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Ecuadorian bean stew – Menestra de porotos

My recipe for Ecuadorian menestra de porotos or menestra de frijoles, a traditional bean stew dish, made with beans simmered in a sauce of onions, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, chili powder and cilantro or parsley.

Ecuadorian menestra de porotos

En Español

Menestras are popular dishes in Ecuador, they can be made with lentils or beans. They are usually served with rice, plantains, salad and your choice of protein: beef, pork, fish, chicken or an egg (vegetarian option). The menestra de lentejas is made with lentils and is another popular menestra that you will find in Ecuador.

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Menestra de porotos bean stew

My mom, with her background in New Mexican food, made menestra de porotos or beans more frequently than menestra de lentejas.  She is probably to blame for my intense dislike of canned beans; once you get used to cooking beans from scratch it is really hard to eat bland canned beans.  Yes, you can add spices and flavor to canned beans, but it doesn’t compare to homemade cooked beans.

In Ecuador you can find a huge variety of beans, I love going to the market and looking at all the different colors of beans. Menestras are usually made with dry beans, however one of my favorite is menestra de porotos tiernos or fresh beans. Fresh beans are harder to find here in the US, though I did see some last summer at the farmer’s market and will try a fresh bean menestra this summer.

Ecuadorian style bean stew or menestra - easy recipe

A menestra would not be a true menestra without the essential side dishes: rice (a must – no substitutions) helps soak up the sauce that the beans simmered in. The fried ripe plantains complement the dish with a nice sweet touch. Some avocado slices and a small side salad, with onion and tomato curtido, add freshness and acidity. Finally, most restaurants will offer you a choice of fried or grilled meat, pork, chicken, or fish, with the menestra.

When I was growing up, my mom tried to limit the amount of meat we ate, so it was very common for her to serve this menestra de porotos with a fried egg instead of meat. If you are vegetarian and are ordering this dish at a restaurant you can also request an egg in place of the meat.

Ecuadorian bean menestra with rice, plantains, egg and salad

The beans in the menestra get their flavor from simmering the spices and vegetables that make up the refrito or base of the dish. The refrito for this menestra is made with diced red onions, diced tomatoes, crushed garlic, achiote or annatto powder, cumin (both whole and ground, and chili/paprika powder – very basic ingredients that add a lot of flavor to the beans.

The final touch is the chopped fresh cilantro or parsley that is added at the end. For extra favlor, save half of the refrito or make a double batch to add at the end for an extra touch of flavor for the menestra. This bean menestra is a very easy dish to make. It takes a couple hours to cook, depending on the freshness of the beans and type of beans. You can also cook the beans in the pressure cooker for a quicker process. The beans need to soak overnight, but the preparation is very simple.

Ecuadorian menestra de porotos

Menestra de porotos: Ecuadorian bean stew

Menestra de porotos is an Ecuadorian bean stew, made with beans simmered in a sauce of onions, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, chili powder and cilantro or parsley.
4.89 from 104 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Ecuadorian, Latin American, South American
Keyword: Bean stew, Beans, Ecuadorian menestra
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Soaking time: 12 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 8 – 10


  • 1 lb dry beans soaked overnight
  • 2-3 tbs oil
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 6 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 cup of diced and peeled tomatoes fresh or canned
  • ½ tsp achiote or annatto powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds – whole
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder more or less to taste
  • 8 or more cups water
  • 2-3 tbs finely chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan or pot, add the diced onions and crushed garlic, let cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, achiote powder, cumin seeds and ground cumin, chili powder, and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the soaked beans and simmer for about 2 hours or until tender. Cooking time for beans depends on the type of beans and their freshness.
  • Add salt to taste, adjust any other seasonings to taste.
  • Mix in the chopped cilantro or parsley. For extra flavor, you can make an additional batch of refrito with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and cumin to add in at this point.
  • Serve with Ecuadorian style cooked rice, fried plantains, salad with tomato and onion curtido, fried or grilled meat (or fish /poultry/egg), avocado slices and some good aji or hot sauce on the side.

Step by step preparation photos for Ecuadorian bean stew or menestra de porotos

Menestra de porotos with rice and egg
Menestra de porotos or Ecuadorian style beans
Menestra de porotos or Ecuadorian beans

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  1. Porfa, Spanish .. in this recipe is the buenisima but I would be doing if not too much to ask to translate into Spanish, is to see how I would stay following in his footsteps, it seems that I eat stew with just seeing the pictures so spectacular that has and it made me want me now I do and I hope that when I can translate the recipe a beautiful greeting …

    Ecuador supports you, do not forget .. that is my food ricaaa Ecuadorian palate’m open to trying different cuisines like Italian, Mexican, Argentina, thailandesa, Japanese, and I love it but for day to day mine will not change by none of mundoooo .. thanks for wanting his own.

  2. Just made this last night using black beans and served it with all the trimmings. It was a great meal to end a long day. I having leftovers now and it’s amazing.

  3. I just made this recipe with a wailing newborn by my side :) I put in extra cumin since I didn’t have cumin seeds and substituted ground red pepper and oregano since I didn’t have chili powder. I think the flavors were cooked out towards the end so I re-seasoned it. Thanks for sharing this recipe…it’s definitely different and I was looking for a change in pace.

  4. Thank you so much…I’m Ecuadorian and don’t no a thing about cooking any of it…just eating it all up when I was there 10 years ago. Thank you. I made this dish…and it’s simply incredible. Thanks.

  5. Laylita,

    This recipe is amazing. I made a big pot when we went to our family’s lake cabin, and it was an absolute hit. Very easy, and very amazing. Love the web-site. Glad to see you posted something recently! I was worried you were quiting the blogging business.


  6. I discovered your website, and I have to tell you I love it. I made the aji criollo, and encurtido everybody really enjoy it. My husband is from Quito, but he has family in Cuenca and love the food from that area, I am looking for the recipe for Sopa de Habas, please let me know if you know how to prepare it.

    Hi Inge – I have a recipe for locro de habas: https://www.laylita.com/recipes/2008/06/04/fava-bean-soup/

  7. Hi Laylita – thank you for your fantastic site! I’m English but my boyfriend is Ecuadorean and I’ve recently visited Ecuador for the first time since we’ve been together. It was wonderful and the food was delicious… he is a chef and makes a lot of Ecuadorean food but now I’ve found your site, I can make it for him too – which seems to make him very happy! Made menestra, locro de papas and llapingachos so far (I’m vegetarian but these are great)… you’ve inspired me to cook again and I’m going to start working on ‘ceviche de chochos’ next!

    Thank you

    Adam, Manchester, UK

  8. I have been searching religiously for South American food sites. They are a rare breed. Then I found yours…it is great, but you haven’t posted in a loooooooong time! Are you gone??? Please come back and post some more of these wonderful recipes!!!!!

  9. I just stumbled upon this blog a little while ago, and I’m in love! I’m very excited to try out more of the recipes you’ve written about here. :-) I tried this stew a few days ago, loved it, and wrote about your blog and this dish in my food blog! Just wanted to let you know that I wrote about you. :-)

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