Drunken Beans Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Drunken Beans Recipe

drunken beans | pamela salesman

One of my favorite food blogger friends, Phoebe Lapine, of the fantastic blog Feed Me Phoebe, had a genius idea.  She recently moved and came to the conclusion that she is a pantry hoarder.  Um, guilty over here, too!  Phoebe then suggested to some other food blogger friends/pantry hoarders that we gather together for a virtual “Pantry Purge.”  I love this idea.  Nothing says a fresh start like cleaning out your pantry.

soak your beans | pamela salzman

I especially love a good purge at the beginning of spring, nature’s new year.  Out with the old, in with the new.  One day last year I was making a grocery list for the meals I wanted to cook for the coming week and I took a look at my bulging pantry and refrigerator and thought, no way.  We had plenty of food and there was no need to buy anything.  I vowed to use up what I had no matter how weird the combos or what were in the “mood” for that week.  It was a challenge, but there was only one dinner that was kind of a fail (I thought I was making potstickers to go with a stir-fry and they were pierogis), but since then I have been a little more conscientious about using what I’ve got.

cilantro bundle + garnish

Our mission for Phoebe’s virtual pantry purge was to post a recipe that includes one or more pantry staples, e.g. grains, legumes, random flours, spices, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.  After spying a bag of dried pinto beans, too much tomato paste that I over-ordered for a class a few months ago and a bottle of tequila which I will never drink, coupled with the fact that Cinco de Mayo is about a month away, I knew a recipe for Drunken Beans, aka Frijoles Borrachos, would be happening on my blog.

poblano pepper

Mexican food was not part of my life until I moved to California.  I’m not sure where all the avocados were hiding in the 80’s on the East Coast, but none ever crossed my plate.  In Los Angeles, there is no shortage of fantastic Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine.  I naturally favor the lighter dishes like fajitas, rice and beans, fresh salsas and pico de gallo, and anything that has an avocado on it.  Someone in my class asked me the other day, “How much avocado should I limit myself to per day?”  Not a question that ever crossed my mind.  I’m still thinking if there’s an answer.  I digress.

sauteadd beans

These are my favorite beans I have ever made.  They are drunken because of the tequila and the beer, and so much more flavorful than standard refried beans.  I personally don’t find these to be very spicy, but if you want no heat at all, just omit the pinch of cayenne.  Do not worry about serving these to children.  All the alcohol gets cooked off.  No one will end up drunk eating drunken beans, sorry to say!  Drunken beans are typically a little brothy and served more in Northern Mexico and especially with meats, like carne asada for example.  I love a simple rice and beans meal myself, but I served these drunken beans recently with a South American roast chicken and the flavors together were fantastic.  That said, beans have plenty of protein that you don’t need an animal protein at the same meal.

drunken beans | pamela salzman

Pinto beans, as well as black, kidney, red and Adzuki beans are all incredibly high in antioxidants, and contain even more than cultivated blueberries which everyone thinks is top of the list.  Antioxidants stop free radicals from damaging other cells in your body.  So it is important to know which foods have the most antioxidants because in today’s toxic world, our bodies need all the help they can get to fight damage-causing free radicals.  Beans are also low in fat, high in fiber and very inexpensive.  A pound of dried beans can be as little as $1.50.

drunken beans | pamela salzman

If you are inclined to purge your pantry (it’s fun and liberating — do it!!), here are some great recipes from some very talented bloggers which can help you use up what you’ve got:

Feast + West | Honey Chipotle Roasted Chickpeas

Clean Food Dirty City | Lentil Rice Bowl with Shaved Cauliflower Salad

Crepes of Wrath | Garlic Noodles

Appeasing a Food Geek | Wine Wednesday + a Kale and Tomato Galette

Feed Me Phoebe | Maple Pecan Gluten-Free Banana Bread

Domesticate ME! | Chicken and Wheat Berry Salad with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Arugula

Arthur Street Kitchen | Kale Kimchi

Pamela Salzman | Drunken Beans

The Mom 100 | Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger

Snixy Kitchen | Kale Salad with Toasted Nuts, Seeds, & Buckwheat

The Speckled Palate | Curried Veggie Rice Bowls

Loves Food, Loves to Eat | Warm Lentil Salad with Butter-Crumbed Eggs

The Naptime Chef | Basil Polenta with Pine Nuts and Feta

drunken beans

Drunken Beans
Serves: 6-10, depending on what else you are serving
  • 1 pound (2 ½ cups) dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, about 30 sprigs
  • 4 slices nitrate-free bacon, cut into ¼” pieces (optional -- I used Wellshire Farms organic turkey bacon)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 poblano chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup tequila ( a decent gold or silver tequila is fine here; don't waste your money on an aged tequila)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch cayenne (omit or add two pinches, depending on the level of heat you like)
  • big pinch ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup (Grade A or Grade B)
  • 1 cup Mexican lager or beer of choice (beer is not gluten-free unless you find a GF beer; feel free to omit if necessary)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (I like Jovial organic paste in glass jars)
  • 2 limes, quartered
  • 2 ounces Cojita or feta cheese, crumbled, about ½ cup (optional)
  1. Soak beans with lots of cold water at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Pick leaves from 20 cilantro sprigs (reserve stems), finely chop and refrigerate until needed. Using kitchen twine, tie remaining 10 cilantro sprigs and reserved stems into bundle.
  3. Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel lined bowl and set aside. If pan looks dry, add some olive oil. Add onion, poblanos, and garlic to pot and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Carefully add tequila and cook until evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Increase heat to high; stir in beans, 3 ½ cups water, bay leaves, cayenne, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, maple syrup, and cilantro bundle and bring to a boil. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are just soft, 45 to 60 minutes.
  6. Transfer pot to the stove and uncover. Discard bay leaves and cilantro bundle. Stir in beer and
  7. tomato paste and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer vigorously, stirring frequently, until liquid is thick and beans are fully tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve with reserved chopped cilantro, lime wedges, Cojita, and reserved bacon on the side.


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  1. Hi!

    I am excited to make this recipe, but don’t have a lid that is oven-safe. Would it be okay to cover the pot with foil in the oven? Or would it work to cook the beans completely on the stove? And, if so, how would you suggest cooking them fully on the stove?

    Thanks so much!

    • You can absolutely use foil. You can also make these in a slow cooker for 7 hours on low. I haven’t tried them on the stove. If you do, watch the liquid level to make sure it doesn’t evaporate too much.

  2. Hi Pamela, first want to congrats you on your cookbook. I’ve enjoyed your blog for years and it’s been such fun to have your amazing recipes & advice in tangible form on my counter! Ok on to beans… would canned beans work here? (Work + 2 small children have me resorting to cans/boxes lately.)

    • Thanks, Kelly! I think you can just sub 4 cans of drained pinto beans (15 oz each) and simmer for 20-25 minutes. You still want to saute the bacon first etc. Let me know if you need more specific instructions. Should work fine. 🙂

  3. Hi Pamela! These sound fantastic…. I have followed your suggestions on a few pantry items and have loved all of them so far. Was wondering what your favorite source is for organic dried beans and what brand you typically get? Thank you!

    • So glad, Lori! My favorite brand is Rancho Gordo. They are the absolute best, especially for heirloom beans. But they’re expensive. Bob’s Red Mill has good dried beans as does Whole Foods and I tend to buy those more regularly.

  4. Just made these for the family with cornbread and your avocado cabbage slaw. What a nice light supper! We all ate way too much. I think these would be great for a potluck too. Thanks for dinner!

    • Nice dinner! Love all those foods together 🙂 The beans are great made the day before and you’re right — perfect potluck dish!

    • Thanks, Kelsey!

  5. I am DROOLING over these beans, Pamela! I didn’t really ever eat a ton of TexMex cuisine until I moved to Texas… and now, I can’t stop. It’s so good. And there are so many different options and ways to enjoy the food. And these beans? We’re totally gonna be making ’em because I have some pintos that are just chilling in the pantry, and the fact that you flavored these up with both tequila and beer has me intrigued! Nice work!

    • Right? What says party-time like tequila beans??

  6. Oh Pamela!! I love everything about this post and recipe. I’m glad you gave these beans some love, and also tackled a serious pantry hoarding staple of mine: tequila. That Don Julio is much better off in these slow cooked beans than in my cocktail glass. Thank you for pantry purging with me!!!

    • A pantry purge is always better with friends. Feeling lighter already 🙂

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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