National Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual month long observation from September 15th through October 15th. It recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans and celebrates Hispanic heritage and culture in the United States.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month I’ve asked Mexican-American food blogger, Gabriela Lopez of Gabriela’s Kitchen, to share one of her favorite recipes from her childhood.

As you will see, her childhood memories in the kitchen have not only kept her connected to her culture but has greatly influenced her relationship with food and family.

“My grandmother’s gas stove had four burners and all four were always full. On one she’d simmer a huge pot of pinto beans, on two others a pot of New Mexican green chile and another of red chile. On the front burner she’d flip flour tortillas on a hot comal or griddle and lovingly stack the hot, handmade tortillas between a folded soft clean kitchen towels. This was the meal I’d look forward to with each weekly visit to my grandma Ida and grandpa Lorenzo’s adobe home.

“I learned how to clean beans at their kitchen table where it was my grandpa’s job to remove the out-of-place pebbles and malformed frijoles. The black, shriveled, broken, and small beans got tossed aside. Grandma would then rinse the plump freckled beans, put them in a big pot with a few slices of bacon and place them atop the gas stove to cook for three hours. Two and a half hours in, she’d add salt and simmer them for a half a hour more.  The end result was simple, humble and soul filling.

“My grandma Ida would let my brother and I help knead and roll-out the dough for the tortillas. Although ours weren’t perfect round discs my grandma would cook them up on the comal. My brother would eat his immediately, while I was so proud that I’d take it home and keep it until my mother convinced me that I would make one next week and I would sorrowfully toss away the stale tortilla.

“We learned the importance of coming together as a family to create and share in a meal through these experiences as small children in the kitchen. Allowing children to take on small tasks like cleaning beans or kneading and rolling out dough gives them the confidence and interest in cooking that will not only provide them with fond memories but also help them have a healthy and happy relationship with food for the rest of their lives.”

Gabriela Lopez was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and currently lives in New York City. She is the publisher of Gabriela’s Kitchen, a Latin recipe focused blog and is mentored by legendary chef, cookbook author, and restauranter, Zarela Martinez.  She highly recommends Martinez’s cookbooks but especially her first, “Food From My Heart” which is part memoir and part cookbook and documents her experience growing up on a ranch in Mexico.

Other noteworthy Latino food blogs worth exploring:

Zarela Martinez’ Website http://www.zarela.com/
Pati’s Mexican Table: http://patismexicantable.com/
The Otherside of the Tortilla: http://theothersideofthetortilla.com/
A Chica Bakes: http://www.achicabakes.com/
The Mija Chronicles: http://lesleytellez.wordpress.com/
Cooking in Mexico : http://kathleeniscookinginmexico.wordpress.com/

Recipe: Homemade Tortillas the Way Grandma Made Them

  • Prep Time: 30 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 2 hours and 30 min(s)
  • Total Time: 3 hours and 0 min(s)

A recipe for tortillas and beans by Gabriela Lopez.


    Homemade Tortillas

    • 4 cups all purpose flour or 2 cups white flour + 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 2 Tbs. baking powder
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening
    • 1 cup + 1/2 cup warm water

    Homemade Beans

    • 2 cups dry pinto beans
    • 8 cups water
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 1/2 small white onion, peeled but root intact
    • 2 slices bacon (optional)
    • Salt to taste



    • Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut in the lard or shortening until evenly dispersed, the dough should feel more coarse and mealy.  Add 1 cup warm water and knead, if dough is too dry add more water a tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft and pliable but not too sticky. Knead for 3 minutes. Form into a large ball and let rest for 1/2 hour in a floured bowl covered with a damp cloth.
    • Form into round balls, about the size of a ping-pong ball. On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin roll dough into discs about 1/8 inches thick. Cook on a preheated, very hot, griddle for about 30 seconds per side until golden brown speckles appear, flipping only once.
    • Keep the tortillas warm by placing in a clean, dry towel. Store cooked tortillas in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for one day or in the refrigerator for up to five days. Reheat on the griddle before serving.


    • Measure 2 cups dry beans and spread them out on a clean, dry surface. Pick over beans making sure to remove any broken, shriveled or black ones and pebbles.  Place beans in a colander and rinse.
    • Place beans, water, garlic, onion and bacon in a large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil on medium-high. Reduce to a gentle simmer on low heat and cover.  Cook for 2 ½ hours, checking water level to ensure the beans are not dried out. If needed, add more very hot water to the pot.
    • Remove the whole onion. Salt to taste and simmer for another 30 minutes, until beans are fully tender.  Enjoy with fresh tortillas! Beans may be stored in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for up to six months.

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15 Responses to “Authentic Tortillas and Beans”

  1. Aviva Goldfarb Aviva Goldfarb

    Yum!! I had the great pleasure of watching women make fresh tortillas last year in Belize and let me tell you those fresh tortillas hot off the griddle were a million times better than the store-bought tortilals my family usually enjoys. Thanks for the recipe, Alice!

  2. maggy@threemanycooks

    What a great post. I particularly love this: “We learned the importance of coming together as a family to create and share in a meal through these experiences as small children in the kitchen” – Amen to that! Also, those tortillas look incredible. It’s lunch time and I’m HUNGRY 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Alice and Gabriela.

  3. TotalFoodie

    Thank you for posting the recipes! I used to make tortillas & beans with my mom and hope to do the same with my daughter when she gets a little older! There’s nothing better!

  4. Tracy López

    I still haven’t attempted homemade flour tortillas (only corn), but I will one of these days. (Some of the authentic homestyle store bought ones from the Latino market are really good when toasted on a comal – but homemade is always better so I can only imagine!)

    I enjoyed Gabriela’s memories … and the links to other food blogs are great. I’m already a big fan of several of them (The Other Side of the Tortilla, The Mija Chronicles, and Pati’s Mexican Table.)


  5. Silvia

    Thanks for sharing!!

    There is nothing like fresh hand made tortillas, I still remember, my abuelita use to take me to the market and while we wait in line to buy some I used to eat a rolled tortilla with salt in it, yummy!!

    Beans are so easy to make, I use a presure cooker and they are ready in 20 minutes!!

  6. Cooking in Mexico

    I love smelling a pot of beans simmering on the stove. I always add a few springs of the Mexican herb, epazote, for a unique flavor.

    Thank you for adding a link to my blog on your page. I’m honored to be included with Gabriela and Leslie.


  7. Mamabear

    Aaah… Gabriella! Grandma Ida would be so happy to see the beautiful young woman you have become. And Grandpa Otero. . . well, he would just be happy that fresh homemade tortillas and beans were being made! Hold on to who YOU are and where you came from. . . . . always.

  8. SeattleMommy

    I love this – I can’t wait to try it!!! Thanks!

  9. Bobbi

    Oh My Goodness!! You are the BEST! I have been looking for this for years and never found exactly what I wanted, until now! My Aunt Dela made this for us when I was a kid and it brings back such wonderful childhood memories ~ I would literally stuff myself on her tortillas and beans! Thank you ~ Thank you ~ Thank you!! 🙂