Years ago, as I was rifling through my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I came across 2 cans of black beans and a jar of pickled jalapeños (that I figured I needed do something else with besides make nachos). Of course, these are pantry staples every Texan should have.
Hmm… I thought. What can I do with these? After looking through my fridge and finding some cilantro, I stumbled upon it. “Tart these beans up, Sahar”, I said to myself.
A no brainer, really.
At the time I came up with this recipe, Husband Steve was a vegetarian. And, honestly, me being a dedicated omnivore, there were times I struggled with figuring out what to feed him other than the same old dozen or so meals. Thankfully, he liked this new concoction so much it became a semi-regular in the rotation. I liked it because I was working a full-time job at the time and this was a quick & easy meal to make for dinner. Cheap, too. And, let’s not forget the most important part here – delicious.
I’m not even going to call this anything remotely like authentic Mexican cuisine. I mean, I honestly don’t know of any interior Mexican recipe that uses pickled jalapeños. However, I like to think I’ve at least kept to the flavor profile somewhat and honored the spirit, if not the authenticity.
A few notes:
1. I really designed this recipe around black beans. However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, pinto will do in a pinch.
2. If you don’t have a jar of pickled jalapeños, you can use fresh. Use one, and, depending on the heat level you want, remove the seeds or not. Also, in place of the jalapeño brine, use lime juice.
3. I generally serve this dish with brown rice. It just seems to work. However, white rice or even your favorite Spanish or Mexican rice recipe will be fine, too.
4. Occasionally, I’ll dice up a tomato (after I remove the seeds) and add it to the beans when I add the second half of the cilantro. I’ll let the tomatoes sit in the beans just long enough to warm through before serving.
5. When I serve the beans with cheese, I’ll use Jack cheese or Queso Fresco as a general rule. The rule being that I usually have one or both of those in my fridge pretty much all the time. Honestly, they just seem to work. However, if you decide to go the pinto bean route, cheddar will work, too.
6. To make this dish vegan, use vegetable broth and omit the cheese.
7. If you’re feeling decadent and carnivorous, a small piece or two of salt pork or bacon cooking with the beans wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just watch the amount of additional salt you put into the beans.
2 cans black beans (frijoles negros), drained
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 c. onion, fine dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. pickled jalapeño, chopped
2 tsp. jalapeño brine
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. dried Mexican Oregano
1 bunch cilantro, chopped and divided
1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth, or water; more as needed
Rice, cheese, lime wedges, and tortillas or cornbread
1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and let heat up.
2. Sauté the garlic and onion until the onion is soft, about 2 – 3 minutes.
Add the jalapeños and sauté for another minute.
3. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and sauté another minute or just until the spices begin to have a fragrance. Be sure not to let them burn.
4. Add the beans, jalapeño brine, half of the cilantro, and the broth or water.
Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let the beans simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Be sure to taste for seasoning. Add more broth or water if the beans become too dry.
5. When the beans are soft and the broth has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining cilantro and taste for seasoning.
6. Serve the beans with rice, cheese, a lime wedge, and cornbread or tortillas on the side.