Abuelita-style Beans

This recipe I came to as I watched Carla Lali Music from Bon Appetit make “Brothy Brothy Beans”. Like hers, this recipe depends on how fresh your beans are and it just depends on how your beans react. I’ve made this recipe multiple times, taking the steps that Carla makes, but, I add all of my PR ingredients.

When talking to my mom, she told me that when she saw the video (didn’t understand anything, since she doesn’t speak English), she mentioned that this is how my grandma made beans. Period. This “recipe”, which I use that term loosely, reminds me of the beans my mom made when I was little, but recently, the beans that we eat when we go to Pollo Tropical, a chain restaurant whose origin slogan was “Como la comida de tu abuela”. In the original ad that I grew up watching in Puerto Rico, two college- aged dudes eat the restaurants rice, beans, and grilled chicken and the “grandma” is the one whose behind it all. Truly amazing food and it does remind you of a grandma up in the mountain, in her little house, cooking for hours. Aka: Mami Fela, my grandma. Whom I do not have memories of, since she passed when I was really young. I do faintly remember going to a kitchen where “somebody” (Mami Fela) gives me a coffee so that I can give to mom.

Mami Fela and my grandfather who I never met (he passed when mom was 5).

Here’s to Mami Fela, to my mom, and to all my family members who cook. This is my homage to those beans that we all wish to recreate. I feel that this is a good shot at that. Food is memories. Food is culture. Food is our heritage. Here are my abuelita style beans.

First things first, here’s the video from Carla Lali Music.


-1 bag of beans (1 lb)
-Water/Chicken Stock
-2 tablespoons of sofrito
-Garlic (about 8 cloves, minced finely)
-1 -2 packets of sazón (up to 3 teaspoons of sazon)
-Fat (I used 3 tablespoons of bacon fat)
-Mexican Oregano (I used one big handful) ~ about 2-3 tablespoons
-Potatoes (I used 4 potatoes)
-Baby Carrots ~ about the amount of 2 “adult” or normal sized carrots.

How to:

Your main cooking vessel will be a big, heavy pot. You can use tu caldero, I used my favorite dutch oven, my red le creuset pot.

  1. Soak your beans. Soak your beans overnight in your cooking vessel (that way future you does not have to move the beans, future you thanks you). You want enough liquid that can If you do not want to do that, you can bring your beans up to a boil for 1 hour and then turn the. heat down to a simmer. I personally tried that method (bring to a boil for an hour and then simmer) and felt that the beans don’t rehydrate the best and the flavor is not as great as when they just soak overnight.
  2. Next day. New beans who this?: Its a new day! New beans. They. should look plump. Depends on how fresh they are (aka how far away they were dried) some may split open. That is completely fine. That. means that the beans that you got were not super fresh, they will still yield really good beans. I have read that beans from Rancho Gordo in California are great. I haven’t bought any yet. If you have some split beans, know that your beans may take a little longer, which is fine.
  3. If your water looks kind of murky, you can take half of that water off and replenish said water with some stock. If you do not see any murky water, you can keep on! Heat your beans on medium to medium high heat and start cooking. Once you see it bubble, could have some impurities (aka foam) skim said foam to a bowl. Once you skim the foam, add some adobo (or salt) until you taste it in the water. Cooking beans are like cooking pasta. The water will give them the flavor, so season up! Add the sazon. Mix well. Let them hang out for about 10-15 mins. Add your fat. I added about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, you can use whatever fats you have on hand. I’ve done this with some rendered fat from roasting chicken, to just plain Olive Oil . Check seasoning (add the oregano and garlic if you haven’t done so already).
  4. Leave your beans in medium to medium low and let them hang out. This is were the bean magic happens. Put on a tv show, a movie, get that book you always want to read and just leave the beans alone. Let them have their sauna. Occasionally, come by and check on them, give them a swirl, if there are any impurities skim them out. If you at that time are curious where they are, grab a bean. Taste them. If they are crunchy or taste raw… they are. Leave them be. Taste the broth and season once more if they need it. If it looks like they need more water or stock, add some more. If you can add stock, it means more flavor.
  5. Have you checked on your beans? I just did. To give you a frame of reference, I began making these beans around 10:00 am. I felt them just begining to soften and its 11:06 am. Since they began to soften, this is were I add my veg. I am using 4 small- medium potatoes that my friend Joslyn had in her backyard and some baby carrots. If you were using just regular canned beans, this would be the point of you just finished making them come up to a boil and you’re going to simmer them for 20-30 mins.
  6. Now that they’re somewhat soft, turn the heat to low. Simmer the beans for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are completly done.

    Quick Fix: If the beans still looking brothy or soupy to you, take some of that broth into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (if you’re in a Mexican or Hispanic grocery store it can be called Maizena).Mix well, add to the beans. This will help thicken the beans. Remember the starch from the potatoes will help thicken the beans. On the flip side, if they are too thick, add some more broth or water for your desired consistency. The longer the beans are hanging out, the thicker it will become!
  7. Serve your beans with some rice!

These beans will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. If you store them in the fridge they will hold up for up to 3 months!

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