How To: Cook Rancho Gordo Beans

Last Saturday was date night! We headed to Formaggio Kitchen and participated in a cooking demo by Rancho Gordo's Steve Sando!
At first I thought, "who doesn't know how to cook beans?" but realized that it's something many of us don't do. And beans are so much more tasty when you cook them from dry vs. opening a can. It may seem like too much work, but I'll bet you a pot of beans that you won't go back to canned once you try Steve's beans.
I have a special place in my heart for Rancho Gordo. They sell their beans at the San Francisco farmers market and I used to buy them there all the time when I lived there. They are so delicious and fill a niche in the food world that needs to be filled. After all, beans are an inexpensive food rich in nutrients, fiber, and protein, and can be added or worked in to almost any meal.
Steve Sando a.k.a. "the bean guy" is pretty rad. After multiple career changes, he decided he needed to start following his passions. So, he started gardening, and out of gardening blossomed this bean-growing business. A unique quality of his business is that he travels to Mexico on a regular basis, swooping in and saving the last few heirloom beans on farms that have begun to grow hybrid and genetically modified seed. He brings them to the Bay Area (Napa, specifically) or more recently, working with the farmers in Mexico to grow these beans for commercial sale in the states (and in Mexico, as strange at that seems). As a result, Steve has saved lots of heirloom varieties of beans in jeopardy of being lost forever. Steve also believes in practicing authentic ways of Mexican cooking, like using clay pots, not using a pressure cooker, etc.

But Steve's class was the 101 (411?) on making a pot of beans. It's simple, really.
  1. Buy fresh beans (Rancho Gordo beans bought in the online store are no older than one year).
  2. Rinse beans and pick out any extraneous stuff.
  3. Soak for 6-8 hours. Oversoaking is just as bad as undersoaking, so 6-8 is enough for fresh beans.
  4. Saute an onion and garlic, and add beans.
  5. Bring to a bubbling low boil for 5 minutes, and then set to simmer. Depending on the variety, simmering can be anywhere from 1-4 hours.
  6. This will result in the most delicious beans you've ever eaten!
Steve also demoed the process of making authentic corn tortillas. The key is getting nixtamalized corn, which means the corn has been treated with an alkaline solution (usually lime called Cal) which makes the shell of the corn kernel fall off and you're left with the starchy part of the kernel. This is also called masa harina and nixtamilized corn can be bought commerically in this form. Steve recommended Maseca for making corn tortillas here in the states.
Mix your masa harina with some water and form into little lime-sized dough balls.
Slap the dough into a tortilla maker and fry, in a dry fry pan, each side for about 45 seconds.
You'll end up with something like this. For the record, it's so very different from what you can buy pre-made at the grocery store.
Steve then moved onto a couple different salsa recipes.

First, a salsa verde featuring tomatillos and serrano peppers.
And then a basic chile sauce sauce featuring Ancho and Guajillo peppers. After roasting the tomatillos, peppers, and garlic, he pureed all of the ingredients and it made quite a sauce. Smoky, rich, sweet, and spicy, this sauce was definitely a highlight of the evening.
I learned a lot about cooking beans, but decided that in order to test what I had learned, I had to try it out myself! So, I bought some Rio Zape beans, Steve's cookbook, and headed home, energized to make some delicious beans.

Stay tuned for the Rio Zape bean recipe...

Question of the Day: Do you cook beans from scratch or just open a can? Have you ever tried Rancho Gordo beans? And, what's your ideal date night? A night out cooking beans or something else? Humor me, please. I just realized how it might have sounded pathetic that we spent our date night cooking beans with a guy from Napa.


  1. YUMMMM!!! two of my favorite foods-beans and fresh corn tortillas! Those look fantastic! I do make dried beans, they are so economical and you can easily control how much sodium, spice etc you add it. They are just time consuming. So if i'm home doing homework all day i'll just throw a big pot on and make them for the week. i do really want to try rancho gordo beans though, a good excuse to visit formaggios asap!

  2. I made fresh corn tortillas with that masa a few weeks ago, I didn't have a press so they were wonky shaped but so very easy and worth it!

  3. Great post! I've cooked beans from scratch for many years, but the results vary widely, depending, I think, on the freshness of the beans. I heard Steve talk at the Chef's Collaborative Summit on Monday and got a sample of his beans - I can't wait to try them.