Because I don’t like eating meat, bean stews are one of my favorite ways to feel satisfied and nourished. Plant-based protein and fiber, plus lots of plant-based flavor-bomb ingredients make for a healthy and tasty meal that’s also a crowd pleaser.
This stew uses dry beans, like most of my bean-based stews. Don’t get me wrong, canned and boxed beans are super convenient and I use them too. But in a recipe like this, where there’s LOTS of beans in the ingredient list and where a long simmer creates deep flavor, it’s cheaper and achieves that deep flavor if you start with dry beans.
Why I really REALLY love this stew is because it’s the perfect vehicle for toppings. I’ve included the recipe for my perfect pico de gallo salsa to go with the stew because I love the contrast of cool freshness against the warmth of the stew. You can also skip the homemade and use store bought salsa (all-natural, of course). There’s no shame in short cuts if it means you’re eating healthier!
Both the stew and the pico use one of my favorite techniques for eliminating the need to chop cilantro. I hate chopping cilantro, almost as much as garlic. So I use an immersion blender to blend the washed cilantro leaves with a bit of the finished stew, then add it back in. I do the same thing with the prepped salsa. Problem solved! However, chopping the cilantro and adding it to the dish without blending is of course acceptable as well.
This Mexican-style bean stew is great to have in the fridge for a tasty, healthy and quick meal. Stews and soups reheat flawlessly, so if you like doing meal prep for the week, this is a good recipe to know. It’s also great for entertaining. Bean stew? For entertaining? Yes. This stew is dairy-free, vegan and gluten-free, so everyone can enjoy it. But what makes it really great for entertaining is that each guest can customize with different toppings – pico de gallo, shredded cheese, avocado, shredded cabbage, pickled onions, fresh cilantro and all that good stuff. You could even add shredded chicken or sliced skirt steak if meat is super important to you.
Ok, that’s enough chow-chat for today, I could continue to ramble about beans, my love for toppings and cooking techniques but I won’t. Let’s just get to the recipe, shall we?
Pinto Bean Stew with Fresh Pico Salsa
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
1 large poblano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
1 medium jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, minced
sea salt, fine grain
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (4 oz) mild hatch green chilies (optional)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chipotle powder*
1 lb soaked/drained pinto beans (see notes for bean soaking methods)
4 cups vegetable stock, low sodium preferred
1 dried bay leaf
1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
Toppings & Accompaniments
fresh pico de gallo salsa (recipe follows)
crispy tortilla strips or chips
In a large large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, all peppers and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic, green chilies (if using), oregano and chipotle powder. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add soaked/drained beans, veg stock, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil, partially cover and reduce to a rolling simmer. Continue simmering for about an hour, stirring occasionally, adding water to just cover beans, only if needed. Keep in mind that depending on how well the beans were soaked, they could take up to 15 minutes more/less than an hour to fully cook.
When beans are super tender, transfer about 1 cup of stew to a blender or small container with the cilantro leaves. Blend in blender or with an immersion blender until cilantro is finely chopped. Add purée back into pot. Season with salt to taste.
You could also just chop the cilantro and stir it into the finished stew, but blending gives the broth more of a stew consistency.
Serve with salsa and any other toppings.
Fresh Pico de Gallo
1 cup de-seeded/chopped tomatoes (I used 12oz organic Campari tomatoes)
1/2 cup minced red onion (approx. 1/2 small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced (approx. 1 teaspoon)
1 small jalapeno, minced (approx, 1 tablespoon)
1 tbs lime juice (approx. 1 lime)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain (plus more to taste, I use 1/2 teaspoon total)
2 tablespoons loosely packed cilantro leaves
Combine all ingredients tomatoes through salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes or until the mixture becomes liquid-y. Remove about 1/3 of salsa into a blender or vessel. Add cilantro leaves and blend until cilantro is finely chopped. Add purée back into salsa.
You could also just chop the cilantro and add it in when mixing all other ingredients together.
I use the quick soak (aka hot soak) method just about every time I cook with dry beans – soaking the beans overnight is too much planning and too much of a commitment for me – to quick/hot soak, add 1 lb of dry beans, 6-8 cups of water and 2 tbs fine grain sea salt to a pot – bring to boil – boil for 2 minutes – turn off heat – cover with lid – let beans soak for 1-2 hours – drain off the old water – ready to cook!
If you can plan ahead, use the slow soak (aka cold soak) method. Soak beans in cold/room temp water for 8 hours or overnight, covered and in the fridge. Discard soaking liquid.
This is one of my all time favorite ingredients. If you can’t find it, use chili powder. I find that 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder adds a kick, so reduce to 3/4 teaspoon or 1/2 teaspoon for milder spice levels.