How to make Frijoles de la Olla


A friend of mine not-so-recently asked for my refried beans recipe, and I figured instead of just giving it to him, I’d just share it with everyone.

They are not exceptional beans by any means but they are quite good in their simplicity, and most of the taste comes from some hints that have been passed down to me from my grandma, as well as some tips I’ve picked up along the way. Also, I don’t use any lard as that is unbecoming to a vegetarian. It took longer than expected to write this up (sorry Bob!) but for whatever it’s worth, here it is!

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57 Responses to How to make Frijoles de la Olla

  1. Very enlightening! The biggest breakthru for me was when you told me some months ago about the non-soak method of bean cuisine. Since then my beans have come out so much better than they used to. I gleaned many new tips from this post however. The cleaning: wow, I’ve never cleaned my beans this much before! I have noticed that the color of my beans tends to be dark and not reddish brown. OK, I’ll do it from now on! Also, your salt advice is very different from the “experts” who say NEVER add salt at the beginning or your beans will turn out tough. But again, I’ll try it your way. Your grandma says that the oil brings out the color. It also acts as an anti-foaming agent. Otherwise during those first few minutes of boiling the pot will foam over and you will have to laddle out the foam. Adding oil is much easier. One question: do you cook with the pot covered or uncovered? I’m guessing that you do it uncovered. I’ve been doing it covered. I don’t suppose it makes much difference as long as the beans stay submerged and yet don’t end up with too much liquid at the end. Or does it make a difference? Anyhow, I’m off to cook another pot of beans the EL CHAVO! way (thouroughly washed beans and with salt added at the beginning of the cooking). I’ll let you know the results.

  2. OK. The results were fabulous! Washing really did change the color from a dirty grayish brown to a lightly pinkish tan. Adding the salt at the beginning improved the savory quality of the beans, and nope the beans didn’t get tough. The experts were wrong (again)! Also, I tried cooking the beans uncovered. This made for more work (I had to monitor the cooking more closely and pre-boil and then add more water a few times) but the beans turned out firmer (which is nice) and more intact. When I’ve cooked covered, the beans end up a little softer with many of them beginning to disintegrate or split. Your instructions are THE way to cook beans. Hats of to you EL CHAVO! I ate good tonight.

  3. EL CHAVO! says:

    Good point about the oil being an anti-foaming agent, I’d never thought about that! If you cover the beans, they will cook faster but sometimes they break down to much. If you leave it uncovered, sometimes it’ll lose the boil and a film will start to develop on top. So I kinda go back and forth, cooking them mostly covered, and then when I stir them, (which I do occasionaly) I might leave it open a crack, but I usually cook the beans semi-covered, leaving the lid a bit off to let some of the steam out. But either way should work okay.

    Then when they’re done, I cover the pot, eat my share, cover the pot, let it pot cool down, and stick the whole thing in the fridge! It’s my own metal tupperware!

  4. Nate says:

    Geez, I’ve been eating a lot of beans lately, so cheap, and have been doing them all wrong. After you give us the refried beans lesson, have you got a homemade corn tortilla recipe as well? And what about salsa? Or orchata (or is that just something they sell to white people at King Taco)?

  5. EL CHAVO! says:

    Not sure about a tortilla recipe, but there’s plans in the works for more food posts and recipes, including salsas, so some of that will happen. Horchata is a real drink, it’s not just for the white folk 🙂 You’ll not get an horchata recipe from me, but maybe I’ll post how I make jamaica.
    Until then, EL CHAVO!

  6. Julio says:

    I would love a jamaica lesson. Last time I made it I had more jamaica then I could consume myself. I also made it too bitter. Tasted like 100% cranberry juice. But it _was_ my first attempt.

  7. KIKO says:

    ORALE! nice tips etc. I like to put a few chiles in mine while it’s cooking. jalapeños, habaneros. good for the heart!…the more you eat, etc.

    by the way, I was eating breakfast with a lovely young lady a few days ago and we had a bottle of Tapatío salsa & she grabbed it & covered up the label with her hand & said, “Hey, if you had to guess, what color eyes would you say the ranchero dude on the label of this bottle has?” What color would YOU guess? Now go find a bottle. What’s up with THAT?

    okay, I know, Jalisco etc., but STILL.

  8. chris says:

    i think that this is the wrong way 2 do Frijoles de la Olla. i am a true beaner and that is not the correct way to cook beans.
    thank you white people,

  9. Drew says:

    Hey man, I have this whole pot of beans now. My wife is gone for the next couple of weeks on vaccation. I catch up to her later and we come back together. Now where is this article on how to make the refried beans?

  10. Drew says:

    Nevermind I found it. Yeap that was the trick to not making them too oily ni too seco. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmm Frijoles refiritos para pegarle bofetada a la abuela son tan bueos.

  11. Mi Vida Loca says:

    What about a good Chilaquiles receipe….


  12. chini says:

    y la receta para los refritos?? your method is so much faster!!! chispas!

  13. chini says:

    o mires, I SUCK at making tamales, but I only tried once 🙂 We need an EASSIDE RECIPE SITE everyone 🙂 bring it on. c

  14. La Mexiguera says:

    I’m a gringuita married to a mexicano, and I’ve pretty much mastered all of the basics – pozolito, mole, tamalitos, etc. – arroz y frijoles, no matter how basic they are, I haven’t been able to make them right. I just made your recipe early this morning while I was cleaning the kitchen. It’s amazing! It made my husband and brother-in-law even wake up earlier because they couldn’t believe they were smelling frijolitos, and they came downstairs!! 🙂 MIL GRACIAS! 🙂 You’re a lifesaver!

  15. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much for replying to my email. I came back to check out the recipe. I LOVE your website!!! Thanks so much! Carrie in Jacksonville, Florida missing her LA home :).

  16. Raquel says:

    omg YOU made me laugh so hard about adding Salt or cooking Broccoli! hahaah I have my way of making frijoles but I agree that keeping it simple is the best way but I do like to cook mine with a hamhock inside; what do you think? Thank you for the step-by-step process, you did a great job (`cept for the cursing–it could offend some people but I know you didn’t mean it like that) thanks again… Great job!

  17. Dan says:

    Wow ! Amazing Post …The way you explain …the simple ordinary frijoles becomes some thing extraordinary …Your Passion is simply great …Cant wait to see more authentic recipes from you !

  18. bentrogena says:

    Your recipe is great. As a youngster I always avoided the cleaning process, because I thought it took away nutrients. I’m thinking with rice, especially. But doing the beans your way by really cleaning them well before cooking made a big difference. It kind of reminds me of the quick soak method, since you’re using hot water to clean the beans several times. I wonder if that’s what takes away the foam-causing proteins that are also the gas producers, rather than the oil added to the cooking water. I’d do an experiment, but it’s safer to just keep wondering.

  19. stephany says:

    what about arroz rojo? it would be nice to know 🙂

  20. Kay says:

    Just made these. FABulous! I’m a gringa of German ancestry, but grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and am always in search of authentic Mexican. Thank you SO much 🙂 Yum.

  21. spacechola says:

    The extra cleaning really makes the difference!!@

  22. Saul says:

    Great instructions on the beans. I mean I wanted to think of how or who I can call and then it hit me! Like a bean! Go on line! Saw your illustration and thought WOW! That was easy. I have not tried it but, I am glad it is that easy that I know where to refer for cooking instructions. Keep it up and lets put more Mexican dishes using beans. It is also a great and healthy source of Iron!

  23. Martin the beannner says:



  24. Marko V. says:

    lol i love how true you kept this recipe. as i read it i remembered the way my madre made them and just the way you said fuck the diet. if youre worried about all that other BS then steam some broccoli. JAJA me mori de la riza right there. LOVE the recipe there’s nothing better than a good plate of frijoles de la olla with some queso fresco or queso cotija in the morning with some atole de ciruela. OMG i miss living in nayarit.

  25. Carmen M says:

    OMG…the frijoles come out perfect! Thank you so much for helping me finally make frijoles like my mami and my tias!!!! These are the simple reciples that we take for granted. Un million de gracias! Your cut to the chase explanation are great and funny. Eres muy chistosa 🙂 Curious where you familia is from.

  26. charlotte says:

    Thank you so much for this fabulous recipe! It is so different from the way my Mother did her beans, but so much better! Can’t wait to see more recipes from you! Thanks so much!

  27. Jeselle says:

    I dont see on your recipe for frijoles de la olla, if the pot should be covered at any point. Can you please let me know?

  28. Lisa says:

    This is a fantastic recipe! I couldn’t stop eating them, they were so delicious! Kids and hubby thought so too. Off to make another batch! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it down!

  29. Amy says:

    Everytime I look up a way to make MEXiCAN dishes I always look you up, thanx aloot!

  30. Gina Ruiz says:

    Dang! Those look ricisimos. I see you do the tomate, cilantro and onion thing tambien. 🙂 Thanks for the tip on the clay olla and the comments.

  31. mainwolf says:

    Since I was a kid I’ve cooked pinto beans (learned it from my mom who grew up in Guadalajara). I cook a pot of beans every single week at least. So at age 62, do the math, I’ve cooked a lot of beans. Everyone who likes beans thinks these to be great.

    After picking through the beans, put in your cooking pot (I never use a crock pot or pressure cooker–blahhhh!) and add just enough very hot tap-water to wet down with a little water collected at the bottom and swoosh around like crazy with fingers to clean. (Because they are not thoroughly covered in water, the beans themselves now act as little ‘stones’ which agitates any dirt from their surfaces). Pour into a colander to drain and place under the tap to rinse under running hot water. Shake off excess water then:

    Pour back into your rinsed pot. Currently, cuz the kids are all grown I cook 2.5 cups beans to about 6 cups bottled water. (Clean, cold water is so important).

    The next few steps will require a few moments of your undivided attention, but the rest of the cooking process all happens behind your back.

    Bring to a raging boil as rapidly as possible with the lid off at first. Why?

    As the water just starts to warm you will notice some beans will start to float almost immediately. Pick those critters out and discard. (At this point I even reach in and give a swirl to allow any other derelicts their chance to float, and it’s safe to reach in since the water is only bathtub warm at this point. Sometimes there are none, sometimes there are 10 to 20 or so. Those early floater-beans are tainted for various reasons and WILL diminish the flavor of all the others. (I mean they won’t kill you but they’re imposters). You’ll also note that when you retrieve them, they’re usually mere empty shells of themselves that can’t be visually detected upon picking through). (Don’t confuse these early floaters with the fact that by the time the water is too hot to put your hand into, and up to boiling, ALL the beans will float to the top).

    Now cover. When they’re beginning to boil (you’ll know it because of the rattling lid etc.) move to a burner on the lowest possible setting (I have a gas stove but works on electric also–just have the second burner saturated on low ahead of time so you just move the pot. You may even get a little ‘lid-lifting’ as the pot now settles in temperature-wise).

    Now, DO-NOT ever again open the lid. 5 hours later they are perfection.

    You are now free to do what you’d like with them.

    For REFRIED, there is nothing like the texture/flavor when refrying immediately.

    For the above amount I put about 1/3 cup of lard in a hot cast iron frying pan heating till almost smoky.

    With a large serving spoon or ladle, spoon beans in (careful, they’ll splatter but this is so important. I’m convinced if it’s not a little messy, sizzly, and scary they’re cooking too cold and just absorbing the fat and not frying. We’re not looking for a glob of fat and pureed beans, we want individual little molecular layers of fried beans AKA flavor). Whatever liquid comes with spooning the beans in is fine–just reserve the leftover liquid in case they cook up too thick, you can always add more liquid. (There is usually a little liquid left over; I drink it when cool, yummy, yum, and yum).

    Mash to your heart’s content and preferred consistency, then stirring and lowering the heat as it reduces while producing mini calderas of popping, messy, volcanic beauty.

    Right at the tail end you can add smashed and minced FRESH garlic (about 3 cloves) and diced fine yellow onion (about 1/2 medium). A little DARK chili powder (about 1 teaspoon). Stir through a little but don’t get maniacal.

    Now, just turn them off to sit for about 5 mins. Absolute heaven. And the garlic and onion have imparted flavor but retain their integrity (if you can find the garlic).

    Finally, I must take issue with the issues of salt, stirring, adding more water as they cook etc.

    So as not to rely on “taste-bud-memory,” I’ve cooked side by side in real life experiments:

    Beans soaked over night vs. cooked straight up. Overnight sucks.

    Beans with salt or not. Salt means TOUGHer beans then they otherwise would be.

    Adding water (boiling water only when necessary which might save them). But it’s best to get your original water/bean proportion right so you never have to add during the cooking. Every bit you add, the flavor is diluted, no question.

    Resist opening the lid on the pan till done.

    NEVER boil beans; they will cook better at that just-below-boiling temperature.

    Pressure cookers ruin nutrition value and flavor.

    Crock-Pots, in fact, actually constantly turn on and off–the death knell to pinto bean flavor. (Also the secret as to why not to open and close the lid. Even the slightest variance and recovery of temperature hurts the final product–we’ve got bean chemistry going on here).

    Now, don’t get me wrong. All the above techniques will result in “beans,” and if I’m starving in a third-world country, they’re gonna get ett big-time. But, we’re striving for perfection here, and it’s worth it.

    If, eventually, you’re making a dish using these beans, make the beans first as above, and then add your other embellishments/ingredients/techniques. The palate will love how the bean stands on it’s own in contrast to and as a compliment to the “others.” After all, you’re not making spaghetti sauce here.

    Beans are cheap. Experiment on a day you don’t actually need them for your menu.
    Always use the same pot and burners.
    Start with a normal proportion you’ll usually cook.
    Resist opening the pan lid.
    After the 5 hours check them out. (I’ve had success at 4 1/2 hours to 5 1/2 hours.
    If beans are done but water is below the top of them, you know you need more water at the start. Too much water (I’d call that over 1/2 inch excess) then you need less to start.

    Follow my technique and kiss flatulence goodbye! (I could probably put that a little better).

  32. Toni says:

    I was too lazy to check to see if someone had already commented but there’s a big no-no in your recipe… you don’t add salt until the beans are thoroughly cooked.

    ¡Buen provecho!

  33. Margie says:

    So good! I followed your instructions exactly (except I just had to add jalapenos). Adding the salt really brought out the beany flavor and did not toughen the beans at all. Thanks for the heads up on the water level. I now realize I had been “drowning” my beans all this time, not to mention I was cooking them in a crock pot or pressure cooker. I was about to give up on beans until I stumbled upon your recipe!

  34. Ines says:

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I have watched both my mom and mother-in-law cook their beans, I go home & try to mimick them, and for whatever reason, my beans never come close! Your recipe is the only one so far that I’ve tried where the outcome truly does taste authentic, so many thanks again!

    Quick question if you don’t mind–though the beans came out delicious, I had a little problem with beans bursting. I plan on using half for refried beans, but I do plan on keeoing the rest whole. It’s an asthetic (sp?) thing, but do you know what could have caused this? I followed the recipe, cooked them uncovered for about 2.5 hrs, & watched the water level all throughout.

  35. EL CHAVO! says:

    I like them when they start splitting open, they get really soft and are better for refried beans. But If you want them intact, then you’d want to cook them for less time, until the beans are still intact but are soft enough to eat. Just test them starting probably at the 1 1/2 hr mark, and see when they are to your liking.

  36. chimatli says:

    Hmmm, I am one of El Chavo’s lucky diners and I have to say, his beans are always perfectly soft (errr, that doesn’t sound right, does it?). Adding the salt early does not seem to be a problem and the beans are never salty. Plus, they’ve never given me any problems later, if you know what I mean. They are always easy to digest unlike beans I have from local eateries like La Llamarada, La Estrella or Chapalita’s.

  37. Diana says:

    I was raised in a home where frijoles de la olla were a staple. You’re right, they are easy to make. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your step-by-step method. I will pass your site on. Thank you.

  38. E. Garcia says:

    Love the comment on the salt issue!!! Thanks for the recipe chavo.

  39. Esme Isenhouer says:

    Chavo, I followed your recipe step by step and my beans turned out to be simply perfect. Gracias!!!

  40. Jim DeForest says:

    I was raised in South Texas, but my family is not of Hispanic descent so we always had our frijoles served over homemade cornbread with chopped onions on tip. I have used your recipe for two years now and my family all agree they are the best beans they’ve ever had. I also use them for refried beans, charro beans and cut up cajun sausage and use pintos instead of kidney beans to make red beans and rice. Keep the faith bro.

  41. Sunny says:

    I love this bean recipe. I haven’t made pinto beans in a while and I never printed out this recipe and lost it. I found it again today cause I’m making beans later. I couldn’t find any other recipes that sounds tasty so I’m really glad I found your recipe again. Thanks Chavo!

  42. Brenda says:

    It is amazing to me how many different opinions there are on making basic beans; soaking no soaking, salt or no salt, lard or no lard, lid on lid off, stir no stir, 2 hrs 5 hrs, etc. And everyone is so passionate about their method! I guess what I take from this is that I should try different methods until I find one that I like. Thanks everyone for your input and especially the confirmation that a pressure cooker boils away the nutrients.

  43. Melissa Meyer says:

    I didn’t expect profanity in a recipe. An angry tirade, yes, but not a recipe.

  44. EL CHAVO! says:

    It’s part of the spice!

  45. Monica says:

    This is the exact same procedure my mom follows to make beans.
    I love them and loved your recipe because I could explain my American husband about it with your pictures. That was very cool.
    Now I want to see your frijoles refritos recipe.
    Congrats!! Nice work!

  46. Lynn Leavitt says:

    I am a gabacho, fluent in Spanish, having lived in Mexico from 1969 to 1971. I love to cook Mexican, and am always looking for authentic recipes. This sounds so authentic that I am going to make them tonight. I love good frijoles de la olla and can’t seem to find a good place for them. Thank you for your recipe. These beans will go great with my potato tacos. Now I’m on a quest to find your frijoles refritos recipe.

  47. barbara says:

    NO ONE is offended by the slight cussing, and if they are, they need to grow up, I know they’ve heard worse. I tried your recipe and it was AMAZING!!!! my man loved them (i might get a ring now). Keep up the good job, and keep us laughing and cooking great like u..

  48. Vladada says:

    A Sunday evening , with Hot Toddies and the pursuit of the perfect pot of beans, thank you for your minimal perfection of a recipe…makes me believer that there such thing as the ‘perfect form’ and yes it exists in the bean.

  49. Cathy Mallen says:

    If you use this method, your beans will turn out perfect.

  50. David Alfaro says:

    Vete a la verga Chavo.. tus frijoles valieron madre… lol jk… they were quite delicious.


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