A ladle of hot and flavorful bean stew is a must have at any meal in Brazil. We love our bean stew with a spoonful of white rice besides vegetables, beef, chicken or fish. On the plate, some prefer to put beans and rice side by side, others like to put the beans on the top of the rice and there are people that love to mix them. We also serve them with farofa, the crispy manioc flour with butter and some chili peppers.

It’s remarkable that these beans are eaten everywhere, from South to North, from East to West and at the fancy and simple meals and homes.

Photo: Ana Bacellar

Our beans are a savory dish, different from the slightly sweet from some American recipes. They are closer to the white bean stews, but with larger amounts of sauce and smaller grains.

Buying beans is always fun, considering there are a lot of varieties, like the tiny pearly ones (manteiguinha, that means butter, as it almost melts), black eyed beans, the small ones like the carioca (the most popular), rosinha, bolinha, roxo, mulato and the larger ones, as rajado and jalo, which is also one of the most beloved ones. Beans are more tender and tastier when new, that’s why it’s important to purchase them from a good market.

At home, I normally wash the grains, put them in the pan (that may be a regular one or a pressure cooker, since some grains take longer to cook), cover them with water and bring the water to a running boil. I then drain and discard the boiling water (to turn them more digestive), cover with plenty of new water, add a bay leaf and cook gently until the grains are very tender and buttery (smash a grain between your finger to check if it’s smooth). If necessary, I add more water during the cooking time. They may take from one and a half to three hours to cook properly.

After this first process, I normally divide the beans in some portions, using one of them right away and storing the others in the fridge for 2 or 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month.

To finish the recipe, I drizzle a pan with vegetable oil to sauté the chopped onion and garlic, and then add the beans and salt. Next, I smash some grains with the ladle to get a thicker sauce and let the stew boil for about 5 minutes. If you desire, you can add a little bit of tomato sauce, herbs, a piece of bacon or smoked sausage.

That’s it! Very simple, very tasty and very Brazilian.

Yields: 6 portions
Total time: about 4 hours


  • 2 cups raw beans of your choice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt


Wash beans, transfer to a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Drain the beans and discard this first water to make the dish easier to digest. Cover beans again with water (5 cm / 2 in above the beans), add the bay leaf and cook gently over medium heat until beans are tender and buttery (smash a grain between your finger and you’ll understand what I mean). If necessary, add more water during cooking time. They may take from one and a half to three hours to cook properly. If you want, you may cook beans faster in a pressure cooker pan.

When beans are properly cooked, transfer them to a bowl and drizzle the same pan with vegetable oil. Add onion and, when it begins to brown, add garlic and fry until fragrant. Return cooked beans with all the cooking liquid to the pan, add salt and let it boil for about 15 minutes until flavorful and thickened. Adjust salt and serve hot.