Chipotle beans

Chipotle beans are a staple that we have at least once a week. This is a “base” recipe for how I prefer to make them, modifying from there.

The recipe makes enough for about eight people when served alongside a few other sides/toppings. I’ve included guanciale since I used it the first time I made this and it works great, but honestly, 90% of the time I make this without meat. Substitute recommendations are in the recipe and footnotes. Mixing this up (kidney beans instead of pinto, a little cinnamon or cocoa powder, throw in some carrots, etc.) is half the fun.

We generally have this one or more of the following: warm tortillas, brown rice with lime and coriander, queso fresco1 or grated cheddar, sour cream2, chopped fresh coriander3, lime wedges, pickled jalapeños, and hot sauce. Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce is a great recent discovery. If I want to be extra, I might make a salsa such as:

And almost always guacamole, unless the avocados are truly dire (it happens, sadly). No recipe required, just mush avocado with lemon/lime and salt to taste. Other guac ingredients that are great but not required, I find, are minced onion, tomato, chopped chilli, and/or fresh chopped coriander.

The beans generally take around 4 hours to cook, though the total cooking time varies depending upon the age of the dried beans. Older beans = longer cooking. It took about 3 hours when I cooked this in Texas with a bag of beans marked “new season”. Acidic ingredients can significantly lengthen the cooking time, so the canned tomatoes are added part way through cooking and the lemon juice is added at the end. I do not soak dried beans since it’s kind of pointless, see an LA Times article by Russ Parsons for further info.

When I don’t have the time to cook dried beans from scratch, I make a 30-45 minute version of this recipe using canned beans and cook it entirely on the hob. Regardless of which beans I use, I always make as much I can fit in the pot since the beans freeze well and get better after a few days in the fridge. Its greatest leftovers incarnation is probably as breakfast burritos with coriander, cheese, and scrambled eggs.

Chipotle beans, makes about 8 servings


  • 250 g smoked guanciale5, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 ½ t coriander seed
  • 3 t cumin seed
  • ¼ t smoked paprika
  • ½ t chilli powder
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 50 g (1 ¾ oz) canned chipotles in adobo6, approximately
  • ½ t dried epazote7 (optional)
  • 500 g (1 lbs) dried pinto beans8, rinsed and drained
  • 400 g (14 oz) can crushed or chopped tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Heat a large ovenproof pot9 over medium-high heat. If using guanciale, add it and cook until most of the fat has rendered and the guanciale has browned. If not using, add 100mL of vegetable oil or butter.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions, cooking them slowly until they are translucent and tender.
  3. While cooking the onions, carefully dry toast the coriander and cumin in a pan. When the spices are fragrant and slightly brown, remove them from the heat and grind them to a powder in a mortar and pestle10.
  4. Add the toasted spice powder, smoked paprika, chilli powder, and minced garlic to the onions and guanciale. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the dried beans, chipotles in adobo, epazote if using, about 1½ teaspoons salt (more if using flaky sea salt, less if using table), and enough water or stock to completely cover the mixture. If you’re not using guanciale, vegetable stock or bouillon is particularly useful to boost the umami flavors. Stir thoroughly, then cover the pot tightly and transfer it to the oven.
  6. Stir the beans every 30 minutes to prevent burning on the bottom and sides of the pot. Add water periodically as required. About 1 to 2 hours in, add the canned tomatoes instead of water to top up the liquid. Once they have been in for 3 hours, begin checking the beans for done-ness every 20-30 minutes. They are ready to come out of the oven when they can be easily smashed with a fork. Keep in mind it’s better to overcook beans than undercook them.
  7. If the beans are soft but the consistency is a little bit more liquid than preferred, take the lid off and boil the beans on the stove until thickened. When nearly ready to serve, taste it and add more salt or acidity if it doesn’t seem “right”. Usually for me, this means some salt and about a teaspoon of lemon juice. Serve with various accompaniments such as warm tortillas, guacamole, chopped coriander, and sour cream.
  1. Queso fresco is a fresh, crumbly, mild cheese with light saltiness. Feta can work as a substitute, but ideally it shouldn’t be overly tangy.
  2. Greek yogurt is great as a sour cream substitute.
  3. Coriander = cilantro
  4. Chiles de árbol are hot and slightly nutty. There’s no perfect substitute, but 1-2 dried birds eye chilli per 4 dried chiles de árbol works. For salsa de cacahuate y chile de árbol, I use a bit of smoked chilli paste instead.
  5. Guanciale is cured pork jowl/cheek. Lardons, pancetta, or streaky bacon are all good substitutes for guanciale since they have a high fat-to-meat ratio.
  6. Chipotles in adobo seem to very a lot in heat level. Taste yours before you dump in a whole can. It is next to impossible to find chipotles in adobo in the UK, but it is possible to make chipotles in adobo with dried chipotles, dried ancho chiles, and a surplus of time… There’s no perfect substitute for chipotles in adobo, so I usually just use a squeeze of tomato paste and about a tablespoon or more of smoked chilli paste. This chilli paste is becoming easy to find near me and has a good balance of flavours. A good substitute for chipotles in adobo should be hot, a bit tangy, almost a little sweet, and have a distinctly smoky flavour.
  7. There’s no real substitute for epazote since nothing matches it’s carminative properties. If I don’t have it, I just omit it.
  8. Pinto beans can be hard to find in the UK, so I frequently use black beans instead. I’d also be very open to using red kidney beans to make this more like a traditional chili.
  9. The beans can be cooked on the hob from start to finish if an ovenproof pot isn’t available, but it will require frequent stirring to prevent sticking since the heat is not as even.
  10. If a mortar and pestle isn’t available, a clean coffee grinder or pepper mill can work well, as can any of the many substitute methods suggested by a Google search. Using powdered spices is ok too, just try to make sure they’re fresh.