Rio Zape Beans

Serves 6+  One of my favorite dishes involves dried heirloom beans. I buy them online from Rancho Gordo and they are wonderful. Two of my favorites are Mother Stoddard beans and Rio Zape. If you can’t get them, you can always use dried pinto, or black beans from the market. I list Tasso ham as an ingredient in case you have some available. It’s a heavily spiced Cajun style ham and when I find it, I buy a small chuck and then chop it up and freeze it in small portions. It is great added right out of the freezer in split pea soup, or chili or beans or even minced for scrambled eggs. These beans are excellent the next day and also good smashed and refried.



1/2 lb  *dried beans (Rancho Gordo Mother Stoddard or Rio Zape)

            or Black Beans sorted and rinsed 3 times – *soaked overnight in water

4-5 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1/4 cup  Trader Joe’s pork belly (it’s already cooked) – cubed

           or 3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2” wide pieces

1/4 cup cubed ham (optional) or 1/4 cup cubed cajun seasoned Tasso – if available

1 small red onion – chopped

1 Roma tomato – chopped

generous pinch Kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

dash cayenne (optional)

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp Mexican Oregano or regular Oregano

3 Tbsp good cider vinegar



In a large pot, put the beans and their liquor into a large pot. No need to drain the soaking water but make sure there is enough water to cover the beans by about an inch.  Add the chopped garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer,, partially cover it with a lid  and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Add hot/boiling water as needed so the beans remain covered in liquid. The length of time it takes for the beans to start to become tender depends on the age of the beans you use and whether they were soaked overnight or just for a few hours.


Just before the hour is up, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the pork belly or bacon pieces and cook until they start to crisp. Then stir in the ham or tasso (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes to heat the meat thoroughly. Stir in the chopped onion, cumin, and Mexican Oregano. Cook until the onion is softened.


Stir the meat/onion mixture into the pot of beans, add the tomato, salt, pepper and vinegar. Mix together well. You can add more cayenne or other dried chile pepper if you want more heat. Bring it all to a light boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer, without a lid,  for another 30-40 minutes or until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally and check liquid level. Remove the pan from the heat and let the flavors blend while you finish cooking the rest of your meal.


Serve it as a side dish with a sprinkle of chopped green onion, some grated cheddar cheese and a dab of sour cream. Or you can add more meat and have it as a hearty main dish.


*NOTE: If you forget to soak the beans overnight, just wash them as directed, put them in a bowl, cover them well with cold water and let them sit until you’re ready to start cooking. Soaking just reduces the cooking time so even a couple of hours will help.