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Apr 26, 2012 11:11 AM

"Fresh" dried Pinto Beans in Los Angeles?


I never really appreciated the need for dried beans to be "fresh," until I made some classic refried beans with a bag of dried pintos my sister brought home with her from a trip to New Mexico. They were so tender and tasty.

Though "fresh dried beans" sounds like a contradiction in terms, I mean to say dried beans that are not old, having been dried fairly recently.

Does anyone know where in Los Angeles I can find "new" or "fresh" dried pinto beans? I'm going to make a batch with my carnitas on Cinco de Mayo.


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  1. Try Rancho Gordo online, or from one of the few stores in SoCal that stock their products...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Joe Blowe

      Cacao in Eagle Rock sells their beans usually.

    2. Most Latino grocery stores, e.g., Vallarta have scoop bins with dried pinto beans that are usually "fresher" than the packaged variety due to more turnover

      1. I may have the answer for you. I buy fresh pinto beans at the Buy Low Market in Inglewood, CA. I think that most hispanic markets sell pinto beans in bulk and you can find those throughout Los Angeles. If you buy pintos in the pre-packaged bags, you're not getting fresh beans. Always buy beans in bulk for the freshest beans.

        Look for light-colored pintos only. The darker the bean, the older the bean!

        I'd like to add a little info for you. I learned, after years of trying to make a good pot of beans that Los Angeles water is too hard. No matter how long you soak them, they will never be creamy while using LA tap water.

        Buy some bottles of water and soak the beans first using only bottled water. Drain the beans and cook them in more bottled water. You can even use a pressure cooker and cook with dried beans but make sure you use the bottled water. It makes all the difference in the texture of the finished beans. I promise you that you will have creamy and soft beans using the bottled water.

        And if you have a good recipe for your sister's beans, please share the recipe?

        7 Replies
        1. re: AnnieAmie

          When do you think (or better yet know) those beans were harvested and dried?

          The other day I browsed the bulk beans at Whole Foods. Some, mainly Washington grown organics), had a harvest date. For most that was last fall (Sept 2013), though some were from the previous year.

          Since states like North Dakota and Michigan are the largest growers of dry beans in the USA, 'last fall' is the freshest your beans will be.

          Looks like Mexican bean harvest has a similar seasonality:

          "The most abundant crops in Mexico are obtained from September to December from the Spring-Summer cycle. That is the time when most of the Mexican beans are traded. It is important to mention that the U.S bean production is obtained from the end of August to the end of October, overlapping with the Mexican bean production."

          USA exports more beans than it imports.

          1. re: AnnieAmie

            That is great information, Annie. I appreciate it. Funny about the water. I will cook with bottled water (Sparklett's) because I just don't like the taste, but never considered water "hardness" and how that may affect the soaking process.

            I soak the beans overnight. Next morning add a dollop of bacon grease (or finely chopped bacon) in a pot along with a quartered onion, a few smashed cloves of garlic and a jalapeno sliced in half (w/seeds).

            Just cover with water, bring to a boil then immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer for a couple of hours. Have a kettle of water on to boil and add the boiling water just enough to cover beans whenever the water gets a bit low. About 3/4s of the way through, add some salt. When fully cooked, mash them in the pot.

            1. re: EarlyBird

              Ruhlman surveys various facts and pros/cons in cooking beans


              quotes from Cooks Illustrated tests.

              All sources blame hard water for hard to cook beans. That's because of the calcium ions that are common in hard water. Acidity of the water also makes a difference. More acid (e.g. use to tomatoes) means slower cooking, more alkaline (e.g. baking soda) speeds it up.

              Rullman thinks the alkaline water makes them too soft; CI likes to use baking soda.

              The last time I cooked beans (peruanos) I used a 1/4 t of baking soda (for 1c beans). The beans cooked faster than I expected (though I wasn't timing things carefully). They were soft, but were not falling apart.

              1. re: paulj

                Fantastic information. Thank you.

                1. re: paulj

                  I am NOT a fan of baking soda. they get soft, but there's something slimy about the texture. OTOH, I don't soak either, so take that for what it's worth. Pintos are usually done in about 2 hours. Creamy, great broth.

                2. re: EarlyBird

                  pretty much what i do, but also add cumin (i find that seeds stand up better to prolonged cooking).

                  if you have problems with pintos, you might consider trying peruano beans. i personally don't find that i need to add anything like baking soda to get them to turn out quite creamy. and to keep this on topic, i typically get mine at super king. most recently at $.69/lb.

                  1. re: barryc


                    I don't generally have a problem getting beans to be nice and soft and creamy. My interested in "fresh" dried beans is that when I've been able to get them they seem to come out particularly tender and there is some kind of additional richness to them. When I want an alternative to pintos I've had luck with pinquitos, just a bit smaller and well, pink.

              2. It may not be quick and easy in LA but when I was living in the area I always tried to plan to get beans from Lompoc Beans <>. Loved all there varieties, locally grown. Besides... making the drive up there gave me a good excuse to stop for a wine tasting :-



                1 Reply
                1. re: SteveOtruba

                  Cool. I'm a major bean lover. I'll have to check them out.

                2. just one moment to say that the new mexican staple of well-cooked pintos "re-fried" with bacon fat and topped with a little bit of cheese is about as good as food gets.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FED

                    That's for sure. I absolutely love New Mexican style food.