Authentic Guatemalan Frijoles Volteados from Café Condesa

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I came down here to do two things. The first was to speak Spanish, which, gracias a Dios, is getting better every day.

The second was to eat this breakfast every. single. day.

Two eggs fried to perfection atop a mountain of refried beans, served with corn tortillas, Maya Ik, orange juice and coffee. Sometimes plantains, depending on how ambitious I am feeling. This is a desayuno tipico in Guatemala, or a typical breakfast. If you cannot walk into a restaurant and order this for breakfast, there is something wrong and you should walk right out. Don’t waste your time with posers.

And you might not be able to see it in the picture above, but the crux of the whole meal is the frijoles volteados – dried black beans soaked overnight, cooked with onion and garlic, blended, then refried with onion and garlic until as thick as peanut butter and arguably more delicious. Frijoles volteados are actually not limited just to breakfast. The indigenous Mayan communities consume frijoles volteados three times a day along with tortillas and some sort of vegetable. Meat is expensive in Guatemala, so frijoles volteados are often the only source of protein, unless these families are lucky enough to have a chicken for eggs.

Frijoles volteados was actually the first thing I learned to make in Guatemala. Before the pepian or the guacamole or the pupusas or the tamales (which are coming soon), I learned how to make these. I figured, if I was really serious about eating these every day, I could not rely on buying them in the local tiendas that sell them by the flimsy plastic bag by the quarter-pound nor would I stoop to buying them in the can. So I headed to Café Condesa in Antigua. Cafe Condesa is the reason I know about frijoles volteados in the first place; I consumed my first desayuno tipico within its walls and the women who run it have become my friends (again, see pepian). They were gracious enough to give me the recipe and a hands on lesson.

A word about your beans. The worst thing you can possibly have here is super old beans. They are hard and tasteless and take forever to cook. It is difficult to decipher fresh beans from old (sometimes 3 or 4 years!!) in the supermarket. Here good beans are easy to find on market days in el mercado municipal and so many people consume beans here the turn around is rapid, so there is never a problem. If you are in the States, I would suggest finding yourself a good bean purveyor, like Rancho Gordo on the West coast or Cayuga on the East coast are good bets and have online stores. I am also of the opinion that good beans need to be sorted (see photo above). Beans, it may interest you to know, grow in the ground, on vines, and if you are using good beans bits of both may sneak into your bag of legumes. No big deal. Spread them out on a kitchen counter and spend a few blissful moments sliding good beans from gnarly looking ones. It’s positively meditative.

Look, I am not saying you should eat frijoles volteados every day for breakfast, I am merely saying that once you do actually make them, put crisp-fried eggs on top of them and consume them with fresh tortillas and Maya Ik, you won’t want to eat anything else ever again.

(two birds, one stone. reading a spanish newspaper and eating breakfast) 

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Café Condesa’s Frijoles Volteados

The cooking time of the beans will depend on how old your dried beans are. If they have sat on the shelf longer they will take longer to cook, so try to get recently dried beans from a good purveyor and always test doneness when cooking. These beans freeze very well. Pack in plastic bags or Tupperware in desired amounts and freeze for up to six months. Yields 5 cups; 10 ½ cup servings. Originally published by thelatinkitchen.comRecipe courtesy of Café Condesa.

1 pound dried black beans

1 medium white onion

4 cloves garlic, one whole, three minced

1-2 teaspoons salt

¼ cup olive oil

crema for serving

Pick over black beans, looking for any debris or mangled looking beans. Rinse well under cold water. In a large bowl or pot, add cold water until 3 inches above beans. Allow to soak overnight.

Rinse beans again. Add to a large pot and add cold water until 1 inch above beans. Peel one garlic clove and add whole. Slice onion in half, remove skin and add half to pot with beans. Finely dice the remaining half onion and reserve.

Bring beans to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for a least one hour, then test beans. They should be very soft but not falling apart. If beans feel firm or al dente, cook for another half an hour, or until they reach desired consistency above. Remove beans from heat and add salt, starting with one teaspoon. Let cool for about a half hour then taste beans. If you desire more salt, add in half-teaspoon increments until beans are to taste.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans along with the garlic and onion they were boiled with to a food processor or a blender, reserving the bean liquid. Blend until beans are very smooth, adding reserved liquid to thin if mixture is too thick (you will know if beans at the bottom are blended and the beans at the top of the blender are still whole).

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and minced garlic; sauté, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Add the blended beans. Turn down heat to medium and continue to stir occasionally while the liquid evaporates and the beans thicken. (About 15-20 minutes.) Add more oil if beans are sticking to the pan. When you can scrape a spoon against the bottom of the pan and the beans take 2-3 seconds to return, they’re ready. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate; serve with crema agria (sour cream).

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6 thoughts on “Authentic Guatemalan Frijoles Volteados from Café Condesa

  1. We’re a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable info to work on. You have done an impressive job and our entire neighborhood might be thankful to you.

  2. I miss this breakfast! Arriving in Guat and sitting on your porch and eating this breakfast was one of the highlights of my year. I love you Nat! Can’t wait to see you next week. xoxo

  3. Thank you for posting this. By far, this is the closest process I remember from when I was a little kid watching black beans being made in my grandma’s kitchen (from where I was chased out of regularly).

  4. Gracias por compartir esto. Pues aprendí español en Antigua a través de varios viajes y de veras este post me recuerda de muchas horas lindas, pasandola bien en Cafe Condesa.

  5. This is great! I miss Guatemalan food. Breakfasts were my favorite meal. I have to make my U.S. friends frijoles volteados now.

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