Make Ahead

Cuban Beans My Way

March 17, 2011
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  • Serves 6
Author Notes

My boyfriend (kryptonik!) is part Cuban and, as such, grew up on an unfettered diet of black beans and rice. He had never cooked pasta until his freshman year of college. Over Christmas, his mother taught me the traditional family recipe, but said that each person makes the beans in a slightly different way and I would have to come up with my own twist. Here it is!

Please note: I learned the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce trick from a Gourmet recipe ( It endows the vegetarian beans with a meaty, robust flavor. The joys of umami! —student epicure

What You'll Need
  • 16 ounces black beans (I use Goya or the organic black beans from Whole Foods bulk bins)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 red onion (1/3 left whole, the other 2/3 chopped)
  • 1 green bell pepper (1/2 left whole, 1/2 chopped)
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 t olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium)
  • generous fistful of cilantro, chopped
  • salt and fresh ground pepper as needed
  • hot sauce on top!
  1. Place the beans in a medium-large pot and cover with cold water. The water should come up about 2 inches above the beans. Soak overnight.
  2. Heat pot on medium/high heat. (Note: the Cubans don't discard the soaking water, nor do they skim the foam off the top). Add the bay leaves, half of the green bell pepper (whole) and 1/3 of the whole red onion. Simmer uncovered until beans are cooked but still toothsome (~40 minutes). If the beans seem to be getting dry, add more water.
  3. Discard bay leaves, pepper, and onion. In a saute pan (I like to use my wok), heat 1/4 c. olive oil. Add onion and garlic, cooking until fragrant (~3 minutes). Add bell pepper and oregano. Cook until softened, then add to beans.
  4. Heat remaining 3 T of olive oil and saute carrots until tender-crisp. Add to beans.
  5. Season beans with vinegar, soy sauce, and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly, adding fresh ground pepper and salt, if necessary. Sometimes a batch of beans needs a little more soy sauce or a little more vinegar. Serve over rice with hot sauce (I like Cholula!).

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student epicure

Recipe by: student epicure


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