This Cuban Black Beans Recipe is a step by step guide to authentic traditional Cuban black beans.
Cuban Black Beans are a staple. There is not a meal we can remember that didn’t have black beans on the table. There is a reason for it of course. As with most Cuban food, it is made with humble ingredients. The sofrito made from the onions, peppers and garlic are the base for the beans, which are cooked and braised until all the flavors have married together so beautifully.
It’s interesting to note, that not all Cuban families make their beans the same way. Every Cuban household has their own special way of preparing beans. It’s rare to find Cuban Black Bean Recipes that are identical. Each house has its own special spin.
The Cuban Black Beans Debate
There is much debate over whether it is worth going through the trouble of making the beans fresh or just going for the can. We have the answer: there is no wrong way as long as you make them. Go with what you have or have time for.
While making fresh beans is a little more work, it can be very worth it.
When my grandmother Alita Lily taught me to make these beans I asked her how much oil to use, she said, “You add as much oil as the beans can hold!”Ani
As we mentioned there are many different variations of black beans. Cuba is a small island, but it is made up of many different regions. Each region had its own way of preparing food. This is Ani’s family’s version of Cuban Black Beans Recipe.
If you are using canned beans, you can skip straight to Our Tips for Making Ani’s Cuban Black Beans Recipe.
If Using Fresh Beans, It Starts with Soaking the Beans
The main reason people tend to avoid using fresh beans, is this step. The truth is, soaking does not have to be overwhelming. The best way to do it, is to leave them to soak the night before you plan on making beans. Then it’s just done and you don’t have to think about it. However, maybe you forget, or had the idea to make fresh beans in the morning. You’re still ok. Let’s walk through it.
Here is what you will need to soak your beans:
- 1 bag of beans
- 4-6 pieces of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
Before soaking, you need to place the beans on a tray, so you can see them. Once you have them spread out, pick out the rocks or broken beans that aren’t going to cook well. Then go to the sink and give them a quick rinse. Once you have rinsed the beans, put them into a pot and completely cover them with water. Leave them covered in the pot overnight, or at minimum for 4-6 hours. Once soaked, drain the water.
Then You Boil the Beans
Place the soaked black beans into a pot, cover with water, add the garlic and bay leaves and bring them to a hard boil on high heat. Lower the heat to medium high, and leave them boiling for 2 hours. Once the black beans are softened and ready to use, you can start building the sofrito.
Now keep in mind, once you get to the recipe below, it begins after the soaking and boiling step, or if you are using canned beans.
Our Tips for Making Ani’s Cuban Black Beans Recipe
- If you are using canned beans, you only need to cook them with the sofrito for 30 minutes so they combine with the flavors before serving.
- If you are using dry beans, check the date on them. New beans will have all of their nutrients. New beans will cook quicker than old beans. So a bag that’s been sitting in your pantry for a year will take more time and won’t cook as evenly as a freshly purchased bag.
- Before soaking, you need to place the beans on a tray, so you can see them. Once you have them spread out, pick out the rocks or broken beans that aren’t going to cook well. Then go to the sink and give them a quick rinse. Once you have rinsed the beans, put them into a pot and completely cover them with water. Leave them covered in the pot overnight, or at minimum for 4-6 hours.
- If you don’t have time to soak overnight, it’s no biggie. But don’t skip the rinsing.
- The flavorings you choose for cooking the black beans can be anything. We use bay leaves and garlic to flavor the beans but use what you have or what you like. Onion, a spicy pepper, chorizo, anything is game
- You can pressure cook your beans for 30 minutes on high in an instant pot (We LOVE Instant Pot), instead of boiling them. Use the same process, cover them with water and add your preferred seasonings. EXCEPT SALT. See why next…
- If you add salt to the beans before they have cooked, you run the risk of the beans being tough. You can add salt, as soon as they are pressure cooked or boiled through.
- These beans have a lot of flavors going on. You need to taste as you go. Remember the flavors continue to change as they cook and the black beans absorb what is around them.
Like we mentioned above, there are a few different interpretations of Cuban Black Beans. Some families use more sugar than others. Some families have a preference for red peppers, or Cubanelle peppers. There are families who only like to use a lot of sugar towards the end, and others that use less. Remember that recipes are guidelines, and if you have strong preferences one way or the other, go for it! Cooking is about doing what feels right and tastes right for you.
Serve our Cuban Black Beans with the Perfect White Rice they make the perfect combination to try with any one of these delicious recipes:
Ani’s Black BeansCourse: SidesCuisine: CubanDifficulty: Easy
16 oz bag dried black, rinsed, drained and soaked overnight, then boiled in unsalted water for 2 hours until softened as listed above OR 3 cans of Black Beans (we prefer Kirby)
3 bell peppers (I like to use one red, one yellow, one orange, and one poblano), finely chopped
If you like spicy: a serrano or habanero pepper sliced in half (seeds removed and not chopped)
1/4 teaspoon of red chili flakes
2 bay leaves
2 Med onions, finely chopped
12 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, plus 1 tablespoon for the end
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for the end (I like using half granulated and half brown if you have)
1/2 – 3/4 cup extra Virgin olive oil (split)
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
¼ teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce, optional
- As the beans cook, it’s a good time to make your sofrito. You will know your beans are done when they hold together but are creamy on the inside. Just set them aside until the sofrito is done.
- In a large pot add the onions, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, chili flakes, bay leaves, ¼ cup of the oil. Cook for 10 minutes on medium until starting to soften. Then add the serrano and bell peppers and cook another 7 minutes until they begin to soften. Clear the vegetables to one side of the pot, add the garlic with a few tablespoons of oil to make sure it sautees and doesn’t steam in the onions.
- Add 2 cups of bean liquid to the sofrito on high heat. Add the vinegar, sugar, another ¼ cup of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt and cook together with the liquid for 15-20 minutes.
- Add the beans to the pot. Bring them to a boil for a good 5-10 minutes on medium high heat. Then simmer it down to medium low and let it cook together for at least 30 minutes up to an hour so the beans absorb all the flavor in the liquid. Taste for salt and pepper. (since you are using fresh beans they will take on more salt than canned). If the beans have absorbed too much liquid and are too thick, add 1-2 cups more of water until your desired consistency
- When ready to serve I like to add 1 tablespoon of each the oil, vinegar and the sugar with some dashes of hot sauce. It helps all the flavors stand out.