Why Many Mexican Households Start Each Week With A Batch Of Frijoles De La Olla

When you eat at a Mexican restaurant, your entrée usually comes with a side of beans. This is so common that most people have come to expect it. Whether you eat them or not, your plate of enchiladas verdes just wouldn't look the same if those refried pinto beans or black beans weren't lying in the corner. And if you're invited over for dinner to a Mexican home, you're probably going to get the same thing. Simply put, beans have been a part of Mexican cuisine for hundreds of years.

According to Chimu Adventures, the three cuisine staples of Mexico are corn, chilies, and beans, ingredients native to the country. They have been utilized and eaten in Mexico since well before the arrival of Spanish explorers who introduced the country to food-bearing animals like cows, sheep, goats, and chickens, per Randall Beans. Beans offered a good source of protein, and they were plentiful. This is still true of beans today, which could partially explain why they remain a popular dish in modern Mexican homes. In fact, it is not unusual for families to prepare a large pot of beans at the beginning of the week to last over the course of several days.

They're not just a side dish

The pot of pinto or black beans simmering away in abuela's kitchen is known as frijoles de la olla, which literally translates as "pot of beans," per MasterClass. In a Mexican household, frijoles de la olla could be described as a type of meal prep, a dish that will be used so much you want to be able to have it on hand for quick access. It is a simple dish made with pinto or black beans, water, and flavorings such as onion, garlic, and herbs. These beans are not just eaten as a side dish at dinner but often appear as a side at breakfast and lunch, according to blog Muy Bueno. And because the dish takes some time to prepare (usually from two to four hours), it's simply more efficient to prepare a large amount one day and store the leftovers in the fridge for the rest of the week.

A bowl of beans makes a satisfying meal all by itself, especially if it's made with meat like bacon or chorizo, also known as frijoles charros, per Muy Bueno. But beans can also create the basis for other Mexican main meals. Take tostadas, for instance, which is a fried tortilla topped with pinto beans, cheese, tomatoes, avocados, and any other desired toppings. And enfrijoladas are enchiladas that replace traditional red sauce with pureed beans, according to MasterClass. In addition, frijoles de la olla could be used in Tex-Mex chili.