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This easy, from-scratch Black Beans recipe combines bold savory flavors like onion, garlic, and smoky cumin with humble beans, and transforms them into something special. Two pantry-staple SECRET ingredients are added at the end to create a wonderfully balanced flavor profile!

Delicious Cuban Black Beans Recipe

This recipe will blow your mind. Hearing that I know you’re skeptical, but just hear me out.

Beans are the type of thing you eat a bite of and expect them to just be ok. Meh, if you will.

And then you take a bit of these. Fireworks, angels singing, heavens parting. You know what I mean, the whole nine yards.

Every single time I have them, these beans blow my mind as to how something so simple and so unassuming can be so fantastic.

Frijoles Negros aka Black Beans Recipe

Black Beans in Latin Cuisine

The first time I had black beans, which are called frijoles negros in Spanish, was in Costa Rica. I was staying at a lodge in the mountains and they had a gorgeous breakfast buffet every morning.

There was a variety of sliced deli meats and cheeses, different kinds of eggs, breakfast meats, fresh fruit, toast and pastries, fresh corn tortillas, fried plantains, black beans and rice, coffee and tea, fresh fruit juices, etc.

This is how our breakfasts in Costa Rica typically looked…

Breakfast Spread in Costa Rica
Breakfast Spread in Costa Rica

And here’s a breakfast picture from another day showing the stunning view in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Breakfast with a View in Costa Rica
Breakfast with a View in Costa Rica

On that same trip, I went to a huge market in San José and ate lunch at a spot crammed with locals. You guessed it, black beans and rice was the side dish!

Chicken with Black Beans and Rice in Costa Rica
Chicken Lunch with Black Beans as a Side Dish in San José, Costa Rica

After my trip to Costa Rica, my experience with black beans was at a little Cuban place in Key West. I wouldn’t really call it a restaurant because it was so small. It was just a little cooking area with a half-wall divider, a cash register, and two or three tables. The lady who owned it was cooking. It was just her, and she was amazing.

I ordered a chicken meal and it came with fried plantains and black bean and rice!

Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Chicken in Key West
Cuban Black Beans and Rice in Key West, Florida

Since then I’ve had black beans at a couple different restaurants in Miami and Tampa. Each time, I enjoyed the dish so much I thought to myself that I really should try to make it at home.

And then a couple years ago when I moved to Orlando, a Dominican friend of mine taught me how to make frijoles negros the way his grandma used to make it! This is that recipe, but with a few changes to put my own spin on it.

Cuban Black Beans

This recipe is closest to Cuban Black Beans. They’re rich with depth of flavor, perfectly tender, and have just the right amount of liquid so that they’re moist but not soupy.

Cuban Black Beans have a wonderfully balanced flavor profile thanks to vinegar and sugar added at the end.

Mexican Black Beans

The main differences I’ve noticed between Cuban Black Beans and Mexican Black Beans is the Mexican version more frequently have some form of tomatoes added, whether it’s fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or tomato paste.

Additionally, I’ve noticed that Mexican Black Beans usually contain an ingredient (or two) that adds spicy heat, such as jalapeno peppers, chipotle peppers, or ground cayenne pepper.

Lastly, I’ve noticed that unlike the Cuban version, Mexican Black Beans don’t typically contain vinegar and sugar.

Compared with Cuban Black Beans, Mexican Black Beans have tomato-y liquid with more spicy heat and less of a subtly balanced flavor profile.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

There are a few things that really set this recipe apart:

  • Use chicken stock to cook the beans. These beans take on a rich depth of flavor from using chicken stock as the cooking liquid.
  • Don’t be scared to dirty another dish, it’s worth it here. Cook the sofrito separately so the nicely caramelized vegetable medley can lend its full flavor and texture to the finished dish.
  • Keep the spices simple. Don’t be tempted to go overboard with the spices. These simple spices enhance the recipe without overwhelming it. The only thing I would say to add to taste is something for spicy heat, such as jalapenos, if desired.
  • The SECRET ingredients; trust me on the vinegar and sugar at the end! These are the secret finishing touches that brighten and balance the flavor profile.
cuban black beans with description

The Best Black Beans Recipe

Beans Ingredients

Beans and Broth
  • Chicken stock
  • Dried black beans
  • Bay leaf
  • White vinegar
  • Sugar

Pro Tip 1: Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock for the vegetarian and vegan version of this recipe.

Pro Tip 2: The two secret ingredients are white vinegar and sugar! They create a delicious balanced flavor profile.

Sofrito Ingredients

Sofrito Ingredients
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Onion
  • Green bell pepper
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Cook the Beans

First, cook dried beans in chicken stock until tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Cooking Black Beans

Step 2: Make the Sofrito

Next, sauté the ingredients for the sofrito until the vegetables are starting to caramelize.

Peppers Onions and Garlic Cooking

Step 3: Add the Sofrito to the Beans

And now, stir the sofrito into the cooked beans. Finally, stir in the vinegar and sugar, and serve with any garnishes you like.

Black Beans in Pot

Black Beans Recipe FAQs

What is Sofrito?

Sofrito is popular in Latin American, Caribbean, Spanish, and Portuguese cooking. Sofrito is a Spanish word that means to lightly fry (i.e. sauté). It’s used to add depth of flavor to various soup, stew, sauce, and bean recipes.

Sofrito refers to a mixture of aromatic vegetables that typically includes onion, garlic, and pepper that are diced small and sautéed. The vegetables are usually chopped somewhat small and uniformly to help them cook evenly.

Chopping Green Peppers
Chopped Green Peppers for Sofrito

Recipes for sofrito vary by region and they can sometimes also include tomato and/or fresh herbs, such as cilantro. Depending on the recipe or how it’s being used, sometimes sofrito is pureed until smooth.

Do I have to Soak Black Beans Before Cooking?

Get ready to have your mind blown. No, you don’t need to soak black beans before cooking!

I find that beans are the most flavorful when you don’t soak them for two reasons:

  • When you soak beans and then rinse them and discard the soaking liquid, you’re also getting rid of a lot of flavor!
  • When you cook dry beans, all the liquid that the beans absorb as they’re being rehydrated is the flavorful cooking liquid, not just regular water like when they’re soaked.

Also, I noticed that pre-soaking only shaves about 30 minutes off the cooking time for beans anyway. And if you really need another reason, non-pre-soaked beans have a richer, deeper color than beans that were pre-soaked.

The Conclusion: There’s no need to soak beans before cooking them!

If you’re interested, you can read more about why you don’t have to soak beans before cooking on Serious Eats and Epicurious.

Front View of Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Do I Really Need 4 Cups of Liquid to Cook 1 Cup of Dry Beans?

Yes! By the end of the cooking process, most of the liquid will be gone, either absorbed by the beans or evaporated off.

And if it looks a little too liquidy but the beans are tender, simply cook it uncovered for a few minutes (stirring frequently) to evaporate off some of the liquid.

Can I Use Canned Black Beans to Make This Recipe?

The short answer is yes. However, the long answer is that I don’t recommend it because your beans won’t be as flavorful as they would if you had started with dry beans.

This is because when you start with dry beans, you get to flavor them as you rehydrate them. Canned beans are already rehydrated, so all you can do is flavor them from the outside.

And even starting with dry beans this recipe only takes about 2 hours from start-to-finish. It’s well worth the time! But if you really insist on making this with canned beans, I’m sharing how to do it.

How to Make This Recipe with Canned Beans:

  1. Make the sofrito as directed in this recipe.
  2. Add 1 (15-ounce) can of undrained black beans and 1/2 cup chicken stock to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir the sofrito into the beans and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and sugar as directed in this recipe.
  5. Serve with any garnishes you like.

What Kind of White Vinegar Should I Add to Beans?

You can use distilled vinegar or white wine vinegar. I’ve also used rice wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar with good results.

I wouldn’t recommend using balsamic vinegar for this recipe because its thick texture and syrupy flavor will change the flavor of the dish.

How Do You Eat Black Beans?

  • On a bed of rice.
  • As a side dish for tacos, enchiladas, steak, chicken, etc.
  • Make it into toastadas! Serve them on top of a crispy tortilla, garnished with crumbled white cheese, minced red onion, and chopped cilantro.
  • Or you can go the nachos route. Serve black beans on top of corn chips sprinkled with crumbled white cheese and Salsa Fresca.
  • Along with fried eggs (like this Breakfast Skillet) and soft tortillas for breakfast.
black beans recipe graphic

More Bean Recipes to Try

mexican black beans recipe

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Black Beans Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
This easy, from-scratch Black Beans recipe combines bold savory flavors like onion, garlic, and smoky cumin with humble beans, and transforms them into something special. Two pantry-staple SECRET ingredients are added at the end to create a wonderfully balanced flavor profile!

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Ingredients
 

Black Beans:

Sofrito:

Garnish Ideas:

  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh lime wedges
  • Diced white onion

Instructions
 

For the Black Beans:

  • Add the chicken stock, beans, and bay leaf to a 5-quart pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add a splash of water if necessary to keep the beans covered with liquid.

For the Sofrito:

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and bell pepper and cook until starting to soften and turn brown in spots, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the cumin, oregano, salt, and black pepper. If should be starting to slightly caramelize. Remove from the heat.
    Cooked Green Pepper and Onion

To Finish:

  • Stir the Sofrito into the cooked beans and cook 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and sugar.
  • Serve with any garnishes you like.

Video

Notes

  • Nutritional Information: Information for this recipe was calculated without any garnishes.
  • Vegan Version: To keep this dish vegan, use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
  • To Thicken: If you like your black beans extra thick and creamy, once they’re cooked, use a potato masher to mash a little bit of the beans.
  • Serving Suggestion: Black Beans are exceptionally delicious served on top of rice.

How to Make This Recipe with Canned Beans

  1. Make the sofrito as directed in this recipe.
  2. Add 1 (15-ounce) can of undrained black beans and 1/2 cup chicken stock to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir the sofrito into the beans and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and sugar as directed in this recipe.
  5. Serve with any garnishes you like.

Nutrition

Calories: 366kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 659mg | Potassium: 1047mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 136IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 100mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Latin American
Keyword: Black Beans, Black Beans Recipe, Cuban Black Beans, Frijoles Negros

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authentic black beans recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




3 Comments

  1. Do you think you could make these in bulk and freeze them?

    1. Julia, Yes, this recipe freezes very well! I like to portion it out into 1 serving portions so I can thaw them in small amounts for a quick meal.

  2. 5 stars
    I don’t usually like beans but my girlfriend made these for me and WOW! They are delicious!

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