Colombian Red Beans

It was hard to try to decide what my first recipe post should be. I wanted to do something that would be meaningful and be true to my three pillars in this blog. I ended up landing on Colombian red beans. This is one of the first dishes that got me interested in cooking. It’s a common occurrence in my house and very prevalent throughout South America, but each country does them a bit differently. Before I really cooked anything, I would always love to help my mother chop vegetables and watch her as she made the dish. It was always fascinating to me.

The great thing about beans is that they’re cheap and super healthy! A 1 lb bag of dried red beans (also known as kidney beans) is less than $2. Let me tell you, you can get a lot of meals out of this too. In terms of health, I can type into Google “the health benefits of red beans” and a million (ok, maybe not that many) sites will pop up. Look, I did it for you!

Anyway these beans and beans in general are pretty easy to make. The part that takes the longest is actually cooking the beans. And yes, it is worth it to used dried beans, canned ones just can’t compare. There are a few different ways to cooking beans. You can cook them in a regular pot, which is not my most suggested way of doing it, mostly because it takes too long and because I’ve had inconsistent texture results with that method. You can cook them in a pressure cooker, which is great if you’re short on time. This method is reliable and yields good flavor, but what college student really has a pressure cooker available? Cooking the beans with a slow cooker is my preferred method. You can leave the beans in the morning and in the evening when you get back, they’re evenly cooked. Slow cookers are also relatively cheap. You can buy a 4 quart one for around 15 dollars, the price of a regular pan.

But before this you should soak the beans overnight so that they soften some before cooking. Then in the morning, specifically for red beans, you have to boil them on the stovetop for about 10 minutes. Kidney beans naturally produce a toxin that can be harmful to humans if it’s not handled properly. Boiling them will take care of this. Here’s a link if you want to read more about it and unnecessarily freak yourself out about it. Then, after that, you can let them merrily bubble away on their own in the slow cooker for about 6-8 hours. Pretty hands off, I’d say.

Now, lets talk about flavoring. Somethings gotta make those beans taste good. In Colombia, we call this part a guiso. Basically, it is a combination of a bunch of vegetables and spices and it is delicious. I could literally eat that stuff straight up on a piece of bread. I’ll tell you more about making it in the recipe, I just wanted to introduce you to the idea.

So, lets get started!



1 pack of 1 lb red beans or whatever bean you prefer (try to stay with black, pinto, or kidney, something like that. Though I’m sure this recipe would be good with other beans too)

Enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches or so

Ingredients for Guiso

1 small to medium sized yellow onion, chopped

2 scallion stalks (because I’m not sure what they’re actually called), finely chopped

1 small tomato, chopped

1 or 2 carrots, shredded

1 red pepper, chopped (optional, I often don’t include it)

1/2 a tablespoon of garlic or less, minced (maybe 3 cloves)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 of a teaspoon of pepper (or less or more depending on how you like it)

1 teaspoon of cumin

1/4 of a teaspoon of paprika

1 bay leaf

1/4 of teaspoon of ground coriander

*Ok so these are all the ingredients you would want to make a reallyyy good guiso. However, I have bolded the bottom line essential ones in case you don’t have all those spices or are too lazy to chop all those vegetables. No judging, I understand.

NOW. On to the the how to make the beans…


1. Put the beans in a bowl the night before you plan to make them. You can wash them out and check for any hard pieces, like little pebbles (I haven’t found one yet though).

2. Cover the beans with water. Make sure there is enough water for them to soak up. So you want about 2 inches of water above the beans, or more.

3. Leave them soaking overnight.

4. The next morning boil them in fresh water for 10 minutes (feel free to omit this step if you’re not using red kidney beans).

5. Then, put them in the slow cooker and cover them with about two inches of water above the beans (the water should be fresh and replaced, not the same you used to boil the beans).

6. Set the slow cooker on low. They will cook for about 6-8 hours before they’re ready.

So go to classes, or work or whatever you do. When you get back though it’s time to make the guiso. Or, alternatively you can prepare it the night before as well and refrigerate it if you would like.

To make the guiso:

1. Chop all your vegetables

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. When it is heated add the vegetables. If you’re using garlic you can add it after the vegetables have cooked for a little bit because it cooks faster and you don’t want it to burn (it may taste bitter).

3. Cook the vegetables, stirring more often than not until they start to soften a little bit and the onions look a bit translucent. At this point you can add your spices, including the salt and pepper. Here, you can also add the bay leaf. After you add them, mix them into the vegetables so that they are well incorporated.

4. Keep mixing until all the vegetables have been incorporated together. You kind of want them to mush together, almost like a salsa. All of this should take between 10 and 15 minutes total.

guiso It should look something like this. (<–I found this picture here)

Boom. Guiso done. Taste that stuff. Pretty good, right?

5. Now, add this to the beans in the slow cooker. Taste to see if more salt will be needed (the 1 teaspoon is kind of a guesstimate, more may be needed).

6. Let the beans cook for a little longer to incorporate the flavor in. You can make and add the guiso in starting at the third or fourth hour if you really want the flavor to be soaked up.

7. They’re ready, enjoy!

Here’s what my final product looked like (Disclaimer: I’m not a great photographer and I don’t have a nice camera, bear with me)


Pro tip: These go really well with rice. Also beans reheat really well the next day. Just heat them on the stove top with some leftover rice in a pan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s