Recipes for Basque beans (2024)

Euskal Kazeta

Basque beans.

One of the top Basque recipes people search for is Basque beans. We have all tasted a superb bowl of beans when visiting a good Basque restaurant.

It is not very hard to cook dried beans and in fact, beans may be one of the healthiest and cheapest dishes to make. Most types of beans include plenty of magnesium, an important mineral that is not found in many foods. Beans also have a fair amount of protein and often served as a main course when meat was scarce. They also have a low glycemic index. Beans are usually very inexpensive when cooked from scratch.

The only issue with cooking dried beans is that it is time-consuming, so you must plan to cook your beans. The easiest way to make beans is to soak them overnight. Put them in a pot with plenty of water (at least 2 inches or more above the dried beans). In the morning (or after several hours of soaking), drain and rinse them and put in a pot of fresh water. I like to cook them in a slow cooker. That way, when I come home from work, they are already cooked and ready for the seasoning.

See our Basque Bean Recipe below.

Beans in the Basque Country

Many Basque dishes include dried beans (babarrunak). On the Spanish side, you will hear them called alubias, on the French side, haricot. The beans more traditionally used are kidney beans, red beans, or pinto beans.

According to Jose Maria Busca Isusi, author of Traditional Basque Cooking: History and Preparation, white beans were not highly regarded in the Basque Country. Bizkaian and Gipuzkoan farmers thought they were not very nutritious and thus, did not grow them. This comment may have reflected a view from many years ago, because I see plenty of white beans eaten today.

The beans from the town of Tolosa (Tolosako Babarrunak) in Gipuzkoa are famous. This is a small dark bean that has been sold in the market of Tolosa since the 12th century The Tolosa bean started to disappear, because of the influx of cheap beans from other regions, but a local organization has mounted a campaign to renew the local bean.

We have several more Basque bean recipes below.

Basque Beans

2 lbs. bag of dry pinto beans
1/2 onion
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp. salt

Soaking the beans

Put the beans in a pot and cover with plenty of water for several hours. If I’m going to cook the beans throughout the day in a crock pot, I’ll soak the beans overnight. If I’m going to cook on the stove before dinner, I’d put them to soak in the morning. After soaking, throw that water out and cover with fresh water.

Fill the pot with water to about one inch over the soaked beans. Cook a few minutes with the top on until water is boiling. Meanwhile, dice the onion and garlic and saute until transparent. When the beans are boiling, stir in the onion and garlic. Turn the flame on low and keep the top on. It takes about 1 1/2 hours for pinto beans. When they are soft to the bite, they’re done. Add salt to taste. My family’s favorite is to serve it on a bed of fresh white rice.

Tomato sauce: Many Basque restaurants add tomato sauce to their beans. For this recipe, add an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce just a few minutes before serving and stir in.

Salt pork: Cut two slices of salt pork (or bacon) into eight pieces. Fry until crunchy. Throw into the pot towards the beginning of the cooking, to add more flavor.

Chorizo: Cut your chorizo into several thin pieces. Fry until crunchy. Throw into the pot towards the beginning of the cooking, to add more flavor.

Salsa Criolla (Peruvian)

My mother was Peruvian and this is a salsa we always used on our beans. Whenever friends come over and I serve them this sauce, they rave about it. So I am including this simple salsa here.

1/2 onion (the other half of the onion you used in the beans)
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. any vegetable oil

Cut the onion into long, thin slices, from top to root. Spread the onions in a colander and shake plenty of salt (about a tablespoon) all over the onions. Let sit for 15 minutes. This takes the bite out of the onions. Rinse off the salt with water. Put the onions in a bowl, add the lemon juice and oil and mix well. Taste for salt and add just a dash if desired. If you have time, place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Gateau Basque
Favorite Basque Recipes
Porrusalda and other Basque soups

Ancient Salt Production in the Basque Country
Tortilla de Patatas (Potato Omelette)

More Bean Recipes

Beans recipe from Louis’ Basque Corner in Reno, Nev.
Louis has sold his restaurant since this author wrote the article, but the current owners have kept the same restaurant menu.

Basque beans by Isusi and Sunset Magazine
These two recipes were published in a Spokesman Review Spokane Chronicle newspaper article dating from 1988, but come from reliable sources: Basque cookbook author Jose Maria Busca Isusi and Sunset magazine.

Beans recipe from Woolgrowers Restaurant in Bakersfield
This is owner Mayie Maitia’s actual recipe from the restaurant’s website. The key ingredient is tomato sauce.

Tolosa Black Beans with Chorizo from
This recipe gives a bit of history about how Tolosa gained fame for its beans.

We’d be happy to post any comments from anyone who tries one of these recipes.

From a Basque chef in England, Imanol Galfarsoro

Recipes for Basque beans (2024)


How to make beans taste homemade? ›

Toss drained/rinsed/dried beans with a bit of olive oil (or avocado oil) and your favorite seasonings. You can add crushed whole seeds (coriander, cumin, fennel, mustard, etc.), woodsy herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage), red pepper flakes, crushed garlic cloves, and of course salt and pepper.

How to season cooked beans? ›

Seasoning Dried Beans

Dried beans cooked with sea salt and water are delicious, but adding an onion, garlic, or other aromatics to the pot will make them even more flavorful! These simple additions turn the starchy bean cooking liquid into a fragrant broth that's just as tasty as the beans themselves.

How to cook red beans dry? ›

How to Cook Dried Beans
  1. Sort and wash the beans. Pick through the beans and discard and shriveled beans or debris you find. ...
  2. Soak the beans. ...
  3. Drain the beans and add them to a pot with aromatics. ...
  4. Simmer the beans until they're tender. ...
  5. Cool the beans and store them in their cooking liquid.

Why do restaurant beans taste better? ›

While lard has been replaced with vegetable oil or shortening in many households, the distinct richness and velvety texture it imparts to a skillet of refried beans is hard to beat. The closest substitute for lard is bacon grease, which is another form of rendered pork fat that's arguably even more flavorful.

What can I add to beans to make them taste better? ›

Those aromatics in the pot will revolutionize the beans' final flavor. The aromatics I tend to use are onions, carrots, garlic, and celery, and then heartier, woodsy herbs, like rosemary, sage, and thyme, which marry beautifully with the earthy-sweet flavor of beans.

Do you have to soak northern beans before cooking? ›

You don't have to soak your dried beans overnight.

Soaking beans in the refrigerator overnight will reduce the time they have to cook drastically. And the texture of the beans will also be it their best, with fewer split-open and burst ones. But like we said, you don't have to commit this hard.

Do Great Northern beans need to be soaked before cooking? ›

When determining how long to soak your beans, you should do so based on what type of bean you are cooking. The general recommendations for each bean type vary. For instance, if you are making black beans, you should soak them for 4 hours, whereas great northern beans should soak for much longer – 8-12 hours.

What happens if you don't soak beans before cooking? ›

Modern cooking websites often say it doesn't matter. In a way, they're both right. Soaking beans can help improve the texture of the final product once the beans are cooked and reduce the gas produced when the food is being digested. But it isn't necessary to soak them.

What seasoning should I put in my beans? ›

Don't forget spices and herbs

I like smoked paprika to add a bit of the campfire flavor, since I keep my beans vegetarian most of the time. I also like adding a little bit of red chile flake or a whole dried chile, sometimes some cumin, and maybe a little bit of Mexican oregano.

What not to do when cooking beans? ›

13 Common Mistakes Everyone Makes With Beans
  1. Only eating canned beans. Ilia Nesolenyi/Shutterstock. ...
  2. Sticking to one type of bean. ...
  3. Not rinsing canned beans. ...
  4. Not rinsing and soaking dried beans. ...
  5. Cooking with hard water. ...
  6. Using acidic ingredients when cooking beans. ...
  7. Not adding aromatics. ...
  8. Overcooking your beans.
Jan 30, 2023

Do you cook beans covered or uncovered? ›

If you're looking to cook beans to use in other recipes, it's a simple process. After rinsing (and, if you choose, soaking) beans, add to a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender.

Do you cook red beans covered or uncovered? ›

Bring to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer. Cover and cook until beans are completely tender, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. (Older beans can take longer.) Remove lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened and turned creamy, about 20 minutes.

How much baking soda do you put in beans? ›

Well, creating an alkaline (or basic) environment by adding a small amount (about 1 teaspoon per cup of dry beans) of baking soda to your soaking/cooking water can actually help your beans cook faster.

How to make canned beans taste like restaurant? ›

I like to sprinkle in some taco seasoning, but you could add whatever spices you like — garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder are all good calls. Then, you mash the beans up directly in the pan and add just a little bit of vinegar at the end to really make the beans sing.

How do you cut bitterness out of beans? ›

Soaking: Soaking the beans in water for several hours can help remove some of the bitterness. A general rule of thumb is to soak the beans for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

How do you make beans taste like canned beans? ›

If you really want to taste like canned, add a lot more salt than you think you need. Also calcium chloride in many canned beans.

What can I add to pinto beans for flavor without? ›

If you've ever wondered how to add flavor to canned pinto beans, here is the list of ingredients you'll need:
  1. Red Onion.
  2. Garlic Cloves.
  3. Garlic Salt.
  4. Chili Powder.
  5. Cumin.
  6. Cinnamon.
  7. Oregano.
  8. Salt.


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