Bean Cuisine

Margarita-Style Layered Black Beans with Homemade Tortilla Chips

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

If you’re sold on the benefits of beans, summarized in  The Power of Pulses, but not sure about cooking them yourself, here a quick guide. (Canned beans are convenient, but cooking your own is easy, economical and creates less waste.)

  1. Select Fresh Dry Beans Shop for dried beans where sales are brisk. Old beans appear shriveled after soaking and take longer to cook.
  2. Rinse. Before using beans, rinse, discard any debris and drain. Also, drain and rinse canned beans before use to reduce the oligosaccharides (See The Power of Pulses, Turn Down the Music) and up to 40% of the sodium.

3. Soak (Long or Quick-Soak) or Don’t!

Some argue that beans are tastiest if not soaked before cooking and enjoy “brothy beans” with the cooking liquid. I prefer to soak them before cooking to reduce the oligosaccharides and shorten the cooking time. Soaked beans tend to have a creamier texture and fewer blowouts – burst bean skins. Lentils and split peas are rarely soaked, especially if making soup, but for salads, try a 1-hour soak.

Basic Soak

Soak beans I a large pot of water for 8 to 24 hours before cooking, then drain, rinse and drain again.

One-Hour Quick-Soak

Bring beans and soaking water to a boil, then turn off the stove and let soak for 1 hour. Drain, rinse and proceed with cooking the beans in fresh water,   

Brining Beans
Soaking beans with salt improves the texture, tenderizes the skin and prevents bursting during cooking according to America’s Test Kitchen experiments (1,2,3). They recommend soaking 1 pound of beans for 8 to 24 hours in 3 tablespoons of table salt dissolved in 4 quarts of water. Drain, rinse and drain again before cooking. Tests showed brining added only 52 milligrams of sodium to 3 ounces of beans (1,2).  

4. Cook. Cook a pound or so at a time and store extra in the freezer. The electric pressure cooker is a game-changer for bean cooking, reducing the hours-long simmering to minutes. Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Most varieties of soaked beans cook in under 10 minutes under pressure.

To cook traditionally on the stove, simmer soaked or un-soaked beans in a large heavy pot of water on the stove for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours or until tender. Test a few beans as they don’t always cook evenly. If you use a slow cooker, boil the beans for a few minutes to reduce the lectin content.

Always wait until beans are cooked before adding acidic ingredients which inhibit softening. This includes tomatoes, wine, beer, vinegar and citrus juice. To diminish a harsh alcohol taste, simmer separately for a few minutes before adding to your beans.

Many argue that for the creamiest texture you should salt after cooking – I usually add a little for flavor, along with some aromatics, a bay leaf, onion and garlic.  For creamy hummus, some experts suggest adding a pinch of baking soda to the water when cooking chickpeas to soften the skin, however this destroys some nutrients.    

5. Enjoy! Jazz up your bean eating with this recipe, perfect for lunch on the patio.  

Margarita Style Layered Black Beans with Homemade Tortilla Chips

Set aside a couple of minutes to make fresh oven-roasted tortilla chips.  

Corn tortillas

Olive or avocado oil

Coarse salt, optional

1/3 cup thinly shredded red cabbage

1/3 cup Mexican-Style Marinated Black Beans, recipe follows

¼ cup diced avocado

¼ cup diced tomato

¼ cup shredded cheese (optional)

  1. Make tortilla chips (You need 1 or two tortillas for a single serving but why not prepare a few extra? Store airtight and refresh in a warm oven if needed.).  Preheat oven to 375°F. 
  2. Lightly brush oil on both sides of tortillas. Stack tortillas. Cut through the stack to make even-sized wedges. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet (line with foil or parchment for easy clean-up). Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  3. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until crisp. Cool.
  4. To make layered salad, in a margarita glass or other container, layer cabbage, marinated beans, avocado and tomato. Top with cheese if you like.
  5. Serve with homemade chips. 

Mexican-Style Marinated Black Beans

Serves 4-6

¼ cup finely chopped red onion, shallot or white part of green onion

1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)

¼ cup red wine or balsamic vinegar (or mix the two), or lime juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground chili (mix ancho and chipotle or use traditional chili powder)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil or other vegetable oil

2 -3 cups cooked black, pinto or kidney beans or black or green lentils

3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (1 tsp dried)

Optional:  thinly sliced pickled or fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper, chopped cilantro, bell pepper, carrot or jicama

In a bowl, combine onion, garlic, (see* below) vinegar, salt, cumin, and chili powder. Stir to dissolve salt. Stir in olive oil.  Add beans, herbs and optional ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

  • For a milder onion and garlic flavor, cook briefly: combine onion, garlic, if using, and 1 tablespoon oil in a microwave safe bowl. Micro-cook on high for 30 seconds or a little longer, just to soften the onion. Proceed with recipe.


One (1): Cooking with Dry Beans: Food Science Insights and Strategies from Dr. Guy Crosby, The Bean Institute

Two (12): Learn to Cook: How to Brine Beans. America’s Test Kitchen

Three (3) Christopher Kimball Blog. America’s Test Kitchen. Cooking Beans 101.   

© Lorelle Del Matto 2020

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


  1. Cheryl Eiger says

    Ms Lorelle
    Thank you for this inspiration to cook those beans ! Lots of time in this pandemic, so why not . Appreciated your very good point about how cooking your own beans saves energy and waste with lack of cans etc .
    Also you broke the entire process down helping people realize this is not a daunting task.
    Thanks again
    A fan


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