Ingredient Spotlight: Rancho Gordo beans

We’d like to highlight beans from Rancho Gordo

IMG_20150301_153007In our experience it’s difficult to come by beans (and other legumes) that aren’t cross-contaminated with gluten. The same equipment is generally used to process and store legumes and grains up and down the production and distribution chain. This requires us to buy directly from growers or smaller distributors that have a reputation as not having gluten cross-contamination. Rancho Gordo fits into the latter category.

Rancho Gordo sells a variety of high quality, gourmet, heirloom beans it sources from farmers across the US and Mexico. These aren’t cheap at $6 a pound (about two dried cups worth) but the peace of mind preparing from a source we’ve vetted and quality level make them worth the cost. If you like to eat well, these beans are for you.

Here are a few varieties we heavily rely upon and that I don’t think you can go wrong using.

Yellow Eyed Peas – These are equivalent to, and can be substituted in any recipe that calls for black eyed peas. These are so good that I take a bag or two of yellow eyed peas when we travel with Sprout.


My most common use is to put the following in a slow cooker on low: one cup yellow eyed peas, three cups water, and an onion. They’re soft and creamy in eight hours. Yum! I also drop a handful into soups that I would otherwise put in peanuts or where these just seem to fit the bill.


Rio Zape – A rich, flavorful bean that can be used in any recipe that calls for pintos and in place of kidney beans in chili.


Royal Corona Beans – Gigantic white runner beans that can be used in any recipe that calls for cassoulet or gigante beans. They take about 12 hours in my slow cooker to become creamy. Our best luck has been with a 1-2 lb chunk of stewing meat like pork shoulder or beef chuck.

Are they gluten free?

Note that Rancho Gordo doesn’t guarantee that its products won’t be cross-contaminated. From its FAQ:

Are your beans gluten free?

All of our products (which are indigenous to the Americas) are naturally gluten free. You can enjoy them with a reckless abandon. We make no special efforts, however, to keep things gluten free and it’s possible that there can be some cross-contact in the fields and cleaning facilities. Dried beans need to be rinsed (and well!) so any potential danger should go right down the sink.

Unlike legumes from other sources, we — knock on wood — haven’t had any issues to-date. This may be due to luck but I think may stem from fewer parties handling the beans in the distribution chain. Rancho Gordo appears to work directly with farmers without middlemen. It could be the long and winding distribution chain (with greater chance of cross-contamination) that has caused us problems in the past. Either way, we do rinse beans twice before using.

Where to buy

Prices are generally best when buying directly from Rancho Gordo via its website — — or at its store front in the San Francisco Ferry Building (when we’re there). Right now, it offers free shipping over $75, which really isn’t hard to do. Its website has a store locator with local distributors if you want to try some beans first before dropping $75+. The list isn’t complete as I recently purchased beans from a Whole Foods in south Denver that isn’t listed. The price was still $6 per bag.

And because these are heirloom varieties you can use some of the beans to seed plants in your garden to harvest yourself. It’s a great project for kids. Sprout had fun growing his own food and took on an added appreciation for farm work.

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