Smoky Chilli Beans

I’ll often soak and boil a big batch of beans and freeze them, ready to throw into dishes like this. If you don’t have time to soak and cook the beans, use three 400g cans of kidney beans instead.

Prep time: 15 mins + soaking
Cook time: about 2 hours
Serves: 10 as a side


  • 2 cups dried kidney beans (4½-5 cups cooked beans)
  • 4 dried smoked chillies (ancho)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp oregano leaves
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1.2kg tomatoes, chopped, or 3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes or tomato pulp
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • To garnish
    • ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves


  1. Place beans in a large pot, cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and cover with fresh water (do not add salt). Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until tender (about 1-1½ hours, depending on age and dryness of beans). Drain.
  2. Remove stems from dried smoked chillies and discard. Cover chillies with boiling water and soak 30 minutes until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, toast cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over medium-high heat, shaking occasionally, until fragrant and starting to pop (about 1 minute). Crush in a mortar and pestle.
  4. Heat oil in a large pan and cook onions and garlic over a low heat until softened but not browned (about 10 minutes). Add crushed seeds, oregano, fresh chilli, tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  5. Lift the smoked chillies out of their soaking liquid, reserving the liquid. Chop chillies finely and add to the tomato sauce with the soaking liquid and the cooked beans. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to prevent catching, until thick (about 45 minutes). Alternatively, bake for about 1½ hours in an oven preheated to 180°C.
  6. To serve, adjust seasonings to taste then spoon into a deep serving dish and top with coriander.