Cuban Black Beans might be one of the first recipes I learned to cook in Miami. They’re usually found as Frijoles Negros in the local restaurants. Often times they’re served with rice as sides to a bigger meal. They’re nutritious and inexpensive which makes them a staple of Cuban cuisine.
At the time of writing this article, I have lived in Miami for over 23 years. When I left Albania to come to US, I was worried how I would fit in, how I would make friends and how I’d like the food.
I have so many stories to tell about my adaptation here in Miami and how the Cuban community was always so welcoming and helpful to me personally, but I bet you’re here for the recipe and not for the stories. However, I’d happily chat with you on Instagram over my experiences. Feel feel to dm me anytime:).
You can also check out my recipe for Rice and Black Beans (Gallo Pinto)!
So I’ll say this, the recipe can vary slightly from family to family but the basics are the same. I have settled on a recipe that requires soaking the beans overnight, cooking them in pressure cooker then cooking them with sofrito and spices on low heat for that perfect finish. Let’s cook:).
Oh and while this might be controversial for some, I have to say that Cuban food in Miami is one of the best in United States! So when you visit Miami, try to go a local spot (not fancy touristy place) to try Cuban food as close to authentic as you can get outside of Cuba.
These are the ingredients you’d need to cook Cuban Black Beans from scratch. Yes, there are shortcuts and you can make this recipe from a can. But believe me from scratch it tastes so much better!! Plus this recipe refrigerates well so you can use it as a side dish throughout the week when needed.
- Dry black beans – about 1 lb, soak them overnight.
- Green bell peppers (2) and 1 jalapeño or a spicy pepper of your choice – spicy pepper it’s optional.
- White onion – 1 to 2 depending on size. I use the onions and bell peppers in both the pressure cooker as well as for the sofrito.
- Garlic – you need plenty of garlic for this recipe ( I use about 2 large cloves for the pressure cooker part and about 6-8 cloves for the sofrito part)
- Cumin – this spice gives the warm flavors and ties the dish together.
- Oregano – great in any dish really, but I have read it reduces bitterness too.
- Bay leaves – bay leaves add a complex flavor to beans. I only add them in the pressure cooker and remove them before I add beans to the sofrito.
- Roasted red pepper – I buy this in a jar if I can’t make my own, 4 ozs. If you can find cachuca red peppers in a jar use those.
- Tomato Paste – you don’t need a lot, 2-3 tablespoons.
- Olive Oil – good quality olive oil always makes a difference.
- Salt – I love using sea salt, but feel free to use salt of your choice.
Optional ingredients are sugar, vinegar or some lime juice to adjust for acidity and taste at the end!! These ingredients can fix any beans recipe really.
Cooking Black Beans Step by Step
Let me try to make this recipe easier by breaking it down to smaller steps first.
- Soak the beans overnight in water.
- Cook the beans in pressure cooker with green bell pepper, jalapeño, white onion, garlic and bay leaves. Usually I cook for about 35-40 minutes then let the pressure cooker naturally depressurize.
- Saute finely diced onion, green bell pepper in olive oil then add tomato paste and seasonings. Add the cooked beans from pressure cooker. Adjust for taste and cook on low for another 20 minutes or so. Add the roasted bell peppers, mix and turn heat off. Check for taste and adjust as needed.
- Serve over rice or as a side dish or on their own.
Variations of the Recipe
As any traditional recipes, there are plenty of variations to making Cuban Black Beans. Here are some variations I have picked up over the years of living in Miami.
- A friend of mine soaks the beans on vegetable stock overnight for more flavor, then drains and follows the recipe in a similar fashion as listed below.
- Another variation I’ve seen includes ham hocks to give the beans more flavor. I’ve seen versions with chorizo too.
- One recipe from another family I know uses 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and canned beans while still making the sofrito with onions, garlic, bell peppers etc.
- Latin supermarkets here in Miami have sofrito in the frozen section or fresh produce area, I like making my own but this is great for when you’re in a hurry.
- Another family I know adds sliced green olives and a little bit of the brine to the beans.
- And the most unique combination I’ve seen uses a ripe plantain at the end for added sweetness.
How do you serve these beans?
Well most Cuban restaurants here in Miami have rice & black beans, or moros as option side dishes for any entrè. I would happily just eat a bowl of these beans as a meal on its own sometimes.
If you like some garnishes, while maybe not traditional you can use cilantro and lime for a beautiful green color contrast against the beans.
Usually I find myself making a pot of black beans every week or two during the cooker months and have some ready in the refrigerator all the time.
While this is not a Cuban tradition, but more a Mediterranean one, I sometimes drizzle olive oil over my serving of the beans and just a little bit of red wine vinegar. This combo enhances all the flavors of the dish!
Cuban Black Beans
- 1 Pressure Cooker
- 1 Wooden spoon
- 1 lb dry black beans
- 2 white onions
- 2 green bell peppers
- 1 jalapeño optional
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 garlic cloves
- 4 tbsps olive oil
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 3 tbsps tomato paste
- 8 cups water
- 4 ozs roasted red pepper or cachuca peppers
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- Soak beans in water overnight. Next day drain and add them to the basket of the pressure cooker.
- Add half white onion in big pieces over the beans, half green bell pepper and 1 sliced jalapeño without seeds. Add bay leaves and 2 cloves of garlic. Cover the pressure cooker, pressurize and cook for about 35-40 minutes. Let it naturally depressurize.
- Use a deep skillet or a dutch for the rest of the recipe, any large pot with a thick bottom layer will do. Add olive oil and then add diced 1.5 white onion and minced 6 garlic cloves. Saute until translucent in medium heat. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon.
- Add diced 1.5 green bell pepper and continue sauteing. Then add tomato paste and mix so tomato paste not only gets mixed with the tomatoes and peppers but also becomes aromatic from cooking in the oil.
- Remove the bay leaves from the beans in the pressure cooker and transfer the beans to the pot with onion, peppers and tomato paste. Add seasonings (cumin, oregano, salt). Mix , stir to incorporate and check for consistency. Add a little bit more water if needed but you don't want the beans to become soupy.
- Lower the heat to low and let the flavor mix together. Towards the end add the sliced or diced red peppers from the jar. Mix and cover. Turn heat off and finally check for taste. You can add a little bit of sugar or a little bit of vinegar or lemon/lime juice to adjust for taste and acidity. Serve with rice or your favorite meal! Buen Provecho!
- While this recipe is set for 8 servings, in my family we get almost 10 servings out of this recipe.
- Sugar, vinegar and/or lime juice are optional to adjust the taste at the end.
- Active cooking time shouldn’t include soaking time as that is just a second to dump the beans in water and let them soak on the counter somewhere.
- Instead of jalapeño you can use any spicy pepper or just peppercorns.
- If you’re not using a pressure cooker, you can cook the beans in a Dutch Oven but it will take longer. Usually as a rule of thumb for me it’s 30 minutes in the pressure cooker is give or take 2 hours in the Dutch Oven (for beans).
If you would like to save this recipe for later, please save any of the pictures from this post to your boards in Pinterest. Let me know in comments if you have any questions, feedback on the recipe or how you or your family cook this dish:).
Thank you for reading my blog!
More Beans Recipes
Well if you love beans, I’ll give you more beans recipes:). Check out:
- Pinto Beans Soup
- Albanian Fasule (navy beans soup)
- Red Beans Soup
- Mediterranean Lima Beans Salad
- Russian Salad (the Albanian version) with beans