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Feijoada – Spicy Beans Goan-Style – from India

Installment #4 in our continuing series on Rice & Beans. 

The idea behind this series of mostly vegetarian meals is that if we eat more frugally just once a week, with the money we save We Can Feed Another…(Read about the hunger problem in the November 1st post that introduced the series.)

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In Goa, the smallest of India’s states and a former colony of Portugal, the people enjoy a spicy bean dish called Feijoada.  It’s made with either black-eyed peas or kidney beans and is traditionally served over steamed rice. Even though Feijoada is sometimes made with the addition of sausage, India has a long tradition of vegetarianism and this dish holds up very well without it.  Black-eyed peas, if you’ve never had them, are much smaller in size, have a more delicate taste and a more pleasant texture than their large red cousin the kidney bean, and it’s the bean we’ll use here.

With all the spices that make up a fragrant curry, and coconut milk that softens and mellows, Feijoada is another hearty and especially delicious dish. 

I made my own curry powder for this – (only because I kind of like playing with spices – you might have noticed) – but you can certainly avoid that step and simply add a mild, good-quality curry you’ve purchased. I certainly would if I were looking to save time.

If you’d like to make your own curry powder –

Fragrant Curry Powder

(makes about ½ cup)

  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg pieces (nutmeg can be broken with kitchen knife or back of heavy pan)
  • seeds from 5 white cardamom pods (or 4 from green)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon red peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup coriander seeds (yes, ¼ cup)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 dried curry leaves, if you can find them (Indian grocers and some Asian markets would have them.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek

Combine all the ingredients except the fenugreek in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking or stirring often, until the spices are lightly browned and their fragrance is rising. This will only take a few minutes. During the last minute of cooking, add the fenugreek powder and continue stirring.

Remove from heat and cool.  Using a spice or coffee grinder, process the spices until finely ground. Store in a small lidded jar for up to several months.

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I started with dried black-eyed peas. For one thing, dry beans cost pennies. For another, I like the taste of home-cooked beans better. But again, if you’re short of time, you can find them canned and frozen. I’d recommend the frozen if you have a choice between the two.

If you’re starting with dried beans, soak them in enough water to cover by several inches for at least a few hours. (You can begin the morning of if that’s most convenient.) Discard the soaking water, start with fresh to cook the the beans. Put them in a good size pot, covered by a couple inches of water, no salt, and bring water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer while you prepare the rest of the stew.

Feijoada – Spicy Beans, Goan-Style

(serves at least 4)

  • ½ pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over (or several cans – or – 1 or 1½ packages of frozen)
  • 2 large onion, peeled (cut into large pieces)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small dried red chile or 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • one 1-inch piece fresh ginger (about the thickness of a thumb) peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed, canola, corn or other neutral oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Fragrant Curry Powder or any mild, good-quality curry powder
  • 2 large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (or about 1½ cups of canned diced tomatoes)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon tamarind paste (see NOTE)
  • Garnish:   Torn cilantro leaves, wedges of fresh lime, and finely chopped red onion

NOTE: Tamarind paste is found in Asian section of many markets, next to curry paste. If you can’t locate it, you can use fresh lime juice to taste, but the tamarind paste also imparts a nice rich color to the soup as well as its characteristic tart.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onions, garlic, chile, and ginger and process until thoroughly combined and resembling a paste.

Put the oil in a large saucepan or stove-top casserole dish over medium heat. Add the onion mixture, along with salt and pepper and curry powder. Cook until most of the moisture from the onions has evaporated and the mixture just begins to brown. (5 to 10 minutes.)

Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a boil. If you’re using pre-cooked beans (frozen or canned) add them now and cook for about 20 minutes. If you’re cooking your own beans, cook them in their separate pot until just shy of done before adding them to the rest of the soup. (Reserve some of the bean’s cooking liquid to add if you need a bit more liquid.) Cook for about about 30 minutes more after combining. These cooking times are variable and the soup is incredibly forgiving if cooked “too long.”

Just before serving, add the tamarind paste and stir to combine.

Serve over cooked rice. (To see how to bake perfect brown rice in the oven you can look here.)  I chose to add some wild rice to brown basmati rice for this dish. The two rices have the same cooking times and the black and white rice looks good paired with the the black and white beans. Garnish with cilantro leaves, diced red onion and a wedge of lime.

This recipe was slightly adapted from one appearing in The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman

and consultation with Amit, my good friend from India

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. having just returned from south India I’m craving more of this. when I get home I’m going to unpack the spices from my rucksack and give it a go. thanks for the inspiration! (ps. am INCREDIBLY jealous of the beautiful plate in your bottom photo!)

    November 23, 2011
  2. This dish looks incredibly delicious to me. I have curry several times a week but I don’t doubt that this dish is superior to what I’m eating. I’ll be sorry to see this series end.
    Also, once again I am compelled to say that the photography is outstanding–in particular, the picture of the skillet with all the spices and flavorings displayed in all their many forms is especially beautifully composed–it pleases my eye so much that I have to remark on it.

    November 23, 2011
  3. Wow! I bet this is utterly delicious. And I learned so much about spices here. I must echo Joe’s comment — that composition is exquisite. I’m so awed by this eye (and this mouth) you have. Thank you.

    November 23, 2011
  4. Oooooh I just adore your photos Spree. You have such a creative talent!

    November 23, 2011
    • Jacqueline, thank you so much!

      November 23, 2011
  5. I love black eyed peas and love how you prepare them here.

    November 23, 2011
    • If you come back around to check comments, let me know how you like to eat black-eyed peas, will you? In a stew? A soup? By themselves? I love ’em too!

      November 23, 2011
  6. Spreesgratefulguineapig #

    This I would say is the portly rodent’s favorite dish in the series to date though they have all been good. This was extremely aromatic and so perfect for a windblown stormy evening.
    Love the visuals in this one Spree, the spice shots are near three dimensional and five sensical!! Your lab coat was so colorful with the dusting of your curry spread about it. Fatboy-fanboy scores it a solid 4.6 on the Portly Rodent Scale.

    November 23, 2011
    • For those of you out there who wonder about the Portly Rodent’s grading system – don’t be put off or at all concerned. Though he gobbles his bowlful up, asks for seconds and licks his little paws after, he’s a notoriously hard grader. If I ever get an A+ from him I’ll begin to worry.
      And to you, Portly Rodent, I’m very happy it took the chill off and that you liked it so much. And thank you for the compliments on my photos. And I bet you can’t wait til tomorrow! Wear your big boy pants! xo,spree

      November 23, 2011
  7. Darlyn #


    November 23, 2011
  8. dosdoodles #

    OMG this looks amazing. Obviously, I have to make this tomorrow night!!

    November 29, 2011
  9. How important is the tamarind paste? In case I can’t find it would the dish be badly compromised without it? Thanks….


    November 29, 2011
    • I think the dish can hold up “fine” without it Ronnie. It won’t be the same…it will lack the deeper color that tamarind paste provides, but that’s not a huge loss. If you’re unable to find it – add fresh lime juice to taste at the same point the recipe calls for the addition of tamarind. The lime will approximate what you’d get from the tamarind. A number of our markets carry tamarind paste though – and in each case it’s very near the red or green curry pastes in the Asian section. hope you find it.

      November 29, 2011
      • Thank you so much, Spree. I haven’t given up, but couldn’t find it locally.Your recipe sounds so heavenly that I must make it NOW!!

        I love your blog; you write beautifully as well as have delicious recipes.


        November 29, 2011

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