Beans, frijoles, judías

Beans, frijoles, judías


"frijol" is only in mexico and central america word. habichuela been used for centuries for "beans" it's even referred in many old books as such, so why define it as if "frijol" is the common name when it's not. That's Mexican spanish for refried beans as it always been introduced by them since that's mostly the type of bean recipe they consume. I think you need to change or add that this word is of Mexican decent and nothing more.

updated ABR 18, 2017
edited by 00494d19
posted by alexzandrorivera
Alex refritos are refried beans. there are as many variations as there are countries that make them - pacofinkler, DIC 4, 2011

7 Answers


the word "frijol" is mostly used in mexico to refer to beans, even though it not necessarily refers to refried beans. it can be any bean, even raw.

haba (sort of lima bean) o guisante (pea) refers to different types of "beans" altogether.

the word "poroto" is used in some countries in southamerica to refer to beans such as red, black, white and yellow beans.

i found this interesting link that describes the different words used and what they actually refer to.

hope this helps!

updated JUL 18, 2011
posted by zenejero
That's amazing! I knew a few of those denominations, but the variety is really staggering! - Gekkosan, ABR 13, 2010

Hello, Alexzandrori, welcome to the Forum!

You pose an interesting question, so I decided to do a bit of quick research.

I suggest you take a look at the following articles in Wikipedia, which I think clarify the issue very nicely. My personal conclusion from reading the articles is that "Frijol" is the preferred generic word for "bean", whereas "habichuela", a diminutive of "Haba" refers to one type of bean in particular.


Haba (habichuela)

updated FEB 10, 2013
posted by Gekkosan

Judias green beans

but now look to gekkosans post frijol is a bean in general Refritos are refried beans ,a mexican dish. frijoles peruanos are a small white peruvian bean. Do you wish to get complicated? we surely can. Frijoles charros are whole beans cooked with meat ( mexico). And we can go on from there.

updated ABR 18, 2017
edited by pacofinkler
posted by pacofinkler
Does Judia only works for green beans? - JacobWatkins, ABR 18, 2017

I am an American, but I learned Spanish for the first time in Spain, and where we lived in Madrid, "judías" was the most commonly used word for beans. As in "judías negras" are black beans. "Judías pintas" are pinto beans. And, similar to how we use it in English, judías verdes are the vegetable: green beans. If the bean was a white bean, you might find it called an "alubia" as well, and if you were specifically referring to the kind of bean you'd use in some of the traditional Asturian dishes, which is a big white bean, you'd definitely call them "fabes." Fabes are a special kind of alubia blanca and you would definitely find the much more expensive and distinct fabes sewn into little burlap sacks and sold gourmet style next to the cheaper alubias blancas that could not claim to be of the fabe variety. And when I say expensive, I mean it. A bag of generic alubias blancas might be .99€, but a bag of high-quality fabes could easily run you 15-20€. Spaniards appear to take their fabes very seriously. (And, as a side note, there was a similar gourmet level reserved for certain varieties of garbanzo; the best coming from Zamora and could run you the the same nose-bleed prices.)

The only time I ever heard the word "frijoles" was if you meant to refer specifically to a Latin American dish. Or on the menu at an "exotic" Latin American restaurant.

There are other regional variations, especially as you got into regions where Spanish is not the main language, like Valencia and Catalonia, and I don't really know what they are. But among Castillian-speaking Spaniards, which formed the vast majority of Spaniards around where we lived, the most common term referring generically to what we know as dried beans was "judías."

I never really got a straight answer for why "judías" was the word of choice, since of course it also means "Jews", but one of the more interesting theories was that it came out of the cultural influence of Judaism in Spain prior to the expulsion of the Jews during the Inquisition. That Jewish Spaniards had many bean stew type dishes, which I can definitely attest to, being Jewish myself. In fact, the origin of the most famous bean stew--the Fabada, one of the Asturian bean dishes mentioned above--may have arisen out of the very common Jewish bean stew, cholent, which was (and still is) eaten on the sabbath by Jews since religion prohibits cooking and slow-cooked stews from the day before are hearty and still warm for the sabbath. Fabada is a very pork-heavy dish, which makes it non-Kosher, while Cholent is beef-based, but it may very well owe its origin to the Jewish cultural influence, which was deep indeed prior to the 1490s. There's some apocrypha about how Jews who chose to assimilate and stay rather than flee would deliberately make their cholent with pork in order to deflect attention and avoid persecution, thus themselves creating the first Fabada. The Jewish origin was then forgotten and Fabada is now considered a thoroughly and distinctively Spanish dish, and endures as a culinary icon of Asturias.

I don't know for sure, but it makes for an interesting theory, at least to me. I would love to know if anybody has ever undertaken to figure it out.

Long story short: in my experience, judías, alubias and fabes were the words I heard most commonly used for beans in Spain.

updated FEB 10, 2013
edited by MyHeadAboveWater
posted by MyHeadAboveWater

Just wondering if there are any other words in Spanish that share this distinction? Frijol in México & other neighboring countries, yet fríjol in Colombia? And do you folks use frijol = fríjol at all in Spain?

En Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Cuba y México es conocido como frijol.

En Colombia se conoce como frisol o fríjol (nótese que la segunda es palabra llana) a los granos rojos o negros, blanquillo a los blancos, o grano en general.

No soy un completo inútil...al menos sirvo de mal ejemplo.


updated DIC 5, 2011
posted by cristalino
Hola Chris - pacofinkler, DIC 5, 2011
Hola mi "ene"... how have you been?! Boy, this one brings back memories, not to mention the occasional flatulence! jeje - cristalino, DIC 5, 2011

This is what the dictionary says, it is actually said that this word is used exclusively in America.

frijol. 1. m. Am. judía (? planta papilionácea). 2. m. Am. judía (? fruto). 3. m. Am. judía (? semilla). 4. m. pl. Méx. alimento. buscarse los ~es. 1. loc. verb. coloq. Cuba, Ec. y Guat. ganarse la vida. echar ~es. 1. loc. verb. Méx. regañar (? reprender). ganarse los ~es. 1. loc. verb. coloq. Guat. y Hond. ganarse la vida.

updated JUL 17, 2011
posted by 00494d19

Don't forget the "s" otherwise the word (judía) is Jew

updated DIC 4, 2011
posted by MiamiDave
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