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Drunken Beans (Cook's Illustrated)


Pinto beans are on the top of my list as my favorite. I'm always looking for new bean recipes to serve as side dishes-- especially when grilling. This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated (January/February 2015). The name "drunken" comes from both the tequila and beer that is used to simmer the beans, until tender. These beans do not taste boozy, at all. Pinkie promise. Instead, the beans had a complex flavor that was outstanding.There is a generous amount of cilantro as well. I absolutely loved this recipe, and will be making these during our summer barbecue months. Don't forget the squeeze of fresh lime juice, at the end. To see how I made this, please click on the recipe source to my food blog "A Feast for the Eyes".

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  • Salt
  • 1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 30 sprigs fresh cilantro (1 bunch)
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 poblano chiles*, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine (reduce to one poblano to cut back on the heat. Two was borderline too spicy for us!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup Mexican lager
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 limes, quartered
  • 2 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled (1/2-cup)


Servings 8
Preparation time 30mins
Cooking time 180mins
Adapted from


Step 1

Cook's Illustrated notes: You’ll get fewer blowouts if you soak the beans overnight, but if you are pressed for time, you can quick-brine your beans. In step 1, combine the salt, water, and beans in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and proceed with the recipe. Serve with rice.

Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275°F. Pick leaves from 20 cilantro sprigs (reserve stems), chop fine, and refrigerate until needed. Using kitchen twine, tie remaining 10 cilantro sprigs and reserved stems into bundle.

Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel–lined bowl and set aside. Add onion, poblanos, and garlic to fat in pot and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tequila and cook until evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Return to heat. Increase heat to high; stir in 3 1/2 cups water, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, beans, and cilantro bundle; and bring to boil. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are just soft, 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove pot from oven. Discard bay leaves and cilantro bundle. Stir in beer and tomato paste and bring to simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer vigorously, stirring frequently, until liquid is thick and beans are fully tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve, passing chopped cilantro, lime wedges, Cotija, and reserved bacon separately.

To make ahead: The finished beans can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Before reheating, thin beans slightly with water.

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