Congrí is a quintessentially Cuban take on beans and rice. In this dish, black beans and rice are cooked together—rather than separately—which gives the rice its signature congrí (with gray) shade. This also makes it a bit drier, though it’s an equally delicious transformation.
Instead of traditional Goya Canilla rice, my dad always uses parboiled, meaning it’s already been partially boiled in the husk; he swears it ensures the perfect al dente bite. It took him years to reveal to me the secret to his silky, surprisingly flavorful white rice: garlic cloves sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil. I spent countless nights in my dad’s dining room, inhaling bowl after bowl of plain arroz dashed with long drizzles of Frank’s RedHot hot sauce. I’d even ask him to whip up a pot for me to take back to college when I was home for the weekend.
In my dad’s family, congrí was typically served in large quantities as a side for dishes like ropa vieja or vaca frita (fried beef) at Nochebuena parties and other family gatherings. I, on the other hand, remember congrí as an entrée all its own, enhanced with my dad’s signature substitute for classic bacon: spicy Spanish chorizo.
I recommend soaking the beans overnight, but you don’t necessarily need to. If you choose not to soak them, simply skip the second step—just take note that you’ll need to cook the beans anywhere from two to two-and-a-half hours. —Taryn Pire
- Prep time 10 hours
- Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
- Serves 12 to 16 as a side, 8 as a main
dried black beans
large green bell peppers, diced
large Spanish onions, diced
cloves of garlic, minced
extra-virgin olive oil
dry Spanish chorizo sausages, diced
parboiled long-grain white rice
adobo all-purpose seasoning
fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt, to taste
- Pick through one pound of dried black beans. Throw away all pebbles that may have made their way into the bag; they’ll be white or gray in color and likely smaller than the beans. Rinse the beans in a strainer under running water, running your hand through them to ensure all beans get washed.
- To soak the beans: Add the beans to a medium-size pot filled with the water (there should be about 1 inch of extra water covering the beans) and bring to a boil. Cover and turn off the flame. Let them soak overnight.
- The next day, bring the pot back up to a boil. Then turn the heat down to medium. Add the bay leaf and cover the pot.
- Meanwhile, in a large stock pot set over medium heat, sauté the bell peppers, onions, and garlic cloves in the olive oil. Once they start to soften and become translucent, add the chorizo.
- When the chorizo is a bit browned, add in the uncooked rice and stir thoroughly. (Be sure to add the rice before the vegetables are totally browned.)
- When the uncooked rice is fully coated in the oil and combined with the other ingredients, add the cumin and adobo. Stir to combine, then turn off the heat and let the mixture sit until the beans are ready to be added to the pot.
- Once the beans are chewable but not mushy, about 60 to 90 minutes, turn off the heat. Let them sit, covered, in their broth for about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Once the beans have partially cooled, remove the bay leaf. Then, drain the beans, taking care to reserve 4 to 6 cups of the boiling liquid (aka bean broth). Add that broth to the larger stock pot with the rice. Turn the heat back on to high, and stir thoroughly. Note: The amount of broth can vary; if there are less than 6 cups of broth, substitute the remainder with water to keep the ratio of 1 ½ cups of liquid to each cup of rice.
- Promptly stir the beans into the rice so they don’t dry without the broth. Stir until the mixture reaches a light boil. Cover, bring the heat down as low as possible, and let simmer.
- After roughly 20 minutes, uncover the beans and rice. Stir with a long fork, doing your best not to break the beans. Be sure to reach the bottom of the pot with the fork so the rice doesn’t stick and burn.
- After stirring, cover the pot again for about 5 minutes and let cook on low heat. At that point, the rice has likely soaked up most of the broth, so the congrí should be rather dry. If you prefer your rice and beans on the wetter side, cover the pot for 2 to 3 minutes instead.
- Turn off the heat, and add the cilantro and salt to taste. Give it one final stir before serving warm.