Central American · Spanish

Black Beans & Rice

The recipe for black beans and rice varies from country to country, and as a result, there are arguments over the best version. Some add coconut, some add ham hocks or bacon, and some call for a lot of fresh cilantro. Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly how my husband‘s grandmother made her recipe that he still misses to this day. I tried my best to get close to her original – this recipe borrows heavily from Cuban black beans, and can be adapted in a variety of ways. I use a lot of cilantro, because that was Abuelita’s preference. Now, on a time-saving note, you can totally use a slow cooker for this, but I must admit, I love making this with a great pot (see below) and letting it simmer on the stove old-school style. You can prepare regular white rice or Cilantro lime rice.

Portion: makes around 2 quarts.

Time: 2 1/2 – 3 hours

You will need:

  • 1 lb dried black beans, picked through and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (divided)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (divided)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp dried Italian oregano (divided)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped Cilantro leaves
  • 1 heaping tbs sofrito (optional)

Step one:

Bring beans, bay leaf, ¼ cup chopped onion, ¼ cup chopped bell pepper, 1 Tbsp. garlic, 1 Tbsp. salt, ½ tsp. oregano, and 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot or ditch oven.

Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more hot water if needed to cover, until beans are tender and covered by about ¼” liquid, 2½–3 hours. Discard bay leaf.

Step two:

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low. Add remaining onion, bell pepper, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and beginning to brown, 6-7 minutes. Stir into cooked beans. Add 1 heaping tbsp of sofrito, if desired, as well as 1/4 cup fresh cilantro.

Step three:

Stir beans while simmering for 2 1/2 to three hours until cooked down.

One half hour before serving the beans, prepare your rice.

Serve black beans over cilantro rice and top with fresh cilantro, if desired.

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