Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bean Tacos with Taqueria-Style Salsa

My friend Brad politely pointed out today that I haven't made a new post in a while. He asked me why, and I explained that I haven't been cooking lately.  Though, I admitted that I eat tacos all the time, sometimes even for breakfast. He gave me a weird look and then suggested that I make a post about tacos. Brilliant. Even though this recipe is pretty basic, it is true to my eating habits and turns out, it's super tasty and good for you.

For a long time I was always trying to make heavily spiced beans.  I thought that the beans needed a ton of seasoning to be worth my time.  Turns out, beans are pretty tasty when they are cooked well and simply salted. Right now I'm pretty stuck on this particular taco combination.  It's essentially salted beans, cilantro and fresh cabbage with some alternating add ins. I usually use pinto, but recently I've been making them with black beans. Also, I like to add some toasted peppers at the end of the bean cooking process to add depth. 

The real key to fabulous tacos is having some heavenly sauce to go with them. Lately I've been experimenting with my chile de arbol salsa to see if I could make it a bit more like the bright orange sauce I often see at taquerias.  I feel like I've created something that is pretty close and certainly delicious with it's intense spiciness and subtle smokiness. 

Bean Tacos
adapted from My Mexico by Diana Kennedy

Makes about 4 cups of cooked beans

Usually I forget to soak beans overnight, but I really don't mind cooking them for a few hours.  It makes the kitchen smell wonderful, and I feel productive while they're just sitting on the stove.  It's important to note that the age of beans effects the cooking time, so sometimes they'll only take an hour while other times they'll take almost four. Also, I never measure anything with this recipe, so these are rough estimates. 

about 1 1/2 cups dried beans
about 8 cups of cold water
1/2 of an yellow or white onion, cut into large chunks
2 to 3 serranos (jalapenos will work)

cabbage, thinly sliced
cilantro, chopped
shredded pepperjack or cotija (optional)
avocado (optional)
taqueria-style salsa (recipe to follow)
corn tortillas

The Beans

Place beans, water, and onion in a large pot.  Heat on medium-high until just barely boiling.  Turn to low and cook, partially covered until tender and just falling apart, 2 to 3 hours. 

In the meantime, heat a dry skillet on medium.  Throw in the serranos and toast on all sides, about 5 minutes.  Once the beans are tender, add the whole toasted serranos and a very generous dose of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes longer. Voila! 

The Tacos

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or cast iron on medium-high with a dash of oil.  Add the tortillas, one at a time.  Cook on each side for a long minute.  Remove from heat. Assemble tortilla with beans, cilantro, cheese or avocado, and salsa. Enjoy!

Taqueria-Style Salsa

This recipe is certainly rough in detail. For instance, sometimes I add lime juice or cumin, or both. Adjust to your own taste. 

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
about 1/3 cup onion, cut into large chunks

Heat oil on medium-high in a small saucepan. When oil is hot, add the chilies. Stir them frequently and remove them as soon as they are dark and fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Let cool. Add garlic and onion.  Fry until garlic is light brown and onion is just starting to become translucent, about 1 minute. Remove garlic and onion from oil.  Let oil cool slightly.  In a blender or a small jar with an immersion blender, puree the cooled ingredients with the oil, salt to taste and about 1/4 cup water. Continue to add water until the sauce is thin and well blended. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 


  1. Oh so classic! I want to add lime juice to mine. How much do you recommend?

  2. I'd use at least a tablespoon, maybe two.