Stewed Savory Beans with Avocado Leaves

In previous posts I have recommended serving these beans, so today, I will finally explain how to prepare them.

Frijoles de la olla or savory stewed beans are a typical side served with main dishes in the central states of the Mexico.  Traditionally, they are prepared in earthenware pots, in Spanish called ollas de barro, with onion, garlic and pungently flavored herbs such as epazote, cilantro or in this case avocado leaves.   The beans are served whole and with lots of flavorful broth.

They are very easy to prepare, however, many people no longer make them as they can be found canned or more recently in bags in supermarkets. But don’t be fooled – store bought beans are not as good as homemade beans!  They make take a while to cook, but require very little effort. Once they are made they can be used as sides, in salads or soups or made into refried beans.

In this recipe I use avocado leaves to flavor the beans. They smelly slightly of anise and while it might sound strange the flavor combines really well with beans. In Mexico City I buy them in vegetable stands in the market, I have not yet looked for them in grocery stores.

I cannot remember if I’ve seen avocado leaves sold in stores in the States. If they are available they would be near dried spices and chiles, but don’t despair if you’re unable to find them. You can use epazote, which can easily be found in Mexican grocery stores, and I also sometimes use a handful of bay leaves, which also gives the beans a really nice flavor.



  • 1 lb of pinto beans
  • ½ an onion
  • 4 avocado leaves or a handful of epazote or bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Salt

Look over the beans and remove any stones.  Soak the beans overnight or for approximately 8 hours.  If you don’t have time to soak them, it’s not necessary, but the beans will take longer to cook. Rinse with beans in water if you are not going to soak them.

Dump out the water that the beans have been soaking in and put them in a large pot. Fill with water, add the onion, garlic and avocado leaves and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook for between 1 ½ to 3 hours or until the beans are done and add salt. In my experience preparing beans in Mexico City generally takes longer.

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