Cuban black beans – Bring a taste of old Havana to your home by learning how to make this popular authentic Cuban black beans dish
They say you cannot talk about Cuban food without mentioning Cuban black beans (frijoles negros) and you know what I believe this assertion to be true. When I visited Cuba several years ago I left like I was in a black bean heaven. If you love legumes that are brimming with flavour from slow cooking then this recipe is for you!
Unlike the English speaking islands that favour other legumes such as red kidney beans, pigeon pea etc.. I’ve noticed that the Spanish speaking islands are notorious for whipping up a mean black bean dish.
Having grown up on legumes all my life this wasn’t hardly surprising to me and certainly not an alien concept either. I’ve sampled authentic Cuban black beans in two different locations – Cuba and Miami which has a large population of Cuban people. If my memory serves me correctly, I found identical flavours in both regions – the flavours were rich, bold and the beans were SOOOOO tender.
Dried black beans vs canned beans
In a ideal world I could quite seriously live off black beans for the rest of my life, that’s how much that I enjoyed it. The key to making a good black bean dish is in the beans, yes it’s about about the beans baby.
Cook the hell out of those baby boys, don’t opt for the canned stuff unless you’re restricted for time, save yourself some money and buy a huge bag of black beans in bulk, soak them overnight and BAM they’re ready to be boiled.
This recipe is the big sister to my black bean soup recipe another popular Cuban comfort food.
How to cook Cuban black beans from scratch?
You will need to soak the dried beans after washing them several times to rid any debris overnight. In the morning, rinse the beans and replenish with more water.
Soaking the beans is an essential step for tenderising, this will reduce the need to boil for an extended amount of time greatly. What I like to do is boil the beans with two bay leaves to give the beans subtle flavour as they slowly tenderise.
While the beans are boiling, now is a good time to prep the outstanding ingredients – herbs and spices (cumin & oregano – very important) and the sofrito base – onions, garlic, bell peppers – these all need to be sauteed before adding to the simmering pot.
The beans will take roughly one hour to cook, check them by mashing a few with the back of a spoon (this can be done with ease, if cooked thoroughly).
From there the sauteed ingredients can be stirred into the large pot. A quick tip here I like to use a ladle to remove some of the beans and mash them into a puree. I find by doing so this helps to thicken the sauce which is a requirement for authentic Cuban black bean cuisines(frijoles negros) .
Once the aforementioned ingredients have been added to the pot the bean mixture will gradually thicken up prior to serving (should take roughly 20 minutes). Alternatively you can add some tapioca starch to hasten the process. While thickening agent isn’t usually used because Cuban black are slowly cooked for several hours, my method saves more time while retaining its flavour.
Can Cuban black beans be cooked in a pressure cooker?
Yes, they can. I sometimes give the beans a head start by pressure cooking them for 30 minutes. As mentioned before, you can also use canned beans if you’re in a hurry but I always recommend dried beans are they are so much cheaper when brought in bulk.
What can Cuban black beans be served with?
Cubans tend to serve their black beans with rice (I prefer brown rice for nutritional content), plantain or sweet potatoes.
- This recipe is vegan friendly and gluten free
- Suitable for home freezing
- High in fibre, iron and low in fat
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Video version of how to make Cuban black beans
Cuban black beans *modified*
- 1 cup of black beans
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper chopped
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp oregano
- 6 cups of water
- 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
- salt to taste
- coconut oil
- **1 tbsp of tapioca starch mixed with 2 tbsp of warm water for thickness if required
- Start by rinsing the beans several times before leaving them to soak overnight in a large pot of water (not the 6 cups of water).
- The next day drain off the dark coloured water and replenish with the 6 cups of water.
- Add the bay leaves and a tablespoon of coconut oil to the pot.
- Bring the water to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer with the lid on for an hour.
- The beans should have tenderised and soft to the touch (use the back of a spoon, to determine tenderness).
- Prepare the sofrito by sauteeing the garlic, onions and bell peppers in a skillet with a tablespoon of coconut oil on medium heat.
- Season the ingredients with the black pepper, oregano, cumin and salt to taste and stir.
- Once the onions have turned translucent, transfer the contents into the large pot and stir.
- Use a ladle to extract some of the beans and mash them before returning to the pot. This will help to thicken the bean sauce. Feel free to add the tapioca starch mix for thickness if required.
- Stir in the cidar vinegar before reducing to low-medium heat.
- Put the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for a further 20 minutes.
- Serve with rice and freeze any leftovers