Served as a soup or over rice, Cuban black beans make a delicious, nutritious, and budget friendly addition to the menu! This easy black beans recipe includes instructions for cooking on the stove top and making black beans in the Instant Pot. Serve as either a main dish, or a filling side dish recipe.
Almost 9 years ago, when the Godfather and I were first married and living on our own, I decided to try and make the Godfather a Cuban meal to help with the homesickness. We’d just left the familiar comfort of South Florida behind for the first time in either of our lives! One problem though, I had no clue how to make black beans! And it would have been entirely unacceptable to just heat up a can of beans and call it good.
So the Godfather called his mother and asked her how to make black beans. He wrote the recipe down on a little square of paper with yellow and red flowers. That little piece of paper, my mother-in-law’s recipe for black beans, has traveled across the country with us twice. Tucked carefully in a recipe binder of printouts not often used, but too big to lose. So it’s safe until committed to memory.
It took me years to get black beans just right, mostly because I wasn’t ever very patient while the beans were cooking. I usually pulled them off too early. So please have patience with this dish, it’s worth it.
How do I serve black beans?
Traditionally, black beans are either served on top of white rice as a substantial side dish, or as a soup. If you’d like to serve it as a soup you may feel the need to add a little more broth or water. I never felt I had to because we like the soup on the thicker side. Just be sure to let the beans cook long enough that some split open and add a nice creaminess.
If serving as a soup, you will get less servings than serving over rice as a side. A pound of dried beans will give you anywhere between 6 and 8 cups of cooked beans. With liquid, that’s about 8-10 cups total in my experience. So you can feed about 8 people soup (1 cup servings), or about 16 beans and rice (1/2 cup servings).
Is it better to make black beans in the pressure cooker or on the stove top?
I don’t think there’s one better way. Done right, both will give you the same delicious result. The best way to make black beans is the way that works for you! Not everyone has access to a stove top, or time, and not everyone wants to have extra kitchen gadgets.
My current favorite way to make this (as of the Sept 2019 post update) is with the instant pot because I don’t have to plan far ahead. And set it and forget it is what works right now. If you’re in the same place, definitely take a few minutes to watch the video on this page so you ensure perfect results every time!
Can I “hack” this recipe with canned beans?
I love you. And yes, you probably could make sofrito and mix it with canned beans. But I really really really really encourage you to just make the dried beans. A pound of dried beans will run you under $2 and you’ll have freezer friendly leftovers! A can of beans runs about the same with no leftovers. Save a little money here. I’ve had so many people tell me they could easily follow this recipe, so I know you can do this. I believe in you.
If I’m making a Cuban meal, what do I pair with the beans?
We make Cuban black beans a good amount in our house. When I make it, we usually eat it as soup the first day and then I pair it as a side with something like my slow cooker ropa vieja recipe or slow cooker chicken with some rice. It’s basically always a side for roasted pork on Noche Buena. Another great side to pair with this for a “meat and 2” kind of plate are the Cuban sweet plantains (maduros).
And of course, there’s dessert. There’s always dessert in my house, haha. Tres leches cake or pumpkin flan are great for holidays and events when you have a little more time. But we usually have something easy like cookies.
I hope you enjoy this Cuban black beans recipe from our family to yours! <3
- 16 oz dry black beans (see notes)
- 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
- 6-8 cloves garlic, divided
- 1.5 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp vinegar (red wine, apple cider, or white all work)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided (plus more to taste)
- 1 dry bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- water or broth
How to cook black beans on the stove top:
- Two hours before cooking, preferably the night before, place the beans in a bowl and cover with water to soak (see note).
- When you are ready to cook, drain the beans, place them in a pot with new water (you may also use broth) and cover the beans by 1 inch. Add the vinegar, a clove or two of garlic (peeled and smashed), and bay leaf. Turn the heat to medium high to bring the water to a boil.
- Cover the beans, reduce the heat to medium/medium-low, enough to maintain a simmer, and cook 30-40 minutes until the beans are soft and cooked through. Stir occasionally, add more water if necessary.
- At about the 25 minute mark, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the garlic, onions and bell peppers with 1/2 tsp salt until the onions are soft and slightly translucent. Pour all of the sofrito into the pot with the beans, which should be mostly cooked. Add the cumin. Simmer an additional 10 minutes or so until the beans are soft.
- Adjust the level of salt and cumin to taste. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Serve warm as a soup, or over rice. Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator up to a week or frozen for several months.
How to cook black beans in the Instant Pot (pressure cooker):
- Rinse the black beans. Place in the pressure cooker and cover with enough water to come about 1 1/2 inches above the beans.
- Add a bay leaf, a few cloves of smashed garlic, and the vinegar. Close the pressure cooker and set to cook at high pressure for 30 minutes.
- When the timer for the beans has finished, make your sofrito.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and the remaining garlic (minced).
- Once the pressure has released on the beans naturally (or you can manual release after 10 minutes), add all the sofrito to the beans. Add the salt and cumin. Press the "saute" button on the Instant Pot and allow the beans to simmer with the sofrito an additional 10 minutes until soft. Add more water if needed, stir frequently.
- Adjust the seasonings to taste, and serve warm as soup or over rice. Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator up to a week or frozen for several months.
You can make as little as a half pound of beans using the same sofrito ingredients. That being said, black beans freeze very well and the leftovers keep up to a week in the refrigerator. This is one recipe I recommend making a little extra now to save time later.
I have forgotten to soak the beans, they'll still cook just fine. Rinse them well to remove any possible debris, and then add a little extra water during the cooking process. It will take a little longer for them to cook.
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