes from the bottle of Dos Equis Mexican beer the beans are simmered in. I feel like it’s understood that alcohol does, indeed, cook off with heat; however, some may still be hesitant to use it, and I respect that. They won’t be drunken beans, but substituting the beer with chicken stock will still produce some pretty amazing beans.
I use these beans as an ingredient in my Carnitas Bowls recipe. Serving these bowls at a party is the foolproof way to cater without losing your mind. It’s like a chill taco bar sans dropped lettuce on your living room floor. Be sure to make a pot of beans, and pin the recipe in your virtual recipe box!
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Drunken Beans (Frijoles Borrachos)
Yield 10 servings
The use of a dark lager gives this recipe a rich, complex flavor that will leave your guests speechless.
1 tbsp lard (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced* (optional)
1 bottle of dark lager (or 1 cup of chicken stock)
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
8 oz tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Mexican Spice Blend
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium-sized pot, heat the lard over med-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the veggies take on a glossy, translucent appearance.
Add the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen up any cooked on food.
Add the drained beans, tomato sauce, bay leaf, and all spices- except the cilantro and black pepper.
Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir and adjust seasonings. Add the cilantro and stir. Add black pepper, if desired.
If you prefer a mild taste, omit the serrano pepper. If you like your beans on the spicy seed, add two!