Borracho Beans (Drunken Beans)

Plus 2 pantry staples I can’t live without!


Oh how delicious and satisfying a humble bowl of beans can be. Especially when you make them from scratch. Cooking dried beans is so simple and the result is soooo much better than canned. All you need is a little extra time.

Borracho beans are usually made with pinto beans and have a beer added for flavor. Some good quality bacon, jalapeño & serrano peppers, and a few spices transform these beans into something special. It is a simple dish where the beans are the star. Because it is so simple, you want really good ingredients. Canned beans will work, but you won’t get the same result. I discovered Rancho Gordo dried beans a few years ago and I am obsessed with them. They are heirloom beans far superior to anything you will get at the grocery store. I have bought them at markets in the Bay Area, but when I am home in So Cal, I order them regularly. They really are that good. This particular bean is their Rio Zape. It is in the pinto family and it is oh so good. Any dried pintos will work in the recipe, but if you can get your hands on a pound of Rancho Gordo Rio Zape beans…you will have a masterpiece.

Rancho Gordo’s site has some great info on cooking dried beans here. They give a slow cooker option which is great if you want to cook your beans during the day so you can make your borracho beans in the evening.


The other pantry staple that I love to cook with is Frontera Food’s Ancho Pepper Adobo sauce. Frontera Foods was founded by one of my favorite Mexican chefs, Rick Bayless. I love all of his salsas, sauces, and seasonings because they are so flavorful, authentic,  and they are all made with clean ingredients. Many of his products are sold in most major grocery stores but the adobo sauces he makes are tough to find. My Whole Foods carries them so when I go, I stock up. The Chipotle Chili Adobo and Guajillo Chili Adobo are awesome too. You can use what you need in a recipe and keep it in the fridge for at least a month. I use these sauces for adding to chili, soup, or for braising or slow cooking meat for tacos. If you can’t find the Ancho Pepper sauce, you can definitely use dried ancho chili powder and get a similar result.


I serve my Borracho Beans with a simple cilantro lime rice. I just sauté some garlic and scallions in a little butter and olive oil and add 3 cups of cooked  white rice, plenty of chopped fresh cilantro, and juice from one lime.

Of course you will want some garnishes on this…plenty of queso fresco, a little sour cream, sliced radsihes, jalapeños, and more fresh cilantro. Serve with some corn or flour tortillas and you have the perfect meal. This fed the four of us for dinner and the next night went into bean, rice and cheese burritos for another dinner. These beans would also be the perfect side at any summer BBQ.


Borracho Beans (Drunken Beans)


    • 1 lb dried pinto beans (like Rancho Gordo’s Rio Zape bean)
    • 8 oz bacon, cut crosswise into small strips
    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
    • 1 serrano pepper, minced
    • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 bottle Negro Modelo (or similar beer)
    • 1 bay leaf
    • ¼ cup ancho chili sauce (like Frontera’s) OR 1/2 to 1 tsp of ancho chili powder
    • 1-14 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis (like Muir Glen’s)
  • salt and pepper to taste


*Notes on cooking dried beans:

Before cooking your beans, you can either soak them for 6-8 hours or do the “quick soak” method that is described on the package of store bought dried beans. If you get your beans from Rancho Gordo, they are very fresh and don’t require soaking if you didn’t plan ahead. That said, I always soak first to get the quickest cooking time. Dried pinto beans will take anywhere from an hour to 2 1/2 hours depending on how fresh they are. My Rancho Gordo beans cooked in about an hour and 15 minutes with a 6-8 hour pre-soak. Don’t add anything to the beans except water. All of the flavor will come in after they are cooked.

Directions for cooking the dried beans:

If you soaked your beans, drain the soaking water and give them a rinse in a colander. Put them in a heavy bottomed pot (I like to use a Dutch oven) and fill with enough fresh water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a full boil and cook at a full boil for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to as low as you can go while still getting a simmer. Keep a lid on but cracked to let out some steam. Check and stir every so often and make sure they are cooking a bare simmer and taste after an hour to see if they are tender. If the water level gets below the beans, add some more hot (not cold) water to keep them covered.

Directions for the Borracho Beans:

In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is nice and crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Remove all but about 2 tbsp of the bacon grease.

Sauté the onion in the reserved bacon grease until golden and tender. Add the minced jalapeño and serrano peppers, the minced garlic, the cumin and coriander, and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the beer scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the ancho chili sauce or powder and the can of tomatoes and bring to a good simmer (no lid) for 10 minutes.

Add the cooked bacon and the cooked beans with their cooking liquid to the pot along with a teaspoon of salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper. Bring to a simmer without the lid and cook for about 30 minutes to let the liquid reduce and thicken. Taste for seasoning…I ended up adding another teaspoon of salt.

Serve with rice, tortillas, and optional garnishes.

Optional Garnishes:

– crumbled queso fresco

– sliced radishes

– fresh cilantro

– sour cream

– chopped green onion


  1. You’re on fire! These look good, but you know I’m a complete wuss when it comes to spice! Too spicy for me?

    • Not too spicy at all! Finn is a bit of a spice wimp too so I keep them mild. The one jalapeño and one serrano don’t add much too much heat and the ancho chili gives more flavor than heat. Hans and Max add hot sauce and fresh jalapeños just to make it spicy enough for them.

  2. Pingback: Borracho Beans (Drunken Beans) — Juicy Bites | My Meals are on Wheels

  3. Patricia wild

    What does the beer add to it? What if you leave it out?

    • The beer adds flavor! It will impart sugar and malty flavors that you really can’t duplicate with other ingredients. That said, you can definitely leave it out. The beans get so much flavor from the spices and rich bean broth that it would still be delicious. Just use a little vegetable or chicken stock instead. Or even more bean cooking liquid if you have it.

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