Brazilian beans

March 10, 2021 | People | Volume 25 Issue 6
Virginia A. Hostetler | Executive Editor
A meal of rice and beans makes a frequent appearance on every Brazilian table. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

I grew up in Brazil, a child of missionary parents. One regular item on our family menu was the traditional Brazilian rice and beans meal. These are the daily staples of cuisine throughout Brazil, a wholesome and inexpensive combination eaten by people of all economic classes. To read a story about eating rice and beans, visit “Communicating at the table.”

The most common bean used in Brazil is a brown bean; in North America pinto beans are a good substitute. For fancier meals, black beans add colour and flavour. The ingredients below can be tweaked according to your taste and the items available in your kitchen.


  • 2 ¼ cup dry beans (pinto or black)
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • I large onion, chopped finely
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 large bay leave
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)
  • 3 to 4 green onions, chopped (optional)
  • Bite-sized pieces of cooked sausage or smoked turkey (optional)


  1. Sort the beans, picking out any stones or dirt. (A simpler method is to use canned beans, skipping to step 5.).
  2. Wash beans and put them in a bowl. Cover well with cold water and let them soak overnight.
  3. In the morning, drain water and put beans into a pot covering them with new cold water.
  4. Simmer on the stove for several hours until tender. (Alternatively, cook in a pressure cooker for about 15 minutes.)
  5. When beans are cooked, remove from the pan and drain, reserving the water for later.
  6. In the pan, sauté chopped onions, garlic, parsley and green onions in the oil, stirring occasionally.
  7. When the onions are clear, add a large spoonful of the cooked beans and a bit of liquid back into the pan and mash then into the mixture. This will help thicken the sauce later.
  8. Add the rest of the beans in, with some of the liquid. Season with bay leaf, salt and pepper. Add the meat, if desired. Simmer everything for at least 45 minutes, to allow the flavours to blend. Stir occasionally, adding more of the reserved bean liquid as needed to make a sauce.
  9. Serve over cooked rice, with a salad or other vegetables.

A meal of rice and beans makes a frequent appearance on every Brazilian table. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

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