Maple Teparies

Ever since my visit to Owamni last June, I have dreamt of one dish in particular: cedar-braised teparies. That dish is woody, sweet, and savory at the same time – and thus almost magical. Since then, I have come to very much appreciate not just that recipe, but all of the wonderful things one can do with tepary beans.

Tepary beans are an indigenous type of bean from Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora – in the traditional lands of the Tohono O’odham. This area is one of the driest in the world, and the tepary bean has been bred to withstand some extreme drought conditions. It grows in many climates and is water resistant – and is absolutely delicious. The beans are nutty but savory, and have a toothsome bite even when fully cooked and soft. I briefly mentioned teparies in my piece about climate mitigation – and now am providing a recipe here. Most teparies come from native producers on traditional lands – I recommend Ramona Farms as one, O’odham-owned and -run source.

Teparies take a long time to cook – and this is where culinary modernism and a pressure cooker come in handy. Over a typical heat, teparies can take several hours to cook – which is great for the weekend, but can sometimes be quite difficult to fit into the normal week. And though tradition matters, we should also remember that these kinds of cooking times historically ate into the lives of those who cooked (mostly women) in ways they did not exactly choose. With a pressure cooker, the cooking time reduces to just an hour of largely hands-off cooking time. In addition, with refrigeration, we can now cook beans in advance – and keep them, knowing that they will be safe to eat, for the next day or day after. Between technology and their climate potential, teparies have a lot to offer.

Brown glazed beans with flecks of sauteed scallion in a bowl
Maple teparies (photo mine, February 2023)

For this recipe, I melded two other recipes for teparies: one by Owamni’s chef and cookbook author Sean Sherman, and the other by Kusuma Rao – a food blogger with some truly excellent work. I decided to add some of my other favorite flavors, including red onion and the very much not-indigenous butter. I’m quite happy with the result, which is reminiscent of both Sherman’s dish and an old-time, but less soupy, Boston baked beans. You can serve this dish with many things – but I recommend also trying Sherman’s sweet potatoes with maple chili crisp with these beans, or a nice short pasta. I also recommend trying both Sherman and Rao’s recipes too – they’re excellent.

Maple Teparies

Based partly on recipes by Sean Sherman and Kusuma Rao (Ruchikala)

1 cup tepary beans, soaked in 2 inches water for at least 4 hours or overnight

3 ½ cups water

1 red onion, peeled and cut in half

5 bay leaves

2 tbsp neutral flavored oil (I use sunflower or canola)

½ cup maple syrup, divided in two ¼ cup portions

2 tsp salt, divided into two 1 tsp portions

1 tsp dried sage, divided into two ½ tsp portions

3 tablespoons butter or neutral-flavored vegetable oil*

3 scallions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

¾ teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

  1. Drain the beans, then place into a pressure cooker with the water, red onion, bay leaves, neutral oil, ¼ cup of the maple syrup, 1 tsp of salt, and ½ tsp dried sage.
  2. Seal the pressure cooker. Place the pressure cooker on the heat as per the manufacturer’s directions. When the pressure cooker begins hissing or whistling, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for one hour. (Follow a similar pattern for an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker.)
  3. Remove the pressure cooker from the heat. Let the pot depressurize, then remove the cover. Take out and discard the onion and bay leaf.
  4. Drain the beans. You can save the liquid if you like to use in a soup or stew. You can go up to this step in advance, and then cook the beans within the following three days.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and then add the oil or butter.
  6. Add the scallions and garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the garlic begins to change in texture, smell, and color.
  7. Add the remaining salt and sage, along with the paprika, and stir in.
  8. Add the beans and mix thoroughly with the other ingredients in the pan.
  9. Add the remaining maple syrup and the vinegar and mix thoroughly with the beans.
  10. Cook, stirring frequently, until any liquid in the pan is mostly reduced, about 5-10 minutes.
  11. Remove from the heat and serve.
  12. Store leftovers in a sealed container for up to five days in the refrigerator.

*Variation: you can also use coconut oil, but if you do so, add another ¼ tsp paprika and an extra teaspoon of maple syrup when you sauté the beans to balance the flavors.

Leave a Reply