Pinto Bean Soup with Red Chile and Cheese

I always cook these beans in a pressure cooker, because they come out perfectly soft and soupy — and in only 30 minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply presoak the beans, then cook them in 2 quarts water until very soft, 1 1/2 hours or longer, as needed. A little masa harina, lime-treated corn flour, stirred into the soup once the beans are cooked, adds the earthy flavor of corn tortillas and thickens the liquid a tad, giving the soup a subtle body. Pour the soup over rice, add grated cheese along with other sundry garnishes, and these beans become a homey meal.–Deborah Madison

Pinto Bean Soup with Red Chile and Cheese Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes 10 cups


  • 2 cups pinto beans
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower-seed or vegetable oil
  • 3 epazote sprigs, if available, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 New Mexican dried red chile pods, stems, seeds, and veins removed
  • Sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons masa harina
  • Ground red chile
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons slivered scallion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Sour Cream


  • 1. Sort through the beans, give them a rinse, and set aside while you chop the onions and garlic.
  • 2. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and add the onions, garlic, epazote, oregano, cumin, coriander, and dried chiles. Give a stir, and then add the beans along with 3 quarts water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Fasten the lid; bring the pressure to high, then cook, maintaining the pressure for 30 minutes. Release the pressure quickly.
  • 3. Purée 2 cups of the beans and any large pieces of chile until smooth and return them to the pot. Whisk in the masa harina and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and heat, adding more salt or ground chile as needed. The texture should be soupy yet punctuated with beans.
  • 4. Ladle the beans and their liquid over a mound of rice, then sprinkle on the cheese, scallion, and cilantro, ending with a dollop of sour cream.
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