Pinto Bean Soup with Red Chile and Cheese

Pinto Bean Soup with Red Chile and Cheese Recipe

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

LC No Pressure Cooker? No problem. Note

Author Deborah Madison explains, “I always cook these beans in a pressure cooker, because they come out perfectly soft and soupy—and in only 30 minutes.” Although we fully support this, we are well aware that not all households have a pressure cooker. [Editor’s Note: My kitchen does not.] So we tweaked the instructions below per Madison’s instructions for standard stovetop cooking. If you have a pressure cooker and want to put it to swell use, grab it from the shelf, dust it off, and follow the instructions in the variation below.

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 mild olive oil 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 place them in a large bowl or other container. Add enough cold water to cover and let soak overnight.
  • 2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onions, garlic, epazote, oregano, cumin, coriander, and dried chiles. Give a stir, and then add the beans along with 2 quarts water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the beans are tender, 1 1/2 hours.
  • 3. Purée 2 cups beans and any large pieces of chile in a blender or food processor until smooth and then return them to the pot. Whisk in the masa harina and simmer for another 10 minutes. The texture should be soupy yet punctuated with beans. Taste for salt and heat, adding more salt or ground chile as needed.
  • 4. Ladle the beans and their liquid over rice and then sprinkle with the cheese, scallion, and cilantro, ending with a dollop of sour cream.

Pressure Cooker Variation

  • To make this pinto bean soup in the pressure cooker, do not soak the beans overnight. Instead, simply rinse and sort them. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker and add the onions, garlic, epazote, oregano, cumin, coriander, and dried chiles. Give a stir, and then add the beans, 3 quarts water (note that this is more water than for the traditional stovetop method), and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Fasten the lid. Bring the pressure to high and then cook, maintaining the pressure, for 30 minutes. Release the pressure quickly.
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