Cretan pinto beans

Health benefits | Our recipe | Ingredients | Preparation | Accompaniments

🇬🇷 Μπαρμπουνοφάσουλα Κρήτης
Feeds: ~5 people
Needed time: ~60 mins
Gluten free: YES
Vegetarianism: Vegan Ⓥ
Ingredients score: 🔎🔎🔎
Healthiness score: 🥑🥑🥑
Preparation score: 🍳🍳
Time score: ⌛⌛
Overall score: 😋😋😋
Recipe score system
Cretan Diet Guide

Pinto beans (in Greek “barbounofasoula” or “chantres”), falling into the category of legumes, are the most popular beans in the USA and parts of Mexico. They are also popular in South America, Spain and Portugal. There is, however, one important difference between the pinto beans consumed in the places mentioned before and the Cretan pinto beans; the former are first dried up, whereas Cretans eat their pinto beans fresh after they have been harvested from vegetable gardens across the island. It is therefore a very summery dish, as this is the season when pinto beans are collected. As the pintos in Crete are eaten fresh, Cretans cook them together with the tender parts of their pods and leaves (they are sold on their pod and sometimes with some of their foliage!); this greatly contributes to the taste and pleasure of the dish. As with almost every dish, Cretans cook fresh pinto beans with fresh tomato juice and extra virgin olive oil. Cretan pinto beans with their accompanying greens is a starchy and rather light dish that is perfectly comforting after a “tiresome” day full of summer activities. This is one of the first dishes we crave for when summer time arrives. This dish is one of the basic ones of the Cretan vegan cuisine; its health benefits and recipe are found below.

Health benefits

Pinto beans are legumes of very high nutritional value and several health benefits. They are low fat, rich sources of protein and really good sources of dietary fiber. They contain significant amounts of folate, vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B6 and minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium. They are demonstrated to lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, thereby contributing to avoiding heart disease (effects of folate, magnesium and potassium) while they stabilize blood sugar levels (effect of fiber). They are also great sources of energy and antioxidants. The healthiness score of Cretan pinto beans is an easy 3 out of 3 (🥑🥑🥑) as the dish is fully beneficial to the body.

Our recipe

The recipe below feeds approximately 5 people as main dish. Cooking time is around 30 mins and cleaning the fresh pinto beans requires another 30 mins, so the time score is 2 out of 3 (⌛⌛). The dish is really tasty and healthy and is really typical Cretan, justifying an overall score of 3 out of 3 (😋😋😋).


Fresh pinto beans are rare outside Greece, so the ingredients score is 3 out of 3 (🔎🔎🔎). The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1 kg of fresh pinto beans on their pod
  • 1 big onion finely chopped
  • 350 gr of fresh tomato juice (preferably) or passata
  • 3 medium sized potatoes chopped into 4 parts each
  • ~1 teaspoon of salt
  • A bit of pepper (according to your wishes)
  • Water (as much as needed)
  • 1 teacup + 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (should be always added at the end)


In terms of preparation score, it receives 2 out of 3 (🍳🍳) as it requires close supervision. Follow the steps below:

  1. Remove the beans from their pods. You can keep the pods and foliage that are tender and discard the rest.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan to warm up.
  3. Add the chopped onion and leave them for 3 mins to brown a touch.
  4. Add the chopped potatoes and leave the mixture for another 3 mins.
  5. Add the pinto beans, tomato juice, salt and pepper.
  6. Add water to the pan while making sure it does half cover the mixture.
  7. Let the mixture simmer for about 20 mins without stirring until pinto beans and potatoes soften. The time depends on how quickly our particular pinto beans cook.
    1. During this time we add just a bit of water to let the sauce thicken.
  8. Switch off the hob when the beans and potatoes are soften and the tomato sauce is thick (should not be watery).
  9. Add the olive oil and shake slightly the pan. Do not use a lapel for stirring as you can mash your beans which is undesirable.
  10. Cretan pinto beans are ready to be served!

It is important that olive oil is added the end of the cooking for two reasons: (1) it retains its full taste and (2) it retains all its nutritional value, some of which is destroyed with cooking.

Served fresh pinto beans with potatoes and pods

Best accompaniments

Cretan pinto beans are greatly accompanied with a mildly salty Feta cheese.

Cretan pinto beans require some bread to go with, preferably a healthy Cretan wholemeal bread. Follow this link (Cretan healthy bread with a breadmaker) to see our version of delicious Cretan wholemeal bread. If you prefer the traditional hand made bread version follow this link (handmade Cretan healthy bread).

Cretan pinto beans after being cooked

Recipe last edited: 26/02/2019

© Recipe and photos by Agisilaos Papadogiannis