Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pinto bean pie: sweet, not savory!

Vinegar pie, buttermilk pie, and corn meal pie—these are all desserts that were in vogue when my grandmothers were growing up in the Great Depression. Made with just a few inexpensive ingredients, these pies—which are all, at heart, a variation on chess pie—were refreshing and still presentable to good company.

But what about pinto bean pie? It’s another oldie but was it also a goodie? I decided to find out on my own.

I’d been curious about bean pie for quite a while. When I first heard of it, I assumed that it was a version of Frito pie that was made with beans instead of chili. But when I heard people talking about eating bean pie for dessert, I realized that I had been wrong and that bean pie is sweet not savory.

After a bit of research, I found quite a few recipes and from the spices added decided that bean pie was trying to approximate a pumpkin or a sweet potato pie, as often included were allspice, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. And even though some recipes insisted that pinto bean pie was a substitute for pecan pie, after making it I failed to taste how this could be the case.



At first, I was put off by adding mashed beans to my mixture of butter, sugar and eggs. The resulting color of the blend was a bit unappetizing (a less-than-lovely shade of washed-out beige), and, well, it just seemed odd adding mashed pintos to my dessert. Pintos are made for savory dishes, not sweet!

But after I threw some spices into the mix and took a small taste of the uncooked filling, if I hadn’t known that it was beans in the spoonful instead of pumpkin puree, I would have been fooled. After baking it for an hour, the color—thankfully—deepened into a warmer, darker brown. And after topping it with a big scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt, I had my first slice of bean pie. I found it creamy, rich, spicy and fulfilling.

Now, I figured that because it was made with beans it was healthier than your typical slice of pie. And perhaps it is, at least in terms of protein. But it’s still not as healthy as eating a piece of fruit for dessert. (Though I guess if you had fresh fruit you might not even need to make pinto bean pie!)

Since the beans are just there for texture and not flavor (sort of like when you make a cream pie with tofu—which is, incidentally, also beans), I’m eager to make some variations. Such as a chocolate bean pie, made with black beans and spiced with cinnamon and ancho. Or perhaps a banana bean pie or a coconut bean pie or, why not just combine two Depression favorites and make a vinegar bean pie? The possibilities for bean pie combinations are endless!

When my grandmother was telling me about these Depression-era pies, I asked if she’d heard of pinto bean pie. She replied that she hadn’t. She added, “But as long as it doesn’t taste like raisin pie, which is another pie that my mother made back when I was growing up, then bean pie is probably pretty good.”

Raisin pie? Very interesting. But I guess that’s another subject for another day.

Pinto Bean Pie
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of unseasoned cooked pinto beans (can use a one 15oz. can if you prefer)
1 cup of light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon clove
A pinch of salt

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender, cream the sugar, butter and eggs.

Add the beans, and blend until it’s thick and smooth.

Add the spices and vanilla.

Pour pie filling into an unbaked pie shell, and bake for one hour or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

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63 comments:

Brenda in Texas said...

Good Morning Lisa, My dad's favorite pie was
raisin. Somehow the raisins just didn't taste
as good to me in the pie. They would really swell up. My parents grew up in the depression
and my mom also made vinegar pie but never pinto bean. My dad really didn't have a sweet tooth and these pies weren't as sweet to him.
He was a good cook himself, but left the desserts to my mom. Nice and warm here this am
in central Texas. Maybe 80 this afternoon. Hope you have a good trip when you come down.

Culinarywannabe said...

Oh I just can't seem to wrap my head around this one. I'm trying though - I like baked beans with brown sugar, so maybe that's heading in the right direction. :)

Kristi said...

I have to say, I love pinto bean fudge, so I will be giving this a try! Thanks!

Cate said...

what a fantastic idea! if vinegar can be made into a pie -- a pie i make every thanksgiving, and i look forward to it -- why not the humble pinto? i may have to try that this weekend.

raisin pie, however, will never enter my kitchen. i can't abide raisins.

maggie said...

This is totally cool, great to save all your grandmother's recipes.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I'd never heard of bean pie (or vinegar pie?!) before, but I'm definitely intrigued...I also like the idea of a chocolate/black bean pie. I'll definitely have to keep this in mind for future pie experimentation.

Angela said...

I live in Moscow, Russia and a can of pumpkin puree is hard to come by..heck, even pumpkins are hard to come by in our neck of the woods, and so I've really missed pumpkin pie. I look forward to trying this recipe as I have a bunch of unseasoned pinto beans just waiting to be liberated from my freezer..or vice versa, not quite sure. By the way, I thoroughly enjoy your site- especially when I am particularly missing the Great State.

Robin said...

This sounds great and I want to try it out despite not being a baker. I really like the idea of the chocolate pie! My Mom always mentions cracker pie and swears it taste just like apple pie, her Aunt made it. She also remembers a 7-up grape pie that her Grandma made.

talida said...

Pinto bean pie! I had the same Frito pie thoughts as you when I read the title. What a great way to make mock pumpkin pie.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Brenda in Texas--Good to hear it's warm down there, hopefully the weather stays nice through the weekend! And even though raisin pie sounds odd, I'm curious to try it.

Culinarywannabe--Trust me, if you over think it, you'll never like it--you just have to try it!

Talida--It's strange how it works, isn't it?

Kristi--Pinto bean fudge? I've never heard of that!

Cate--My grandma sent me a vinegar pie recipe, so I'll be making that soon. Glad it's such a favorite of yours!

Maggie--I know! My grandmother and great-grandmother's recipes are family treasures!

Mike--I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised--I know that I was!

Angela--Glad to solve your pumpkin problem and I hope you enjoy the pie!

Robin--Yes! I can't wait to try the chocolate addition either!

Adrienne said...

I'm with Robin - chocolate and black bean pie sounds GREAT. The pintos look pretty good too, if I were a pumkin pie fan I'd be all over it.

lisaiscooking said...

Black bean with cinnamon and ancho sounds interesting. But, hey, my grandmother made raisin pie all the time, and it's fantastic!

Lynda said...

I've heard of Pinto bean Pie, but not seen it before! My father used to make pinto bean sanwiches, useing cold beans between 2 slices of bread. His favorite pie was raisin.

Debra said...

The concept reminds me of lotus bean buns made for me by a Chinese friend - they were delicious with their sweet bean filling. I hope you'll share the results of your bean pie experiments - the chocolate/ancho combo sounds yummy.

Bee said...

When I read the title, I really thought that this recipe was stretching the pinto bean farther than it was ever meant to go . . . but now I'm intrigued. As a lover of pumpkin and chess pies of any description, I would probably be a good candidate for sweet bean experimentation. (After all, the Chinese do it . . .)

Scribbit said...

So this is what you were baking? Wild! Makes me want to try it just to see what it tastes like.

tbsamsel said...

One might recall that the Nation of Islam used to raise money selling bean pies. The beans were navy, I seem to recall.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/455884/the_muslim_bean_pie_some_history_and.html

Ted

Jennifer said...

Hi! I stumbled across your blog the other day and I absolutely LOVE it! Makes for wonderful reading, and I can't wait to try your recipes. Keep it up!

dustym said...

This is crazy. So crazy it might just work.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That's so original and unusual! Your pie really looks fantastic! I'll have to try soon...

Cheers,

Rosa

ktcat929 said...

I have never heard of pinto bean pie! However, my grandmother has been making raisin pie for years. Many people who don't like raisins find raisin pie rather enjoyable. Also, my great grandmother made a sour cream raisin pie. Also a treat!

Kelly said...

My grandmother told me about this pie because they had it growing up. She was not keen on it, but her brother could not get enough of it. He ate it, from time to time, until his death in the 80's.

It seems like pinto beans would work just fine as a sweet pie filling. We eat sweet potatoes and pumpkin in pies. Tofu, as you said. I like your idea of ancho, black bean and chocolate. You could also make a pie from azuki beans, sweet red beans from asia, with five spice and ginger.

Karen said...

Nice post... something a little different. I've heard of bean pie but have never made it. I have made raisin pie and love it to pieces. Pieces... get it? Pieces of pie? :))

MarcieF said...

I've never heard of any of these pies! Maybe it's growing up in the Northeast?

Speaking of interesting pies though, have you ever tried avocado or green tomato pie? I used to work with a woman who was writing a colonial America era cookbook and in her research came across these recipes. The avocado is lemon-ish and the green tomato tastes like apple pie!

Tommy said...

I was happy you gave us a recipe for sweet potatoe pie . It was almost like pumpkin. You could fire it up by peeling a few yams.

As for bean pie, not sure if I am going to make this one. I could do without the extra gas coming from a dessert.

Raisin pies my grandmother made were so sweet. Still a favourite of seniors here in Canada.

Celeste said...

I have never heard of bean pie or bean fudge! How interesting!

Sour cream raisin is an old farm recipe in the midwest. It's not really my thing; I like raisins baked into other things so they hold their shape.

I once had grape pie at someone's home; it was sugary and lemony and didn't really make you think of grapes or raisins.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Adrienne--All right then--sounds like I need to make that black bean chocolate pie soon!

Lisa is Cooking--Hmmmm, I guess I should find a recipe for raisin pie and try it for myself.

Lynda--I'm a big fan of pinto beans in flour tortillas, so I reckon a sandwich isn't too far off from that.

Debra--Yes, you often find sweet bean dishes in Asian cuisines, so I reckon this pie isn't too strange.

Bee--If you love pumpkin, you'd probably enjoy this.

Scribbit--Yep, this is what I was baking. Try it!

TBSamsel--Oh, yes, I'd forgotten about that. There was a character on "Weeds" who always brought another character one of his bean pies.

Jennifer--Thanks for stopping by! It's nice to have you around!

Dustym--That's what I said!

Rosa--Thanks! You should try it, I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised!

KTCat929--So does raisin pie taste like raisins or is it more like a shoo fly pie?

Kelly--Oh! I'll have to try the azuki beans with five spice powder and ginger--sounds wonderful!

Karen--Ha! Yes, I love pie to pieces as well!

MarcieF--I've never heard of either one, but avocado ice cream is something I've been wanting to make. And since green tomatoes are so hard and tart, it makes sense that a pie with them would turn out to be like an apple pie.

Tommy--Oh, come on--I know how much you enjoyed the sweet potato pie and this isn't too much different. And it seems like raisin pie is definitely a generational thing.

Celeste--Do you know what kind of grapes were used?

LilSis said...

I'm a huge pinto bean fan, but, honestly have never heard of them being used in a pie. I'm a born and raised Texan, so it must not be a Texan thing or my grandmothers would have made them. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I'd like to make for my family and not tell them the ingredients just to see the reaction.

Manders said...

How bizarre! But it sounds really interesting...might have to try this.

Anonymous said...

Beans make it into dessert in a few different cultures. From the Chinese buns, to the Japanese adzuki bean paste, and in the Caribbean we make habichuelas con dulce, which is like a dessert bean soup. It's beans, coconut milk, sweet spices, boniato (sweet potato), and raisins. It's made mostly around Lent and tends to be served cold.
So, it's not so strange to some of us.

deceiverofmen said...

That's interesting, I never heard about this depression era pie either, BUT recently my boyfriend told me about what must be the same thing! Bean Pie is apparently a specialty of African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles. He remembers Nation of Islam selling them (he was born in LA). I was intrigued, he talked about it so nonchalantly and I'd never heard of a bean pie! He looked it up on wikipedia to show me. Now that I see this recipe, I get a clearer picture of what it is.

To sate my curiosity and yours I've rounded up these links:

Los Angeles people asking about them:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/75838
http://www.chow.com/blog/tag/navy-bean-pie

A blog explaining them:
http://www.cakespy.com/2008/10/sweetie-pie-learning-to-love-navy-bean.html

wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bean_pie

deceiverofmen said...

Here's another chow post about it:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/574622

Rum sounds like a wonderful addition. I can imagine that rum and chocolate would compliment earthy beans well.

I was also thinking black beans may not be as starchy as pintos, which might be why most are made with pinto or navy.

Hmm, now I want to play with this too.

Flutterby said...

The downside to using something such as black beans would be flavor... Pintos are rather bland. Black beans are more distinctive. Might not be a good combination with chocolate!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

What a deliciously historical and nostalgic post this is, Lisa. And if you're taking votes, I'm for the chocolate bean pie next time.

Harmony said...

I'll echo what others have said: Asians (and probably other cultures) eat beans for dessert all the time. The sweet bean buns or sweet bean rice cakes are my favorites when we got the Korean bakery in town - each variety made from different kinds of legumes: white beans, green beans (peas, I imagine?), and red beans.

Personally, I think this pie sounds delicious. :-)

Kalyn said...

There's a restaurant in Southern Utah that serves Pinto Bean Pie, Buttermilk Pie, and Dill Pickle Pie, all delicious. I can't remember the name but we always used to stop there on the way home from Lake Powell, sunburned as could be. The pies were all good!

Anonymous said...

I've made a grape pie as well, and it's made with Concord grapes. You need a food mill for it. It tastes like blackberry pie. I don't know if that's the same pie mentioned above.

Courtney said...

Robin, that's called soda cracker pie (that tastes like apple), I make it at least once every month or so!

There is a reasonable recipe or two in the Bluebell cookbook, of all places.

Man, do I miss Texas! Thank you for this blog!

revdbeth said...

I posted a link to this column on a knitting site, cast-on, where an expat American lives in Wales and is making pumpkin pie, with sometimes limited resources.
By the way, black bean chocolate will never take the place of your grandmother's chocolate pie.

Sophia from Kitchen Caravan said...

This looks really good. Sweet beans are not all that surprising, but I have never seen them in a cake. It looks like a great texture and consistency. I studied abroad in the DR and around Easter time they make sweet beans with coconut milk and sugar. They were one of my favorite dishes. This looks like it could turn into a cool fusion dish.

ann said...

I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but for some reason, this just sounds more appealing. I think I'd like the texture. Pumpkin pie can jut be too squishy. I'm not sure this is something I would make for myself... How does it go with cocktails? If you ever make it again, can we meet up in a bar and negotiate some sort of swap? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Beeeeener!!!!

aTxVegn said...

As a lifelong Austinite, I love pinto beans. I make a big pot every weekend, so I think I'll just set some aside to try out this pie. I used to love my grandma's chess pie!

Kevin said...

I have used azuki beans in sweet dishes before and I like the sound of using pinto beans in a sweet pie.

Kitchendruid said...

I've never heard of pinto bean pie before but the concept reminded me of a soybean pie I made like 30 years ago. Same type of flavorings but I presume that the more starchy pintos would bring more density to the party. This is now on my 'will have to try' list. I do make my own red bean paste for steamed buns and chickpea fudge (Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking) so sweet beans are a familiar concept.

Paula Maack said...

I have enjoyed all of the sweet bean desserts I have tried so far, which include Bean Pie (African/Soul Food), red bean ice cream, jellied red bean, and other red bean sweet treats from Japan, Chinese sweet bean dumplings, and many soy-based desserts.

This pie looks delish, Lisa. And, your idea for the black bean and chocolate pie sounds even better. I hope you will make that one and post about it as well. Yum!!!

Cheers,

~ Paula

Amelia said...

Now you are talking when you mention raisin pie. Not the creamy kind..just raisins in a sweet filling...oh so good. And I don't care for raisins in cookies or cake...but give me a raisin pie and I am one happy Okie gal.

Amelia

Chunk & pooter's mom said...

my grandma still makes raisin pie, especially fried pies..they are pretty good as is anything deep fried in dough :)

laurakitty said...

I make amazing brownies with black beans in place of flour so this pie sounds amazing to me! Yum! I'm still working on a good gluten free pie crust but this sounds like a good recipe to practice on.

emily said...

thanks for posting this! we tried it as part of our pi(e) day (3.14) activities and posted about it on our pie blog here: www.nothinginthehouse.blogspot.com

homesick texan is a true inspiration!

Becky said...

An elderly man gave me a recipe from his wife as a thank you for taking care of her. That was 25 years ago and I made the pie shortly after that. As I recall, the recipe called for a few pecans,and maybe some fresh coconut.At any rate, it tasted nothing like pumpkin pie, but more like a pecan pie.
Now I'll have to hunt up the recipe!

Sarah said...

Upon moving to the south, three years ago, I have been introduced to a multitude of new and interesting dishes, Pinto Bean pie being one of those. I have tried pinto bean pie made by at least a dozen different locally owned restaurants throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. Every time I have it, it closely resembles a traditional pecan pie. It is made in much the same way as pecan pie, only with about 1/4 of the amount of pecans and the beans making up the remaining volume.

I am anxious to try your version of this pie though! It looks delicious!

denise said...

i make a pinto bean pie but its alot different, it has coconut and pecans in it, it is soooo good

Kate said...

Hi! I found your blog a while back and, as a fellow Texan, enjoy getting to read.

I googled "Pinto Bean Pie" and your recipe popped up. I'm visiting a friend in north Texas and she has a pot luck tonight and didn't know what to make. Looking through her pantry, she found several cans of pinto beans. I told her I would come up with something. So excited to find your recipe. The pie is currently in the oven, and though my friend is skeptical about the outcome, it looks and smells delicious!

On the subject of raisin pie - it was my grandfather's absolute favorite, so we made and had it a lot growing up. He grew up during the Depression and it was one of the few sweets they were able to make with the few ingredients they had available. If I remember correctly, it's similar to pecan pie with eggs, molasses, and raisins. It was never my favorite, but boy, he sure loved it.

jacky said...

Please post an update if you ever get around to making the chocolate-black bean version. That sounds yummy!

Anonymous said...

Can this pinto bean pie be made with REFRIED pinto beans rather than pinto's from a can that need to be mashed for the recipe?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--If they beans have seasoning added, I don't think it would taste right.

Eric Granata said...

Just tried it and it was great! Thinking about offering it at our annual pie party.

jes said...

I have never baked a pie.... but, this year, I find myself making my first-ever thanksgiving dinner, so I decided to make this my first pie. I am excited!!!

Hijabi Homemaker said...

Classic bean pie is made with navy beans.

lifeinourlane said...

raisin pie! oh, my word! my grandma made raisin pies all of the time. i loved them. maybe because i loved her, maybe they were delicious. i haven't had one in years!

Beutler Family said...

When I use a can of pinto beans, am I supposed to drain them first or use them in the surrounding juice?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Beutler Family--It's been a while since I made this, but I believe the beans were drained. Save the liquid, however, and if you have a hard time making the bean puree in the blender with the eggs and such, maybe add a bit of the liquid.

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