Tepary Bean Pâté

Tepary Bean Pâté
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Tepary Bean Pâté on bread
For formal testing, we spread a bit on fresh bread.

We’d guess that many readers, especially outside the southwest, have never heard of tepary beans. These beans are small and desert-adapted, and have traditionally been grown by the Tohono O’odom people. According to Native Seeds/SEARCH (our supplier for tepary beans), this is one of the most drought and heat tolerant crops, making it perfect for the Tucson area. In case you’re wondering about the name,  we’ve read someplace that the name “tepary” means “it’s a bean.” So, really, the Tepary Bean Pâté  we’re making today could also be called “bean bean pâté.”

We know we’ve made bean pâtés before (dips, really, but pâté sounds better), and, to be honest, they’re all pretty similar, but we figured that some of you out there might like to make a real southwestern bean pâté, using traditional southwestern beans, so we’d post it. Also, this is a 100% Scratchin’ original recipe, available direct from the Scratchin’ It Central Office.

Tepary Bean Pâté

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

Tepary Bean Pâté


  • 1 pound tepary beans
  • 1-2 dried chili pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbs cumin seeds
  • 2-4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 3 small lemons
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Abbreviated Instructions

Place beans in a large saucepan and cover with several inches of cold water. Cover and let sit overnight. Drain and rinse beans, discarding any that are bad.

In a large saucepan, bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt, bay leaf, red chili pods, and rinsed beans. Return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Taste the broth occasionally during cooking and remove and discard chili pods when it reaches desired spice level.

While the beans are cooking, place cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat and toast until golden and fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind into a powder. Set aside.

Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid.

Using a food grinder or food processor, grind beans into a large bowl. Add about 1/2 cup reserved bean liquid, ground cumin, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. Stir to combine. Add additional reserved liquid as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight, to allow flavors to meld.


Ingredient discussion:

Obviously, you can’t make tepary bean paté without tepary beans. They’re a pretty special bean, so it’s not as if you’ll find them at your standard grocer. As we said above, we get ours from Native Seeds/SEARCH, right here in Tucson. For the chili pods, we went with some spicy ones, because we wanted our tepary beans to have a little kick. Feel free to omit if you don’t do spicy. We do toast our cumin seeds and grind them, but cumin powder will work just fine. And, just so you know, the olive oil does dual duty here: it makes for a smoother pâté, and it adds flavor, so pick a good tasting extra-virgin olive oil.

Procedure in detail:

soaking tepary beans
Soaking beans overnight reduces the cooking time significantly. We always do it.
tepary beans
Here you get a good look at tepary beans; they’re a small flat bean packed with flavor.

Soak beans. This is the secret of making beans: if possible, soak the beans overnight. So, place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with several inches of water. The beans swell while soaking, so you’re better off with too much water than too little. Cover and let stand overnight. The next day, drain and rinse.

skimming foam
All beans foam up when they start to boil; we try to skim off as much foam as possible.

Cook beans. In the same saucepan, bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the salt, chili pods, bay leaf, and beans. Bring back to a boil. As the beans start boiling they’ll foam up. Scoop the foam off the surface and discard. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 hours.

removing chili pod
Taste pretty often, as the spice level can sneak up on you.

Remove chili pods. While the beans are cooking, taste the broth every once in a while to check the spiciness level.  When the broth is as spicy as you’d like, simply remove the chili pods and discard.

toasting cumin
Toasting the cumin seeds results in a better, more complex, flavor.

Toast and grind cumin seeds. Another thing to do while the beans are cooking. Place the cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring or shaking very often, until golden brown and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t let the seeds burn, because you won’t like the taste, and you’ll have to toast some anew. Once toasted, grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and set aside.

Grind beans. When the beans are done, remove the bay leaf and drain, reserving all the cooking liquid. You might not use it all, but you might. Grind the beans; we use a food grinder that we attach to our KitchenAid mixer that gives a texture we like (we use the finest grinding plate we have), but a food processor will work, too. You might have to grind in batches, though. Transfer the ground beans to a large bowl.

adding seasonings
Once the beans are ground, all you need to do is season and stir.
adding liquid
The reserved liquid helps smooth out the pâté so you don’t have something that’s dry and crumbly.

Combine. See everything else on the ingredient list? Now’s the time to add it, along with about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid. Stir to combine and make a smooth pâté, adding more reserved liquid, if needed.

Taste and adjust. Taste your pâté and adjust seasonings. You can add salt and pepper, more lemon juice, or even other spices. Make this your special Tepary Bean Pâté.

Tepary Bean Pâté
Letting the pâté sit in the refrigerator overnight helps meld together the flavors.

Meld. Cover and place in the refrigerator, preferably overnight, for the flavors to meld.

We like tepary beans; they have a stronger flavor than most beans, making them perfect for pâté. However, they take longer to cook, and, even when they’re cooked all the way through, they tend to have small tough spots, which keeps the pâté from being as smooth as it would be if you’d used other beans. We like adding the chili pepper, although you have to be careful, as it can make for some spicy beans. Overall, this is a great dish to make for a crowd; four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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