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Black beans with pumpkin seeds and hoja santa

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Let's start with what is hoja santa? It is a large leaf that is used in Latin, Mexican and South American cooking but is relatively unknown outside the region. This herb is used as a wrap for slow cooked meats, or as a flavoring agent for salsas, moles and sauces. It has a unique deep flavor that adds a lot to any dish. Here is a great article on this herb.

Black beans are usually cooked with tomatoes and dried chilies, but this recipe steps out of the ordinary. Here the beans are cooked in a thickened sauce of pumpkin seeds and hoja santa leaves giving a creamy rich sauce that is perfect with any taco.

Diana Kennedy is the queen of Mexican cuisine. She has received both Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle and membership in the Order of the British Empire, for her contribution to Mexican cuisine and the her work in the region. I have quite a few of her books, they are absolutely amazing and a must for anyone who really wants to deep dive into Mexican cuisine. This book is one that encompasses all the regions in Mexico and filled with exciting recipes just like this one.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


8 oz. black beans, soaked overnight in about 8 cups of water

1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 large sprig espazote, if available, or 1 tablespoon cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1 1/3 cups pumpkin seeds

1 large hoja santa leaf, or 2 dried avocado leaves

2 serrano chilies

Salt to taste

Dry roast the pumpkin seeds on a pan till they begin to pop and are lightly toasted. Cool completely and grind to a fine powder.

Roast the whole serrano chiles using tongs over an open flame till charred all over. Set aside.

Drain the water the beans that were soaking in overnight. Refill with approximately 5 cups water, add the onions and espazote, and simmer till the beans are cooked but still have a gentle bite, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

Add the ground seeds and simmer gently for 10 minutes till the sauce thickens. The sauce will tend to stick to the bottom of the pan, stir often scraping the bottom to dislodge stuck paste. Add the hoja santa and the charred chillies and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add the salt, stir and taste and adjust as needed. Serve as a side with any tacos, tostadas or quesadillas of your choice.

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