Charro beans are so warm and flavorful.. They are a staple in the Tex-Mex restaurants I’ve grown up eating at here in Houston. More than just a pot of pinto beans, they are usually well seasoned with pork and Mexican spices and herbs like oregano and cilantro. They were always my preferred accompaniment to Mexican rice when eating out. Now, the only vegetarian option offered (if one is available at all) is black beans. Black beans are just fine and dandy, but they’re not the same as the smooth and velvety charro beans I grew to love.
So, what’s a girl to do? Create her own recipe for vegetarian charro beans! In fact, this recipe is not only vegetarian, but also vegan, plant-based and oil free. Don’t let that list of healthy labels fool you. These beans are GOOD. My meat-loving friends often ask me to make these for parties.
They’re delicious by the bowlful, as a base for tacos, eaten with tortilla chips or served over rice. We often enjoy them mixed with fat-free, vegetarian refried beans for a thick bean dip or spread for tostadas. Mixing them with refried beans is also a way to cut down the heat for kiddos or anyone who prefers their food a little more tame.
Speaking of taming these spicy beans, you can de-seed your jalapeños if you wish. In this dish, I prefer to leave the seeds in for extra spiciness. You could ramp up the spiciness by adding more jalapeño.
A word of caution when chopping jalapeño: either coat your hands with oil beforehand or wear gloves. Jalapeño burns on your hands, or any other body part for that matter, is no joke and the only thing that soothes it is time. Not fun. I keep gloves on hand just for chopping jalapeño. I learned my lesson the hard way.
Whole dried mexican oregano is a key ingredient to this recipe, so please try to source it, if you can. It is plentiful here in Texas grocery stores, but you can also find it online.
These beans do not require any soaking, which is also really nice for those of us who are more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. Throw the beans in the crockpot in the morning with a couple things and then by afternoon toss in the rest and you’re good to go. Pretty simple and easy. And, it makes the house smell amazing.
Since my big slow cooker broke after many years of servitude, I’ve been using a medium sized 4-quart Crockpot, similar to this one on Amazon, so you can see the size. For this recipe, I would suggest using at least a crock pot of this size, or larger. If you use a smaller crock pot, you will need to reduce the recipe accordingly.
I hope you enjoy these as much as we do. When you make this recipe, please let me know what you think!
UPDATE: Food Safety – Since writing this post, I have learned that SOME crockpots or slow cookers on the LOW setting (or even high) do not bring the temperature of the beans high enough to kill a toxin that is present in all beans, but most dangerous in kidney beans. Cooking beans for 10 minutes above 212F or 100C (boiling temperature) kills the toxin. I checked my crockpot and even on low, the water boils and the temperature was above 212F. So, I was good.
How do you make sure your beans are safe? If you plan on using your slow cooker, I would recommend starting the recipe using your high setting and measuring the temperature of the liquid in your cooker once it’s fully cooking. If it’s above 212F, you’re fine. If it’s below that, transfer the beans to a pot on the stove, boil for 10 minutes, then put them back in the slow cooker to finish them off. In the future, you can boil them first, then add them to the slow cooker. Or, you can finish them off on the stove, boiling them for at least 10 minutes. Or, you can cook them on your stove until done. Or, you can use an InstantPot. Basically, you have options. I just want to make sure you’re aware of this issue some may have! Enjoy these spicy beans!
- 2 cups dry pinto beans, picked through and washed
- 2 sweet onions, chopped, separated
- 1 head garlic, about 10 cloves, minced, separated
- 1 tbsp dried Mexican oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 2 jalapeños, diced
- 1 large bunch cilantro, lower stems removed and diced
- 3 roma tomatoes, diced
- salt, to taste
- Add dry beans to crockpot and fill with water, leaving 2-3 inches of room at the top.
- Add 1 of the chopped onions, half of the garlic, the oregano and bay leaf. Cover and turn the crockpot on high or low, depending on how long you want it to cook. Do NOT add salt at the beginning. It can prevent the beans from getting tender.
- Once the beans are done, add the rest of the onion, garlic, the celery and jalapeño to a skillet on medium-medium high. Saute for 5-10 minutes until the veggies start to brown and char a little. Add a tablespoon of water if they start to stick too bad.
- Once the onion is done, add the tomatoes to deglaze the pan.
- Add vegetables to the crockpot, along with cilantro and salt and stir gently. Start with a teaspoon of salt and go from there, based on your taste.
- Allow the flavors to combine for about 5-10 minutes. Serve piping hot.
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