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Austin and basic black beans

Now that SXSW is over and my non-Texan friends who attended the conference are back on the East Coast, all I hear from them is, “Where can I get a breakfast taco?” or “Who has the best queso?”

Austin food is addictive, isn’t it?

One of the things I love the most about Texas is its size. Because it spans across several geographical, topographical and climatic zones, naturally there are going to be variations in what people eat in each area. While I would say that the trinity of Texan food—Southern dishes, barbecue, and Tex-Mex—is the same throughout the state, how each region within the state interprets these cuisines differs.

Take Austin and Tex-Mex. After spending years in the Dallas area and Houston, I was already aware that differences could exist between the two Texan cities’ cuisines, so I wasn’t that surprised when I arrived in Austin to see that it, too, did things just a bit differently than other places in the state.

The first thing I noticed was migas. I’ve written about migas before—Austin’s signature breakfast dish of scrambled eggs with cheese, chips and peppers. Every place in Austin serves migas, yet when you leave Austin you rarely see them, if at all.

Basic black beans | Homesick Texan

Black beans are another Austin Tex-Mex distinction. It was in Austin that I first saw black beans served in queso. It was also the first time I saw them served alongside tacos or enchiladas, instead of the more typical refried pinto beans.

This isn’t to say that you can’t find refried pinto beans in Austin, because there are many fine, fine examples of this noble dish. But, I found that Austin’s Tex-Mex could be a little quirky and so black beans would be on offer more often than I’d see them in Houston-style Tex-Mex or Dallas-style Tex-Mex.

I wasn’t a stranger to black beans. My mom fed me all sorts of beans when I was growing up in Houston and black beans graced our table probably once a week. But there was something about black beans that made me feel they were more upscale. Perhaps it was the color of the bean (black is always stylish!) or perhaps it was its more diminutive size, but I adored black beans just as much as my beloved pintos.

I know I’ve written a lot about beans lately—and if you’re not a bean eater, I apologize. I reckon you could say it’s the grim economy that has me returning to beans so frequently—they are, after all, such a healthy, inexpensive protein.

But as beans have been a staple of my diet my whole life, I also just really enjoy cooking and eating them. And since they’re what I had for dinner last night, I thought I’d share them with you.

Basic black beans | Homesick Texan

This is my basic black bean recipe. It takes little effort and has a rich smoky flavor that comes from chipotles instead of the usual ham hocks or bacon. And, of course, if you don’t want black beans on their own, they are also good in black bean chili, corn and black bean salsa, black-bean pasta, and black-bean enfrijoladas.

5 from 2 votes

Basic black beans

Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 chipotles chiles in adobo, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon epazote or 2 sprigs fresh
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt


  • Soak the beans covered in water—either overnight or the quick soak method in which you place the beans in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat and let sit for 1 hour.
  • Drain the soaked beans.
  • In the pot you’re going to cook the beans, sauté the onions and carrots in your preferred fat for 10 minutes and then add the garlic for 1 minute. Add the beans, chipotles, epazote and half the cilantro.
  • Cover beans with water and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low (liquid may still be moving and all the ingredients may still be jumping around the pot, just not as vigorously as when the heat is high. That’s fine.). Stir occasionally.
  • After 1 1/2 hours, add the cumin, tomato paste, lime juice, salt, and remaining cilantro and cook for 30 more minutes or until beans are tender. At this point, smash a few against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken the broth a bit, stir the pot and serve.


If you don’t want to serve the beans with the carrots, onions and garlic—leave them whole and then remove when beans are done. And if your store doesn’t stock either dried or fresh epazote, you can order it from Penzey’s or you can just omit it from the recipe.

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  1. I have made the beans 3 times and they are fabulous. Everyone loves them but they take a bit of time and care to make….well worth it. Never been to Austin but I know this will be my future hometown.

  2. Moved to Austin 10 years ago, then moved back to NE a few years later. Mag Mud is my one must have when I go back and visit. I miss the town and the food so much! Can't wait to move back some day.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yep, here in Austin, cooking and eating black beans today with the (small) extended family. I turned up your site a while back searching for black beans/epazote. Thanks for the recipe. Discovered chipotle in adobo recently and have been adding it to everything from eggs to my (Pace's) Chicken & Black Bean Enchilada recipe.
    2 true black bean stories: Raised on pintos, my first BB experience was Black Bean Nachos at Fonda San Miguel's. Wow! I've been trying to get them right ever since.
    Recently tried a BB side from the Galaxy Cafe – I believe they are perfect. Going back for more soon.
    I hope you'll try them both when you get to Austin. Happy New Year 2012. agv

  4. Woo hoo! My fist time soaking and making black beans. (I live in Vermont, where Tex Mex is hard to come by.) I was blown away by this recipe! The adobo chilies, lime, and cilantro were just right on. I did use kombu instead of epazote, since I couldn't find it in the store.

    Awesome, awesome recipe. I'll be making it again and again. Thanks!