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If you’ve traveled to or live in Belize, you’ll know that Stewed Beans are a true Belizean staple. The Creole diet can be as diverse as their genealogy. Coincidentally? So is this mighty Stewed Beans recipe. Easily re-purposed, plan your week out with fresh beans for soup, panades, garnaches, and even alongside fresh Johnny Cakes. Planning your meals for the week is one of the best ways to save money and stick to a food budget. After all, Belizean stewed beans, using dried Red Kidney beans, are made with leftovers in mind.
Beans are not only one of the healthiest things you’ll find in the grocery aisle, but one of the cheapest. Dried beans are locally produced, always cheaper than canned, and enough for the whole family at one time. The potential of a dried kidney bean is truly boundless — and beyond tasty. Belizean stewed beans are simmered to perfection after being soaked for a few hours, up to overnight. Alternatively, a pressure cooker or crockpot works well for time efficiency. Find our full Flavors of Belize Stewed Beans Recipe below as the base of all the following meals.
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans
- 1 pound pigtail, cut into 2" pieces (can sub. bacon or ham hock)
- ½ cup cilantro, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 oregano leaves, dried or fresh
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste
If using pigtail, boil in water for 30 minutes to remove extra salinity. Discard water and repeat the boiling process for a second time. Drain, and set aside. If using bacon, add with beans.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a deep sauce pot. Add onions and garlic stirring occasionally until fragrant, but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add your cleaned, dried beans (you may soak 2 hours up to overnight) along with pigtail, cilantro, and enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Add herbs, and bring water to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer until bears are tender, about 2 hours. Add water as necessary so that beans are always covered by liquid. When the liquid meets the level of the beans, top off with cold water. The goal is to have the beans barely covered with liquid by the time they're tender. Add salt after the beans are fully cooked; adding salt at the beginning may result in a longer cook time, and salty beans.
As a Belizean fusion with Creole-influenced refried beans and the Mestizo staple of masa, Panades are a favorite country-wide. With the Mestizo’s multicultural heritage (Spanish, Mexican and Maya influences), the corn staple of masa becomes a beautifully-crisp envelope for refried beans. Flatten the corn-based dough with a tortilla press before it meets the humble filling of refried beans. Next, seal it – empanada style. Fry the dough in a neutral oil until it floats, crisping to golden perfection, and served hot with onion sauce.
Pile on your refried beans thick atop a crisp, fried corn tortilla for Garnaches! This popular Belizean fast food is delicious as a quick bite and can be commonly found at Belizean street food vendors, like most corn-based fried food. Starting with tortilla shells (store-bought or homemade), layer beans, then freshly-grated Edam ‘Dutch’ cheese before finishing with Belizean onion sauce. Enjoy your garnaches with ketchup or a fresh tomato-based salsa, depending on the district. Northern districts of Belize utilize refried black beans for this Mestizo delicacy.
Local Favorite, “Long Water Beans”
Inherently Belizean, a tasty pot of freshly-cooked, whole red kidney beans are nicknamed “long water beans”. Why? Likely because of its soup texture and richly-flavored accompanying gravy. The stewed whole beans should be firm, yet tender with the perfect consistency of creaminess. A few ladles of the fresh beans pairs perfectly with a warm Flour Tortilla, hot off the comal, and Belizean Onion Sauce. Here, layers of onion, garlic, thyme, and fresh cilantro take center stage. A tear of the tortilla here, with a dip of the beans there, equals soothing comfort.
Belizean Rice & Beans are virtually a daily occurrence, although it tends to taste even more special for a Sunday Dinner. The all-loved “Sunday Dinna” features Rice and Beans as its main attraction, and can easily be classed as Belize’s national dish. Transform a cup of stewed beans (with its liquid) by building layers of coconut and aromatics before stirring the rice in, cooking the rice in the gravy. The rice should absorb the rich gravy, leaving it tender and beautifully tinted. Alternatively, you can save a step by serving the stewed beans on top of fresh coconut white rice.
Refried Beans w/ Johnny Cake
By blending stewed beans with its liquid, a versatile new texture is created – perfect for building more flavor, and more recipes. Start by heating fragrant coconut oil until shimmering, then add your diced onions and garlic for aromatics. Is there anything better than that smell alone? Once softened, add your blended beans and stir until it’s cooked to your desired consistency. Refried beans served alongside quick, coconut-rich Johnny Cakes is a perfect meal for anytime of day.
This article has been slightly modified since its publication date.