Today, I made my favorite food, a dish that stems from my Cuban heritage. From the title, I bet you can guess what my favorite food is. That’s right, Cuban Black Beans. These beans with their unique mix of flavors are right up there with homemade whole wheat bread as one of my ultimate comfort foods. And even if you haven’t been raised eating Cuban Black Beans on a weekly basis, you’re bound to enjoy this delicious recipe that puts other black beans and refried beans to shame.
The recipe for Cuban Black Beans was given to my mom by her mother-in-law: my dear grandma Gloria Maria, who has since passed on. You see, I think my grandma knew that if the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the quickest way to a Cuban’s heart is through homemade black beans, so knowing how to make black beans when married to a Cuban would be pretty essential.
Over the years, my mom has adapted this recipe somewhat, and you may wish to adapt it to. As my grandma once said, some people like “cumin beans” and some people like “cilantro beans.” I tend to enjoy them most when they’re a little heavy on the cilantro.
When preparing these, you can use my family’s recipe below, or you can adjust the seasonings to suit your personal tastes. That’s one of the best things about these beans, they seem to always come out tasting delicious, no matter how you adjust the proportions of the various ingredients.
Cuban Black Beans
1 pound dry black beans
1 medium white or yellow onion
1 medium green bell pepper
1 fist-sized bunch of cilantro
2-3 large garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon agave nectar or sugar
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
First, soak your black beans overnight. If soaking them that long isn’t a possibility, at least soak them for a few hours. This step is important not only because it makes the beans easier to cook, but because during the soaking process, the beans will lose some oligosaccharides, which will make the beans easier to digest. So, essentially, if you don’t want your dinner guests to experience gas after eating your delicious Cuban Black Beans, please, by all means, take the time to soak them. Trust me, it’s worth it.
When you have finished soaking your beans, discard the dirty oligosaccharide-ridden water you just soaked them in and give them a good rinse. Then, place them in a pressure cooker or slow cooker, depending on whether you want to eat them soon, or have them cook all day while you’re away. (I use my Instant Pot on the pressure cooker setting). Cover the beans in water, using enough water to just cover the beans.
Next, chop your onion, bell pepper and garlic and throw them in on top of the beans. Then, grab about a fistful of cilantro, chop it loosely, and add it to the top. Finally, toss in your bay leaves.
In the Instant Pot, select the Manual button and cook for 16-18 minutes (I have used both the quick release and natural pressure release methods when making these and both have worked fine). When your beans have finished cooking, they should resemble bean soup. At this point, you’ll want to find the bay leaves and remove them, as they don’t dissolve. If you have picky eaters, you may want to put the beans in a food processor or blender to get rid of any vegetable lumps and make them more the consistency of refried beans. Some people like to leave them soupy. My favorite is kind of a mixture. You can achieve this by mashing the beans with a potato masher a few times, or by processing or blending part of the beans and mixing them back in with the rest of the batch. Making the beans this way helps them hold together better if you decide to put them in a burrito or a taco, while also keeping some of the whole beans intact. At this point, you’ll add the sweetener and seasonings, as well as the optional olive oil. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to suit your taste buds.
Cuban Black Beans are typically served with rice. In fact, a common nickname for this dish in Spanish is “Moros y Cristianos,” which means, “Moors and Christians” (the “Moors” referring to the beans and the “Christians” to the rice). As you can guess from this name, the rice typically served with black beans is white, though for today, I made a Mexican-style rice because I like the flavor. I also made guacamole to go with the beans and rice, because, really, what could be better?
You can eat the finished product out of a bowl, or you can use your beans and rice as the primary ingredients in a standout burrito or taco. Enjoy!