The following recipe is adapted from Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky: Modern Plant-Based Recipes Using Native American Ingredients by Lois Ellen Frank with culinary adviser Walter Whitewater. Read our Q&A with chefs Frank and Whitewater here.

Chef Walter grew up eating pinto beans all the time, and he loves this bean spread served on sandwiches, toast, and with freshly cut vegetables for a family gathering or celebration. I use this spread on my toast in the morning for a quick, nutritious breakfast. For an ancestral twist, try making it with brown tepary beans (S-oam Bavi), white tepary beans (S-totoah Bavi), and black tepary beans (S-chuuk Bavi). We find that blackening garlic is well worth the extra 10 minutes of prep time. It softens the flavor of raw garlic and brings an earthy quality to any dish.

For more vegan spreads, check out these tasty ideas:

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  • 1 cup peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 15.5-oz. cans no-salt-added pinto beans (3 cups)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon mild New Mexico red chile powder (optional)


  • For Blackened Garlic, heat a small cast-iron skillet over high. Add garlic cloves to hot skillet. Cook 3 minutes or until garlic starts to blacken. Cook and stir 3 minutes more or until garlic is lightly blackened on all sides. Add dried thyme and a pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; toss to coat. Transfer to a cutting board; let cool. Mince garlic.
  • Drain pinto beans, reserving liquid. Rinse and drain beans. If you like, reserve a few beans for garnish.
  • In a food processor combine beans and 3 tablespoons Blackened Garlic; process until smooth. Add lemon juice and chile powder (if using). Season with salt and black pepper. Process until creamy. (There should be no lumps.) Add reserved liquid from the pinto beans, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, as needed to reach desired texture. Top with reserved beans (if using) and additional chile powder. Serve Pinto Bean Spread immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Store leftover Blackened Garlic in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days.

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About the Author

Headshot of Lois Ellen Frank, PhD, and Walter Whitewater

About the Author

Lois Ellen Frank, PhD, and Walter Whitewater

A Santa Fe–based Native American chef, Native American foods historian, culinary anthropologist, author, and photographer, Lois Ellen Frank has spent over 20 years documenting the foods and life ways of Native American communities throughout the Southwest. She is the author of Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky: Modern Plant-Based Recipes Using Native American Ingredients and the James Beard Award-winning book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations. Chef Walter Whitewater was born in Pinon, Arizona, and is from the Diné (Navajo) Nation. He grew up in a traditional family and began cooking as a young boy after seeing people cooking at some of the traditional ceremonies his family attended. Whitewater served as culinary advisor for Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky and Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations. Frank and Whitewater are the co-owners of Red Mesa Cuisine, a Santa Fe catering company that features Native American, local, and sustainably sourced foods for events with wild ingredients that are hand gathered from Native American nations all over the United States.
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