Ecuadorian Bean Stew (Menestra de Frejol)

Ecuadorian Bean Stew, aka Menestra de Frejol, is a traditional bean stew dish featuring beans simmered in a flavorful broth with cumin, tomato, onion, green pepper and garlic. Serve with a side of steaming hot rice, pickled red onions and fresh avocado for a healthy, vegetarian meal!

Grey bowl with rice, menestra de frejol, pickles onions, avocado and patacones.

What is menestra de frejol?

If you have ever been to Latin America, you will notice that beans are a staple in the diet. In Ecuador, you will encounter a meal with saucy beans (or lentils) on the side at least once a day! This Ecuadorian bean stew is called "menestra de frejol" or "menestra de frijoles". This same dish is referred to as different names in different countries, and have slightly different means of preparing them. For example, these would be called frijoles a la olla in Mexico, or simply frijoles in Colombia and Peru.

Within Ecuador, each person has their own way of making menestra de frejol. Usually, you will see it be made with red beans called canary beans. They look kind of like pinto beans, but are darker in color. Sometimes it is made with the addition of diced or shredded plantain to make the sauce a little bit thicker. It is almost always served with rice and some sort of meat or fish. I personally think it makes a wonderful, well rounded vegetarian meal! This is one of my favorite things to make during the week for a nutrient dense and super flavorful meal.

Let's get started!

Ingredients

This Ecuadorian bean stew recipe uses basic ingredients that you might already have on hand, to make a delicious and simple side dish. Here's what you'll need:

Ingredients needed for Ecuadorian bean stew.
  • Beans: I used dried black beans here. Typically, Ecuadorians make their menestra de frejol with canary or "canario" beans. However, I don't think you can easily find these in other countries. So I went with a bean that I know is easy to find in most places. You can also use pinto beans, which are definitely more similar to canary beans. If you prefer to use canned beans, check out the notes in the recipe card below!
  • Oil: Here in Ecuador, you can find oil mixed with achiote, which is what I used. But it really isn't necessary. Simply use a neutral oil like canola oil or olive oil. Add a dash of achiote powder or achiote paste if you have it on hand, if not, don't worry!
  • Red Onion & Green Bell Pepper: Diced red onion and green pepper are the start of what is called a "refrito" in Ecuador. This is the base flavor and what starts to build a lot of the flavor in this dish. It is basically the Latin American "mire poix" which is onion, carrots and celery, in French cooking. The flavors of onion, green pepper and tomato (which comes in the form of tomato paste in this recipe) are very common in all Ecuadorian dishes.
  • Salt: 1 tsp of salt is a suggestion, please add as much salt as you think is necessary depending on your taste. It is good to taste it at the end and adjust.
  • Garlic Cloves: Freshly minced garlic cloves add the best flavor here!
  • Ground Cumin: Another very common flavor in Ecuadorian cooking, it will lend a lot of flavor to the sauce!
  • Oregano: For a hint of herby goodness!
  • Smoked Paprika: Adds just a slightly smoky flavor.
  • Tomato Paste: For a deep tomato flavor. I prefer using tomato paste since it holds up well when simmering for a long time. Fresh tomato wouldn't be as flavorful here.
  • Broth: You can use chicken broth, vegetable broth or water! If using water, you will need to adjust for salt at the end.
  • Cilantro: Fresh cilantro stirred in towards the end or used as garnish is traditional.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Soak the Beans: If you are using dried beans, soak the dry beans overnight in a container large enough to have 2 inches of water above the layer of dried beans. After they have soaked, drain and set aside.
  2. Sauté the Veggies: In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat up the oil (with achiote if you have it) on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the diced onion and green pepper. Let sauté until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
Green pepper and onions sautéing in achiote and oil.
  1. Add Garlic: First, add the salt to the veggies. Then, turn the heat down to medium heat and add in the minced garlic. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add Spices: Next, add in the cumin, oregano, smoked paprika and tomato paste. Stir and let bloom and cook, for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add Beans & Broth: Next, add in the dried and soaked beans, or add in the canned beans along with their juices. See notes for how to make menestra de frejol with canned beans. Then add in the broth.
  1. Simmer: Bring the bean stew to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer on low heat for 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the size of your beans. Black beans will take around 1.5 hours, whereas canary beans and pinto beans will take closer to 3 hours. Keep an eye on them and test their tenderness with a fork. Once the beans are tender, take off the heat.
Bean stew simmering on the pot.
  1. Serve: Serve this Ecuadorian bean stew with a scoop of rice, pickled onions, avocado, and patacones, along with a garnish of fresh cilantro if desired. Enjoy!
Bean menestra served with rice, onions, avocado and plantains.

Tips for Success

  • Serve your bean stew with a side of white rice, avocado slices, fried egg, and fried green plantains, as a vegetarian option! You can also serve it with a piece of grilled or pan-seared chicken, pork or steak. The options are endless!
  • 1 cup of dried beans will make about 2.5 cups of beans in the end! It is enough for 4 large servings or about 6 smaller servings, depending on what you are serving your beans with.
  • You can simply dice up your onion, green bell pepper and garlic, or you can add them to a food processor so they are more like a paste! Some people find that it is easier to just pop them into a food processor instead of dicing them into small pieces.
  • You can use white onion in place of red onion if you have that on hand!
Spoon lifting up a spoonful of beans with the plate of beans and rice in the background.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to soak the beans?

Technically you don't have to soak the beans. But soaking the beans will decrease the cooking time and will help you to better be able to digest them! I recommend always soaking dried beans prior to cooking them, unless you are cooking them in a pressure cooker or Instant pot.

How do I thicken my bean stew?

Generally, Ecuadorian menestra de frijoles is pretty saucy, with a lot of liquid. The reason for that is so that the rice can soak up all that lovely sauce! However, if you don't want your bean stew to be as saucy, you can certainly add less water. The amount of sauciness will depend on the number of cups of water or broth you add to the recipe, as well as how long you simmer it. The larger the bean, the longer it will take to simmer, the more liquid the bean stew will need! If you end up with a stew that is too liquidy, take the lid off and let it simmer a bit longer and let the magic of evaporation do its thing.

How should I store leftover beans?

If you have any leftover bean stew, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days! Simply reheat it in the microwave or on the stove before serving.

Black beans served next to rice, avocado, plantains and onions.

More Recipes to Try

Menestra with rice, avocado, plantain and onion in a light blue bowl.

Ecuadorian Bean Stew (Menestra de Frejol)

Ecuadorian Bean Stew, aka Menestra de Frejol, is a traditional bean stew dish featuring beans simmered in a flavorful broth with cumin, tomato, onion, green pepper and garlic. Serve with a side of steaming hot rice, pickled red onions and fresh avocado for a healthy, vegetarian meal!
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Ecuadorian, Latin American
Servings 4
Calories 245 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup dried beans black, canary or pinto beans
  • 2 tbsp oil with a dash of achiote powder if you have it
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp smoked paprika or a few dashes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth or water. See notes below.

Instructions
 

  • If you are using dried beans, soak the dry beans overnight in a container large enough to have 2 inches of water above the layer of dried beans. After they have soaked, drain and set aside.
  • In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat up the oil (with achiote if you have it) on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the diced onion and green pepper. Let sauté until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  • First, add the salt to the veggies. Then, turn the heat down to medium heat and add in the minced garlic. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Next, add in the cumin, oregano, smoked paprika and tomato paste. Stir and let bloom and cook, for about 3 minutes.
  • Next, add in the dried and soaked beans, or add in the canned beans along with their juices. See notes for how to make menestra de frejol with canned beans. Then add in the broth.
  • Bring the bean stew to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer on low heat for 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the size of your beans. Black beans will take around 1.5 hours, whereas canary beans and pinto beans will take closer to 3 hours. Keep an eye on them and test their tenderness with a fork. Once the beans are tender, take off the heat.
  • Serve this Ecuadorian bean stew with a scoop of rice, pickled onions, avocado, and patacones, along with a garnish of fresh cilantro if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

I made my menestra with black beans, and 3 cups of water/broth was good. If you are using a larger bean that will soak up more liquid, such as canary or pinto beans, use 4 cups of liquid. 
To make Ecuadorian bean stew with canned beans: You can substitute the dried beans with two cans of beans instead (or half the recipe and use one can), and drastically reduce the liquid. Pour the beans into the pot along with the liquid from the can, then add about 1/2 cup additional water to the mixture. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes and season with salt to taste. 
The amount of liquid you add is up to you, you can make a saucier menestra with more liquid, or a chunkier menestra with less liquid! Add salt as you desire, depending on how much liquid you add. 
1 cup of dried beans will make about 2.5 cups of beans in the end! It is enough for 4 large servings or about 6 smaller servings, depending on what you are serving your beans with.

Nutrition

Calories: 245kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 12gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 1275mgPotassium: 766mgFiber: 8gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 161IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 4mg
Keyword ecuadorian bean stew, menestra de frejol
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




2 comments

  • cooking advice says:

    4 stars
    Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from
    an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog?
    I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick.

    I'm thinking about setting up my own but I'm not sure where to start.
    Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Thank you

    Reply
    • Lauren @ Blissfull Kitchen says:

      Hi! I learned a lot from Food Blogger Pro on how to start up my blog. You can sign up for a membership and then they have step by step videos on how to get your blog off the ground!

      Reply