Traditional Bean Pie Recipe & History

Tradition Bean Pie Recipe & History

Bean Pie, My Brother?

That’s what you’re likely to be asked by a clean cut, bow-tie-wearing African American man in the intersection of some major city. That, or you’re asked to buy a copy of “The Final Call,” the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam.

The bean pie dates to the 1930s, when the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, told his followers to eschew pork and unhealthy starches like corn bread and sweet potatoes and adhere to a healthful diet, with a particular focus on the navy bean. Muslims created the bean pie in part as a healthier substitute for the sweet potato pie.

In the “Bean Pie, My Brother documentary” by filmmaker Hassanah Thomas-Tauhidi, Jabir Muhammad — son of Elijah — talks about how Shabazz, Muhammad Ali’s main cook and a member of the Nation of Islam — created the pie, which Jabir Muhammad then began selling in his bakery to great acclaim. Before long, the pie became inextricably associated with the Nation, which sold them to raise funds, sold out of iconic pink boxes on street corners by men in those familiar bow ties.

When Nation members began opening restaurants, bean pies became a menu staple. Beyond the restaurants, young men — especially those who could find no other employment — began selling the pie and the group’s newspaper on the streets. Many male members of the Nation have at one point or another sold the pies — almost like a rite of passage. But few have made selling them their sole trade.

Bean pie is considered a cross-cultural creation. Created by members of the Nation and extremely popular with the African-American Muslim community as well as Southerners of all races and walks of life, bean pie took on a life of its own.  Professional chefs/bakers as well as your average everyday kitchen novice, began experimenting with different beans (mainly pinto beans and the great northern white bean) as well as crust options ranging from a traditional pie crust to a graham cracker crust to gluten free crusts. Bean pie can now be found at Kwaanza festivals, Black History Month related festivals, Martin Luther King Day festivals, reggae festivals, jazz festivals, and the like.

Today I share with you the bean pie recipe that has become a staple in our home. My husband’s family is Muslim and it is through them that I came to learn about and become instantly addicted to this pie! I am providing you with the traditional recipe and noting gluten free options in parenthesis.

Bean Pie2 Traditional Bean Pie Recipe & History recipes food culture  muslim / american muslim Islamic Traditions history black / african american

Image: Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama  © All Rights Reserved

Bean Pie Recipe

Makes 2 pies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked Navy Beans
  • 14 ounce can of Evaporated Milk
  • 1 stick of Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Unbleached Flour (or your favorite gluten free flour/Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour Mix)
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Vanilla Bean Paste or Vanilla Extract

Directions:

  • Soak the dry beans overnight.
  • Cook the beans until soft.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In an electric blender, blend beans, butter, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and flour about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  • Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add sugar and vanilla. Mix well.
  • Pour into pie shells.
  • Bake about one hour until golden brown.

Tip: 5 minutes after removing pies from oven, cover with plastic wrap that clings.

 

Bean Pie Crust

Makes 2 pies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached or finely ground whole wheat flour (or your favorite gluten free flour/Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour Mix)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 5 tablespoons of Cold Water
  • ¾ cups of Shortening (I use ¾ cups of butter instead)

Directions:

  • Mix Flour and salt in bowl.
  • Cut in shortening or butter using pastry blender or two knives, until all flour is just blended to form pea-sized chunks.
  • Sprinkle water, one Tablespoon at a time.
  • Toss lightly with fork until dough will form a ball.
  • Divide dough into two parts.
  • Press between hands to form two 5- to 6-inch patties.
  • Set aside one patty.
  • With rolling pin, roll out the crust patty between two pieces of unfloured plastic wrap, into a circle the size of an upside-down pie pan.
  • Remove top piece of plastic wrap. Use the bottom piece of plastic wrap to lift the crust and turn it into the pie pan.
  • While plastic wrap is still covering crust, gently press crust to fit the pan.
  • Remove the other pie of plastic wrap. Roll out the other pie crust patty the same way.

 

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Jennifer Saleem

Jennifer, author of Hybrid Rasta Mama, is a former government recruiter turned stay-at-home mama to a precious daughter (“Tiny”) brought earthside in early 2009. She is passionate about conscious parenting, natural living, holistic health/wellness, real foods, and a Waldorf inspired approach to education. Jennifer is committed to breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding), bed-sharing, cloth diapering, green living, babywearing, peaceful parenting, playful parenting, and getting children outside. She is a hybrid parent, taking a little of this, throwing in a little of that, and blending it all together to create a parenting style that is centered on what her daughter needs in order to flourish as a human being. Jennifer also lives and breathes reggae music, the Rastafarian culture and way of life. Reggae music and its message touches her soul.






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Comments

  1. says

    I had never heard of bean pies until I met my husband and we were back in DC visiting his family years ago and he said "you want a bean pie" and pointed to a man on the corner.  I laughed because I had no idea what he was talking about.  He explained it to me but I love how you have detailed the history of bean pies as well as the recipe for those who may never of know their existence.  

  2. says

    Not sure how I missed this this one!  I had never heard of bean pies until we moved to the East coast.  I love the history behind them.  Thanks for sharing Jennifer!

  3. says

    Jennifer, this post caught my husband's attention right away!  He really loved your coconut oil post from your blog too…so I think he's becoming a fan of your writing.  ;)  lol.  For me, this is so interesting.  I love to learn about the history and traditions behind food and this was a really great example of that.  My husband has had bean pie before, but I can't recall that I have, so we'll definitely be trying out your recipe soon!  Thanks so much for sharing this with us, I really love it when I can learn something new!  :)

  4. Andromeda says

    Oh so wonderful. We used to get bean pies back in the 1970s and for some reason I just thought of them and found this post. THANK YOU!

  5. Des says

    Jennifer, I want to make this delicious pie, but the directions call for mixing eggs, but the ingredient list doesn't show any eggs. How many do I need? Thank you.

  6. says

    A friend of mine sent me 7 bean pies and before two weeks ago, I had never even heard of them.. Very tasty, I give them a big, fat thumbs up …

Trackbacks

  1. [...] In doing a little research on each of these things I discovered an interesting thread.  Almost anywhere in the world the staples of iftar are; a soup usually vegetarian but sometimes with a little bit of meat, some type of protein either legumes or meat in a fried form, and a sweet of some type.  As I began to think about uniquely American foods for iftar I couldn’t come up with anything!  Sure we could eat chicken nuggets or chicken noodle soup but there really aren’t any uniquely American iftar recipes.  The one exception might be the bean pie from the African American Muslim community. [...]

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