Bean Hole Beans

A traditional bean hole beans recipe

Bean Hole Beans
Beans, pre-hole. Photo: Tanushree Rao

I spent the weekend back home at my parent’s house in Vermont. Typically, that would mean a compost story is coming your way—maybe a listicle of the most decomposed items in the pile, or a deep-dive investigation into whether or not “night water” is compostable. But this week, I have something a little different coming your way: a recipe. Don’t worry, it’s still dirt-adjacent.

You know how all great internet recipes start with a few paragraphs of a semi-related story for SEO purposes? My grandfather, when he retired, decided that he should take a cooking class. My grandmother had been cooking for 40 years, and he decided that he start pulling his weight in the kitchen. From my parents’ telling, he was not a natural chef. One time he invited my parents around for a spaghetti pie dinner that was so salty that they could barely get a bite in before retreating.

But my grandfather was not culinarily useless. A military man and longtime scoutmaster, he was a resourceful chef. He had a surefire recipe for a protein-packed meal that could be prepared with nothing but a pot and a hole in the ground. It was called bean hole beans, so-called because you made the beans in a hole (the “bean hole”). According to my parents, bean hole beans could be an absolutely delicious bean dish. But much like any meal, there was always the chance that you could leave your beans in the bean hole for too long, dry them out, and end up stuck with a disgusting mess of parched beans.

So, without further ado, here’s a rough approximation of my grandfather’s bean hole beans recipe as remembered by my parents. I haven’t checked these instructions against any other recipes for bean hole beans on the internet or cooked this myself, but I think I understand the gist enough to safely transmit this traditional bean hole beans recipe to you.

A pair of feet in boots and the tip of a shovel on wooded ground.
Prospecting for bean holes. Photo: Tim Foster

Grandpa’s Bean Hole Beans

Time to prepare: A day or so? How long does it take you to dig a hole?

Time to cook: 8–10 hours.


  • 1 good amount of dried beans, reconstituted
  • 1 handful of other stuff to put in the beans—Garlic maybe? Salt? Tomato?
  • 1 shovel
  • 1 pile of hardwood
  • 1 bit of dirt

Step one: Dig a hole in your yard, out in the woods, or other outdoor piece of land accessible by shovel.

Step two: Fill the hole about halfway with wood chips and light them on fire. Let that burn for a bit until they’re mostly coals and embers. Is there a difference between coals and embers? You’ll find out while making bean hole beans.

Step three: Grab your pot and soaked beans. Your pot should have a cover, otherwise you’re going to get a lot of dirt in your beans. Put your pot of beans in the bean hole and cover with dirt.

Step four: Wait 8 to 10 hours while the beans cook in the bean hole.

Step five: Grab your shovel and dig up the pot of beans. Serve up on a plate with some bread or some other side dishes—or eat it straight out of the pot with a big ol’ spoon!

So, there you have it—bean hole beans. Let me know in the comments if you try the recipe and have any tips and tricks—as long as it’s not something like, “I replaced the beans with anchovies and the embers with marbles and this recipe didn’t work for me at all.”

A side story from my mom before you go: one time she was transporting a pot of beans to a church function and the beans spilled in her car. She was never able to get the bean smell out of the carpet, a mild annoyance until my parents moved to South Carolina. The bean residue in that carpet would bake in the Carolina sun every day until my parents finally scrapped it. Some say that carpet is still in a landfill somewhere, reeking of bean hole beans.