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Updated: Oct 10, 2017 00:22
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Puerto Ricans don’t call beans frijoles, we call them habichuelas. Pink beans stewed with tomato sauce, sofrito and sometimes some form of smoky meats (hock or bacon). Much to my chagrin, dried pink beans are incredibly difficult to find. Perhaps this is the reason why so many online habichuela recipes start with “use one-14oz can of beans…” I don’t think so, homie. This isn’t the only shortcut Puerto Ricans have come to utilize as I found out during a recent discussion with The Noshery’s Meseidy Rivera, when she mentioned that using fresh sofrito and achiote oil was “old school.” How can it be old school when I still apply these methods to my cooking and I’m only in my early thirties? My grandparents came here in the 50s, maybe because we’ve only been here for three generations – virtually isolated from other Puerto Ricans – we haven’t adapted the shortcuts that many people develop through acculturation. But, I surely didn’t know that my cooking was “old school,” I just thought it was “grandma’s.”

I splurge when I purchase beans, usually settling on a bag of Rancho Gordo pinto, red kidney or ojo de cabra. Rancho Gordo beans are not designer, they’re heirloom. People put care into producing a quality product that cannot be matched by the dust ladened bag that sits on the shelves of your supermarket. These beans are plump, meaty and buttery; and no butter (or any other fat) was added during the cooking process. But, they sure were buttery.

Habichuelas Recipe (Puerto Rican Beans)

Prep Time: 10 hours

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 13 hours

Yield: 8 servings

This recipe seems long, but it’s 8-10 hours of inactive bean soaking. And 3 hours of bean simmering.


  • 16oz dried Ojo de Cabra beans
  • 2 medium yukon golds, diced into quarters.
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2TB sofrito


  1. Rustle through the beans; you’re looking for pebbles or shriveled looking beans to discard.
  2. Soak 16oz of beans in 3-4 qt. cold water, overnight.
  3. Drain the beans and discard the bean soaking water.
  4. In a large pot, cover the beans in 3 qt of cold water with 2 cloves of garlic and one small onion and bring to a boil. Bring down to med-low heat and let beans simmer; 2 hours.
  5. Keep an eye on the pot, ensuring it has just enough water that the bottom isn’t stuck to the pan. But, you do want the water to reduce significantly. Skim off and discard any scum.
  6. Add 2TB sofrito. Cook 40 mins.
  7. Add potatoes and salt to taste. Cook another 20 mins.


You can freeze the extra sofrito in an ice cube tray (for up to 6 months) and use it in stir-fry, chili and curries. You can omit the potatoes in this recipe. Their purpose is to create the viscosity I prefer in the end, so the sauce drapes over the rice.

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