This smoked bean dip with pickled jalapeños is rich and spicy

Paula Disbrowe
'Thank You for Smoking' cookbook
Smoked bean dip

About the recipe

Adapted from "Thank You for Smoking: Fun and Fearless Recipes Cooked with a Whiff of Wood Fire on Your Grill or Smoker," by Paula Disbrowe (Ten Speed Press).

Inspired by the canned variety sold by Frito-Lay (a guilty pleasure, I confess), this homemade version of an iconic Tex-Mex bean dip is way more delicious, without the dubious ingredients.

I'd always soaked dried beans before cooking them until a couple of friends and accomplished bean cookers convinced me to skip this step. Now I simply rinse beans and cook them on the stovetop at a very low simmer.

The result is a deeper "bean" flavor and perfectly tender, creamy texture. Adding meat to the bean cooking liquid isn't essential here, but creates a richer stock. The added fat creates a luscious texture. I like to simmer pintos with a fresh turkey neck, but you could also use chicken necks, bacon, a ham hock or a smoked wing or two.

Stock up on corn chips and cold beer regardless. Even a vegetarian version of this dip will please a crowd with its smoky bean-and-briny-jalapeño essence. You won't need all the beans for this dip. Serve the brothy, smoky leftovers in flour tortillas or alongside crispy fried eggs.

Serves: 4 to 8

Hands on time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes


1 pound dried pinto beans

1 white onion, chopped 

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 

2 or 3 fresh bay leaves 

1 turkey neck, 3 or 4 chicken necks, 3 slices thick-cut bacon, a ham hock, or 2 smoked chicken wings (optional) 

1 large pickled jalapeño chile, stemmed and sliced, plus more for garnish 

1 teaspoon jalapeño brine, plus more as desired 

1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Crystal, plus more as desired 

1 teaspoon pure ground chile powder, such as New Mexico or ancho

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 

1/4 teaspoon onion powder 

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 

1/4 teaspoon cayenne 

Corn chips, for serving


To smoke the beans: Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high.

When the coals are glowing red and covered with fine gray ash, use tongs to remove the cooking grate and place a drip pan with 1 inch of warm water on the side with no coals, and add your smoke source (chips, chunks or log). Return the cooking grate to its position, allow it to heat and then carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.

Place the beans in a disposable aluminum pan or atop two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil (crimp the edges of foil upward to create a rim and prevent them from sliding off). When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke, place the pan over indirect heat, close the grill, vent the grill for smoking, and smoke for 25 to 40 minutes, until the beans are deeply fragrant and have darkened slightly. For even results, stir the beans and rotate the pan around the heat after 15 to 20 minutes and keep an eye on their color after 30 minutes to ensure they don't become too dark. 

To make the bean dip: Place the dried beans in a large pot and rinse them a couple of times with cold water. Drain the beans in a colander and then return them to the pot with the onion, garlic, bay leaves (to taste) and turkey neck in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by 5 to 6 inches. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the beans are creamy and tender, about 1 hour, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. If time allows, let the beans cool in their broth (this slow cooling process creates an especially creamy texture). Drain the beans in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Discard any meat and the bay leaves.

Ladle 3 cups of the cooked beans and the 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid into a food processor. Add the jalapeño slices and brine, the hot sauce, chile powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne and blend until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more jalapeño brine or hot sauce as desired. Serve the dip either warm or chilled — it's good either way — with the chips and beer.