Frijoles Rojos for Cinco de Mayo — And Beyond

Garnished with creamy, crumbly queso fresco and cilantro, these hearty Mexican black beans can be a meal on their own with rice.
Garnished with creamy, crumbly queso fresco and cilantro, these hearty Mexican black beans can be a meal on their own with rice.

No Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without a soul-satisfying pot of hearty and tender beans.

“Frijoles Rojos” is all that — plus vegan.

This classic bean dish is from “Provecho” (Ten Speed Press, 2021), of which I received a review copy. The cookbook is by Edgar Castrejon, a Bay Area chef, recipe developer and photographer, who grew up in Oakland to parents who emigrated from Mexico.

The title of the book comes from the Spanish expression to “wish someone a good meal.” The 100 vegan recipes embody that sentiment in rustic, homey dishes such as “Columbian Empanadas,” “Adobo Mushroom Tacos,” “Tortas de Tofu,” and a clever “Coconut Aquachile” in which the flesh of young coconut stands in for the usual fish.

“Frijoles Rojos” can be made with canned beans or dried. I used Rancho Gordo Midnight Black Beans, soaking them overnight, before cooking them the next day.

The beans get cooked with mild, dried guajillo chiles that are simmered in water to rehydrate, then blitzed in a blender with onion. The recipe instructed to strain the pureed chiles before adding to the pot of beans, but my blender did such a good job that I don’t think this step was necessary, so I skipped it. You might find the same.

Dried guajillo chiles.
Dried guajillo chiles.

From there, all it takes is 15 minutes of simmering to meld all the flavors together. The beans are a little spicy, a tad smoky, and quite earthy tasting.

Garnish with cilantro and crumbled vegan queso fresco (or regular queso fresco, if you’re not necessarily vegan).

With a mound of fluffy rice, it can be a meal unto itself. Or a perfect side to a celebratory spread of tortillas, salsas, fresh avocado, and grilled vegetables (or meat or seafood).

Whether your diet is plant-based or full-on carnivore, it’s a classic that’s at right at home on any table.

A vegan dish that's hearty enough to satiate meat lovers, too.
A vegan dish that’s hearty enough to satiate meat lovers, too.

Frijoles Rojos

(Makes 6 servings)

4 guajillo chiles

1 1/2 cups water

1/3 white or yellow onion

4 epozote leaves (optional)

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoons avocado oil

5 cups cooked pinto or black beans with their liquid or canned beans

Vegan queso fresco

Chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnish (optional)

Cooked rice for serving (optional)

Pop the stems off the guajillos and rip the chiles open a bit until you can shake out and discard the seeds.

In a small saucepan combine the guajillos and water. Cover partially, set over high heat, and cook for 8 minutes. Pour the contents into a high-powered blender. Add the onion, epazote (if using), and salt and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Warm a large pot over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, add the avocado oil and the beans with their liquid, and then strain the pureed chiles through a sieve into the beans, if you like, and stir well. Cover partially and boil until the liquid is reduced to a saucy consistency that coats the beans, about 15 minutes.

Serve the beans hot, garnished with vegan queso fresco and cilantro, with rice on the side, if desired.

Adapted from “Provecho” by Edgar Castrejon

More Bean Recipes to Enjoy: Christmas Lima Beans with Parsley and Goat Cheese

And: Escarole and White Bean Gratin

And: Kidney Bean and Mushroom Bourguignon

And: Southern Baked Beans

And: Chickpeas Cacio e Pepe

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