LUDO BITES AMERICA: Grandma's Bean Pie

LUDO BITES AMERICA airs Tuesdays at 9p on Sundance Channel.

Introducing guest blogger Ashley Rodriguez, who writes the food blog Not Without Salt.

My Grandma is incredibly resourceful. I do believe it’s a requirement of her generation. She manages to complete any given task with whatever she can find around the house, kind of like MacGyver. She’s been known to use scraps of cheddar cheese in her famous orange jello, where they’re nestled against canned mandarin oranges suspended in free-fall. As a member of a flourishing food loving era I pride myself for taking days to seek out the proper ingredients for a single meal, scouring dozens of specialty food stores to find the perfect peppercorns to season my Cacio e Pepe. But Grandma just gets the job done.

It must have been someone like my Grandma who came up with the idea for this bean pie, which relies on the unusual choice of pinto beans as the starring ingredient, a last minute resort made, I can only imagine, out of sheer desperation.


3 cups sugar

¼ pound unsalted butter (1 stick)

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons cornstarch

5 well-beaten eggs

3 cups cooked navy beans or pinto beans, mashed through a food strainer or puréed in a food processor

2 cups evaporated milk

1 teaspoon lemon extract

5 drops yellow food coloring

2 uncooked 8-inch pie shells

I started instead with my own Grandma’s pie dough, which yields an incredibly tender crust: 2 cups flour, a few pinches of sugar, about a teaspoon of salt, ½ cup canola oil, ¼ cup milk. Stir together and press in a pie pan for one pie. I par-baked it in a 350º F oven for 20 minutes to ensure a thoroughly cooked crust.

Pintos were my bean of choice. It’s what I had – see, I was being resourceful! The recipe was not unlike a pumpkin or squash pie. The only difference is the creaming of the butter and sugar. Start there and then add in the remainder of the ingredients. I didn’t have lemon extract on hand but I did have a lemon, so I added about 1 tablespoon of juice.

I poured in the filling and baked until set, 50 minutes at 350º F. A sweet, cinnamon air filled the room and allowed me to forget, for a moment, that this pie gets its bulk from pinto beans – something I have compartmentalized as being savory.

When it was cool I took a bite and marveled at its alluring sweetness. The texture was smooth, the smell was familiar and spicy, and the taste was a welcome treat for a gray Seattle summer afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised, but I think I’ll stick to fruit for my pies from now on – I’m okay with chocolate too.

Hungry for more? Tune in for a cross-country road trip with celebrity Chef Ludo Lefebvre as he reinvents American cuisine. LUDO BITES AMERICA airs Tuesdays at 9p on Sundance Channel.

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