December 28, 2009
1 Ratings
  • Serves 10-12
Author Notes

This recipe for “drunken” beans is yet another dish I grew up with that I’ve adapted to make my own over the years, and it’s one I love to serve year round. These rich, soupy beans are just as good with summertime barbecue as they are on a chilly evening with plenty of warm tortillas alongside. The beans hold beautifully in a crock pot for parties, and I think their flavor only improves over time. Pinto beans are easy to find and work well here, but you can use any smallish pink or red bean – we get beautiful dried heirloom beans at our farmers’ market, so I often use a variety called Vermont Cranberry beans in this dish. I call for canned pickled chiles in this recipe, but if you pickle your own, as I do, you can of course use those instead. —lastnightsdinner

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound dried Pinto or other small pink/red beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 ounces uncured slab bacon, cut into ¼ to ½ inch cubes
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano or dried marjoram
  • 2-3 canned pickled whole Jalapeño or Serrano chiles, plus 2-3 tablespoons of the spicy brine
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 bottle amber or dark beer
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice of one lime, about 1 oz.
  1. Pick over the beans to remove any stones or debris, and place them in a large pot. Add 6 cups of cold tap water, cover the pot, and bring it to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans stand, undrained, for an hour. (Note: the beans should be fairly tender at this point, though older beans may need more soaking time.)
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, begin browning the bacon over medium heat. When the bacon is nicely browned on all sides and has rendered much of its fat, remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened. Add the garlic cloves and oregano or marjoram, rubbing it between your palms to crumble it a bit, and cook until fragrant. Add the beans with their cooking liquid, then add the tomatoes, the beer, the chile(s) and the chile brine.
  4. Return the bacon to the pot and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring the beans up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook, partially covered, for 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust salt as needed. Stir in the lime juice just before serving, then ladle into bowls.
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38 Reviews

JudyH March 24, 2019
This dish is delicious. My great regret is that it took me 10 years to try it! For every bean eater out there, don’t delay!
luvcookbooks February 5, 2017
My new favorite bean recipe is simmering now. Thanks!
Racr M. May 8, 2013
I love beans- but no matter which soak method I use they are always tough. I've been cooking all my life, but am new to beans from scratch (Polish/Czech heritage). What am I doing wrong or not doing?
TheWimpyVegetarian March 10, 2013
I'm just seeing this! I'm def making this. Soon. It looks like a perfect dinner for me!
susan G. August 10, 2012
Thanks for the link to the veg version on your blog. Soon!
Have you ever found Jacob Cattle Beans? They're another old Maine bean. I used to order 10# about once a year, for a woman who told me they were the only bean she used to make her baked beans.
Poor Bart, in the comments on your blog -- Incendiary pot of beans he made!
cassiel66 July 1, 2012
Made this last weekend. I almost ate the whole pot in 3 days. I topped each serving with pico de gallo. I froze half to enjoy later. If anyone has a suggestion on how to get the smoky flavor without bacon so I can make it for my vegetarian friends, let me know.
MrsWheelbarrow July 1, 2012
This is the best recipe in the world for dried beans. My husband is a vegetarian, so I substitute smoked paprika for the bacon - up to two teaspoons, depending on your preference for smoky/spicy.
lastnightsdinner July 1, 2012
Oh, MrsW, you're so sweet - thank you :)

cassiel66, I actually have another version of this which I believe is vegan, and just as tasty as the porky version. You can find that here: http://lastnightsdinner.net/2010/03/16/borrachos-remixed/

Good luck and enjoy!
Nomnomnom March 9, 2013
Just ordered some beans from RG and cannot wait to try this recipe. It's going to be great, I know! Cheers!
PVDcook December 9, 2011
I already soaked my beans overnight for another recipe but have decided to switch to this after all the good reviews! Do i still need to boil them or can I skip that step? Can't wait to have this for dinner!
Midge November 15, 2011
Made these last night to serve with cornbread and wow, my husband and I nearly polished off the entire pot. So delicious and will surely be made again!
galsmu October 17, 2011
Great flavor! Served these along with no-bean chili to give people options. I did soak the beans for a couple hours while I ran errands plus cooked everything a bit longer. Will definitely make these again.
AntoniaJames September 11, 2011
Served this tonight with an herb and fresh corn baked polenta, and Crook's Corner's Green Peach Salad on the side. Sensational! I did not have any dark beer, so I used a Bavarian Weissbier, adding a splash of Worcestershire and a scant tablespoon of molasses, for color and because it seemed a bit bland. I don't eat chilies, but I did add a couple of bay leaves. I used heirloom cranberry beans, which must have been very fresh because I soaked them overnight, and it took about 15 minutes to get them nice and tender when I cooked them the next day. I have to confess that I'm not terribly fond of most beers (fresh Oktoberfest beer in Munich in late September being a notable exception), and I'm not terribly fond of bean dishes like this. But I really like this one, a lot. ;o)
SKK April 3, 2011
I have made this at least 6 times since January, and the response has been overhwlemingly positive. Thank you so much for sharing this!
Deaners82 September 14, 2010
Spicy, hearty, delicious. Served with tacos when we had guests over and everyone took seconds. The marjoram is a nice touch (couldn't find Mexican oregano). A very underused spice, IMO.
MrsWheelbarrow March 11, 2010
Must chime in yet again. What a fantastic recipe- now my go-to choice when making a pot of beans for the week. In our mostly vegetarian household, I've replaced the beans w/ a little chipotle (thanks SavoryKitchen!) and add my pickled jalapenos when serving, as the husband doesn't like spicy. The Mexican oregano is so different than Italian-style, and really makes the dish.
lastnightsdinner March 11, 2010
Aw, thank you. You're too kind :) (And by replacing the beans, you meant replacing the bacon, correct? I also really love using chipotle and/or smoked paprika as a smokey substitute for bacon. I think I see a pot of beans in my near future...
MrsWheelbarrow March 11, 2010
um yes, beans, bacon whatevah.
Savorykitchen March 11, 2010
Having my chipotle-laced beans for lunch. nom nom nom.
Savorykitchen March 7, 2010
Making these again tonight. Going vegetarian with chipotle to replace the bacon.
lastnightsdinner March 7, 2010
Yay! I'm so glad you like these! I'll probably be making them again soon for a potluck, and likely going with a bacon-free version as well.
mrslarkin January 5, 2010
Delicious! Thanks for recipe! Beautiful picture too.
Jennifer A. January 1, 2010
I made these last night, substituting andouille for the bacon, and used fire roasted tomatoes. Finishing with lime juice added the perfect touch of sour to the spicy/salty/malty beans. Yum!
lastnightsdinner January 1, 2010
I'm so glad you liked them! I have yet to try it myself, but I bet you could make a satisfying meatless version with a bit of smoked paprika in place of the bacon.
MrsWheelbarrow January 1, 2010
smoked paprika - that's my go-to trick for turning bacon-y tastes vegetarian.
JoyManning January 1, 2010
smoked salt works great for that, too!
editrix December 31, 2009
Looks like I've found our good-luck New Year's Day dinner (perhaps with some sauteed kale)!
lastnightsdinner December 31, 2009
Thanks, and I hope you like it! It would be great with a side of greens and a hunk of cornbread, too :)
editrix December 31, 2009
Ooh, right you are!

Happy New Year!
Maria T. December 30, 2009
Yummy, this sounds delicious. Ready for my winter days. Thanks for sharing the recipe
lastnightsdinner December 31, 2009
Thank you!
Elycooks December 29, 2009
Jennifer, do you drain the beans after that initial boiling? This looks lovely, BTW. Bring on the cilantro and a cold beer
lastnightsdinner December 29, 2009
Thank you! I do not drain them - they go into the pot with the bacon and aromatics along with their cooking liquid.
lastnightsdinner December 28, 2009
Thanks, everyone! This is one of our favorites :)