Featured Cooking Bean: Tiger’s Eye

This year I am on a mission to cook and eat as many different varieties of  beans as possible. This is the first in a series about my observations about those beans.

The yellowish brown Tiger’s Eye Beans are so named because they they have a swirl of dark maroon color on them that is said to resemble a tiger’s eye. The beans are about the size of kidney beans, though a bit thinner. While some beans are prized because they hold together after cooking, Tiger’s Eye is a favorite with cooks because the skins all but disappear after cooking and the flesh gets soft and creamy. Those attributes make it a great choice for refried beans, dips and casseroles. The cooked beans have a hearty flavor, and the smooth texture gives them a great mouth feel. Originally from Chile or Argentina, it’s also called Eye of the Tiger by some and Pepa de Zapallo by others.


Tiger’s Eye Beans

In the garden, Tiger’s Eye is a Phaseolus vulgaris variety that grows in bush fashion with greenish yellow pods, according to seed catalogues. It can be used as a snap bean, at the fresh shell stage, or allowed to dry for use as a dried bean. I have not grown this one myself, but I certainly would if I had more room in the garden. It’s possible I will give it a try in the future.

closeup view of Tiger

closeup view of Tiger’s Eye Beans

In the kitchen, I generally prepare these beans simply. Before cooking I soak them in water for a few hours, from three to eight hours generally. Then I add more water to cover, plus a bit of finely chopped onions and a clove of minced garlic (I use a garlic press). I bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer the beans until they start to soften. At that point, I add salt to taste and any other seasonings, like perhaps a bit of ground cumin and a little chile powder.


Tiger’s Eye Beans after cooking

At that point, the beans are great as a side dish, stuffed in a burrito, or used in a casserole dish. Or you can do like I often do and make frijoles refritos (refried beans) with them. I heat a little olive oil or lard in a skillet, then add the beans and a little bit of their cooking liquid. I use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans while they heat, mashing and stirring until I get them to the desired consistency, checking the seasoning as I go and adjusting as necessary. That’s how I prepared the ones in the below photo, which I used to top baked corn tortillas to make tostadas.

tostada made with Tiger

tostada made with Tiger’s Eye Beans

I got my Tiger’s Eye beans from the Seed Savers Exchange. They generally have a small but nice selection of cooking beans for sale. The beans are also sometimes available from Purcell Mountain Farms, Elegant Beans and Beyond or Rancho Gordo. Packets of seed for the garden are widely available here in the U.S.

I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Tiger’s Eye beans. I will be back soon with another bean review. In fact, I had the next featured bean for lunch today, in a tasty bean soup. Until then, Happy Growing (and eating) from Happy Acres!

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17 Responses to Featured Cooking Bean: Tiger’s Eye

  1. Michelle says:

    That tostada looks absolutely yummy! Tiger’s Eye sounds like a winner. There are so many good beans, although you would never know it from the selection at the market. It’s so difficult to choose what to grow or what to order when I peruse Rancho Gordo’s selections. Great review, I can’t wait to read about your next selection. I’m cooking up a new one tonight myself, Rosso di Lucca.

  2. I love Tiger Eye beans. I haven’t grown them either. I just tried them because of Daphne’s recommendation a few years back. I buy a bunch of different types of heirloom beans for eating from North Bay Trading. They have great prices and a great selection. I tried several new-to-me varieties and came up with quite a few “winners” by doing that. So many different choices, textures, flavors. The world of beans is wonderful!

    • Dave says:

      I will check out the North Bay Trading company. You are so right about the number of beans. There is truly something for every dish, and every taste!

  3. Beautiful looking beans. Thanks for the explanation of the different texture. They would be good for making a bean dip for corn chips. Have you tried cooking with Scarlet Runner Beans? If so, what do you do with them? They are big and on the mealy side when cooked.

    • Dave says:

      I have not tried cooking the Scarlet Runner Beans. I grew them in the Wildlife garden, but didn’t eat them. I have tried the Runner Cannelini beans though, and I plan to do a post about them. I love the way they cook up.

  4. Anyone else reading this ever try cooking Scarlet Runner beans? I wasn’t that find of their mealy texture. My favorite dry bean is Cherokee Trail of Tears. Native Seed Search has some interesting bean varieties from the Southwest. Slow Food touts Arikara beans. I think they are on the Ark of Taste.

  5. Here is a link to Seed Savers Exchange where one can buy Slow Food’s Ark of Taste seeds.


  6. Margaret says:

    Oh…this is going to be fun! I have to echo Michelle’s sentiments in that I love dried beans but there are so many different varieties out there (and only limited garden space, of course!) that choosing which ones to grow was quite the challenge. I’m really looking forward to hearing your opinions this season which I’m sure will result in lots of shuffling in terms of which varieties I will choose to grow next time. I’ve already added the Tigers Eye to my list – I do love refried beans but have only ever made them with pintos – these seem like an even better choice.

  7. Mike Yaeger says:

    Excellent Tiger’s Eye Bean review. I’m a big fan of dried beans…my wife does wonders with them. I’m going to order her up a bag of these. I’m a good cook, but I just don’t have the knack for cooking beans. When I need black eyed peas for my pot of pork shoulder, collard greens, and black eyed peas, I have to ask here to prepare that one ingredient for me. I look forward to future bean reviews.

  8. maxine lesline says:

    Your blog is certainly interesting.. your information about the varieties of vegetables is presented clearly and is great to know. I always am glad to see a new posting.

  9. Susie says:

    I also just made refried beans using borlotti beans from last year’s harvest. It was my first time to make refried beans but I’ll definitely try it again. I will be growing black turtle beans for the first time this year and those should be yummy in such a recipe. Thanks for the reference to Rancho Gordo – they have a terrific selection!

  10. Susan says:

    I am a big fan of dried beans. As a vegetarian I am so excited to be able to grow a source of protein for myself. This will be my 2nd year of growing dried beans. I tried 3 type of beans last year and this year I’m going to grow 6 varieties.. I am really looking forward to your reviews of different beans.

  11. Liz says:

    I like your bean project. My knowledge of beans is pretty limited so I’m looking forward to learning a lot more. Here we are more likely to eat beans green than dried and dried beans tend to be limited to borlotti, cannellini and a couple of others so this is all really new.

  12. Daphne says:

    I LOVE Tigers Eye beans. Or did when I could eat them. They had the best texture of any bean I’ve ever eaten. So good. I have grown them. They don’t yield well like some other beans, but I found them to be good enough that I didn’t care.

  13. Heather says:

    I am growing tiger’s eye and scarlett runner beans. I planted 6 scarlett runner and 5 or 6 tiger’s eye. They are in an area about 2 or 3 feet wide and about 5 feet long. I planted the scarlett runners so they are behind and put up a loonie store trellis in front of them and planted the tiger’s eye in front of the trellis. I’ve now added bamboo sticks for the height. The tiger’s eye is more a bush bean. I have lots of pods now they have to fill out. I haven’t cooked with either bean so it’ll be a surprise. I have some East Indian curry might try some cooked with that. I’ll have to go through the recipes and save the ones I want to try.

  14. Ingrid says:

    Have grown Tiger Eye very easy. Scarlet Runner are more ornamental than food bean. They can be eaten but not to my taste. Try Hidatsa Shield, Swahili Grey, Painted Pony and Speckled Cranberry. Tasty and easy to grow.

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