For a hearty and tasty bean dish, it's hard to go past frijoles charros, or “cowboy’s beans”. Though the dish usually features salty pork in the form of bacon, ham or chorizo, the true flavour comes from the beans, which are simply cooked, seasoned, then spiked with chilli. A vegetarian version would work beautifully with crumbled fresh cheese, such as cow's milk feta, over the top.






Skill level

Average: 4 (11 votes)


  • 1 cup dried pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 100 g bacon or pancetta, sliced into lardons
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeño chilli, finely sliced
  • ⅓ cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 200 g fresh corn tortillas

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead. 

Soak the pinto beans in 1 litre water for 4–6 hours or overnight.

Combine the beans and the soaking water, onion and 600 ml fresh water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1½ -2 hours until very tender but still holding shape.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 2–3 minutes until lightly coloured. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato, beans and broth and chilli and simmer for 10 minutes, adding a little water if the mixture looks to thick (it should be brothy). Stir through the coriander and season to taste.

Serve with tortillas.


Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Kristine Duran-Thiessen. Coloured glassware from Market Import; tiles from Di Lorenzo.