Spicy Bean Stew: The Best

The Best Spicy Bean Stew

This recipe for a spicy bean stew makes for robust flavours and a hearty meal

This spicy bean stew is incredibly rich and filling. It is essentially a chilli con carne, but without the meat. Perfect if you are looking for something comforting, but also healthy and inexpensive. The combination of the mushrooms and beans create a meaty flavour and texture. Like all good vegetarian food, it just happens to be vegetarian. In a dish like this there is absolutely no need for any sort of meat. It is so good I now tend to make this more than the meaty version.

The recipe calls for dried beans, but no overnight soaking here, rather they are cooked straight from their dried state. This doesn’t take long, and the beans are so good when done this way. Not all beans require the traditional, and lengthy, soaking method. And another point – cooking the beans in salted water doesn’t make a bit of difference to their texture. It doesn’t make the skins tough and hard. You would need to drastically change the pH of the water to affect the texture of the beans. In fact, adding a pinch of salt at the beginning means you won’t need to add as much salt later on. Click here to see what Russ Parsons from the LA Times has to say on the matter.

Just make sure to cook them 2 – 3 hours before you start preparing the rest of the dish. This stew isn’t the quickest in the world, but if you take the time to do everything properly, you will end up with something really special. We eat this with rice and sour cream, and avocado when we can find good ones. This could easily serve six people, so for all of you who like to be organised – you could make this big batch and freeze it for a later date.


250g black beans, dried, no soaking required

250g kidney beans, dried, no soaking required

400g can plum tomatoes, crushed in a bowl

1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 medium to large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, bashed and finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

500g chestnut mushrooms, diced

Sunflower or cooking oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted in a pan and ground with a mortar and pestle

3 tsp paprika, the unsmoked kind

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, alternatively you can add 1 (2.5cm) stick

2 fresh bay leaves

3 tsp dried oregano

Chilli for heat – you can use fresh red chilli, I used 2 small very hot dried chillies, it depends on how much heat you want.

3 tsp fine sea salt

1 tbsp chopped coriander

1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley


First cook the beans. Put the black beans in a pot, cover with plenty of water and a pinch of salt. Bring the beans up to a simmer very slowly with the lid on. Cook like this for 2 – 3 hours. You may have to top up the water from time to time. Just make sure the beans are submerged. Do the same for the kidney beans. When you are satisfied the beans are soft enough, leave them to sit in their water with the lid on while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Take a large pan to brown the mushrooms. I use a wok to get a really direct heat. Heat up the pan as hot as you can get it, with 2 tsp cooking oil. Add a small amount of the mushrooms and stir until they have soaked up the oil. Leave them for a few minutes to colour, then stir fry until they are a deep golden brown. When they have developed a nice brown colour, remove from the pan to a bowl and repeat this process until all the mushrooms have been cooked. It is important to do this in small batches, so to colour the mushrooms well. The deeper the colour, the richer the final flavour.

Now take a large heavy based pot and heat 3 tbsp oil over a high heat. Add the onion, peppers, celery and bay leaves. Squeeze the bay leaves before you add them to release their oils.

Keep it moving over a high heat for 15 – 20 minutes to caramelise the vegetables. Aim for a deep brown colour. If you think it is turning too dark, or beginning to burn, add a little water and keep stirring.

Now add the garlic and chilli. Stir for a few minutes to soften, then add the paprika and cumin. Don’t cook for too long so the paprika doesn’t burn. Pour in the vinegar and reduce for a minute or two. Stir for another few minutes and add 100ml water and the tin of tomatoes. Now add the salt and oregano.

You can now add the mushrooms and the beans along with their cooking water.

Cook over a low to medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a nice thick stew.

Before serving check for seasoning. Stir in the coriander and parsley.

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