Cuban Black Beans Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Cuban Black Beans Recipe

Cuban Black Beans | Pamela Salzman
Photography by Erica Hampton

Give me all the peasant food.  I need nothing fancy to make me happy and satisfied.  A good bean soup or bowl of braised lentils or refried beans is what I crave. I basically could never go Paleo because I can’t give up legumes!  There are many different cultures which use legumes in their cooking – from the Mediterranean and the Middle East to India and Caribbean.  Let’s not forget Latin America, South America and North America!  Legumes are a nutritious, inexpensive and versatile staple in many kitchens around the globe.  Did you also know beans with black or red color have crazy high amounts of antioxidants?

Cuban Black Beans | Pamela Salzman

Beans and lentils in soups and salads made regular appearances at our table when I was a child and I have kept up the tradition.  Thank heavens my family, especially Mr. Picky, is a bunch of bean-eaters.  Although I tend to make beans from scratch, I always have (BPA-free) canned beans in the pantry so I can whip up any number of recipes quickly.

Cuban Black Beans | Pamela Salzman

My son’s favorite meal is quite possibly rice and beans.  He loves Mexican refried (which you know isn’t fried) pinto or black beans, as well as drunken beans.  He also loves Cuban black beans, which many people assume will taste like Mexican beans, but the flavors of the Caribbean are definitely different from the flavors of Mexico.

Cuban Black Beans | Pamela Salzman

I visited Cuba about 15 years ago and absolutely fell in love with the culture, the people and the food.  I certainly ate a lot of rice and beans, which was fine with me, but challenging for Cubans who at the time were rationed beef maybe once a year, chicken a few times per year and given very strict limits on cooking oil and fresh foods. I don’t know, but I imagine the situation hasn’t changed much.

Cuban Black Beans | Pamela Salzman

I’m sure this basic dish of black beans is made slightly differently in every home, but the addition of vinegar, green bell pepper and a pinch of sugar is very common and what makes this different from what you’d find at a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant.  I love the bit tang and sweet mixed with these beans.  Serve this over hot rice or cauli-rice to keep the carbohydrates lower.  You can make this up to a few days before and reheat for an easy weeknight dinner, especially Meatless Monday or Lenten Friday!

4.7 from 6 reviews
Cuban Black Beans Recipe
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 pound dried black beans* (see bottom of page for how to make with precooked beans)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced, divided
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2-3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • ½ Tablespoon cane sugar, brown sugar or coconut sugar
  1. Soak beans with lots of cold water at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Place drained beans in a pot with half the green pepper and 1 clove of garlic. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook beans partially covered until tender, about 1-1 ½ hours. While beans are cooking, there should be enough water to just cover the beans. Add a little more if necessary. Maintain a simmer and not a boil so the beans cook evenly and maintain their shape.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the remaining bell pepper, 4 cloves minced garlic and onion. Cook over medium heat until tender. Stir in the spices, salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, another minute or two.
  4. Add the pepper-onion mixture to the cooked beans and simmer for 5-10 minutes. If broth is too liquidy, cook until desired consistency is reached. Add the vinegar to taste and the sugar. Taste for salt and season accordingly.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight (reheat the next day) or serve immediately.
*To make using canned black beans: Saute garlic, pepper and onion in oil in a medium pot until tender. Add spices, salt and pepper and sauté until fragrant. Add 3 15-ounce cans of black beans PLUS the liquid in the can. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, partially covered. Finish with vinegar and sugar. Taste for seasonings.


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  1. if you want your beans to be “blacker” don’t drain them after soaking. What my cuban mother in law taught me.
    and she gave me Nitza Viallapol’s cookbook when i married her son in 1979.

  2. We enjoyed these beans! Loved the addition of cider vinegar and sugar at the end- really brightens the flavors

    • Yes, it’s a refreshing twist on the flavor of basic refried beans! 🙂

  3. I was craving these and just made an enormous pot and then realized that there’s no way my family will eat them all before we leave for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Can they be frozen or should I dole them out to friends and spread the love?

    • Freeze them!

  4. I made these a while ago and they were delicious! We love black beans. They are so versatile and add protein when you don’t want to add it with meat. Thank you again!

    • I totally agree with you. Thanks for the encouraging comment!

  5. My husband and I really enjoyed this recipe, and we also consider ourselves bean-eaters. I followed Gisela’s suggestion and added the white wine (a bit more than 1/4 cup) and the bay leaf. Muchas gracias! I did, however, take some liberties and used red peppers instead of green, simply because we prefer them. I also cooked the beans with a few extra cloves of garlic, simply because we put garlic in just about everything. Thanks again for another interesting and tasty “global” recipe!

    • All great adaptations, Mia!

  6. I soaked my beans overnight but at two hours and counting they still aren’t very tender! Next time I will Cooke these in the afternoon …

    • Hmmm… that’s a long time. You haven’t added salt, right? The salt is not supposed to be added until AFTER the beans are tender. Otherwise, you got some really old beans.

  7. Hii!
    I am one of the black beans lovers. Finding something special with black beans and now my desire is finished with your recipe.

  8. Hi

    You are most welcome. You are correct, we should always use our own culinary creativity in our recipes. It makes for much more delightful eating! All the best and thank you for your wonderful and delicious recipes.

  9. Hi Pamela

    This recipe is fine, but there are very important missing ingredients:
    1/4 cup white wine
    1 bay leaf

    My mother always added about a tablespoon or two of ketchup, but that is optional.

    I was born in Cuba and my mother cooked Cuban dishes at home so I think I qualify to make this suggestion. A very famous cook in Cuba, whose name was Nitza Villapol & whose cherished cookbooks were brought to the US hidden in our mother’s suitcases when we made our exodus from that Godforsaken island, called for the wine & bay leaf. She did not use coriander in her recipe. That is not a typical spice used in Cuban black beans. I have all of her cookbooks, which are in Spanish & I just looked at the recipe to be sure I had not missed anything. She was our Julia Childs & had her own television show back in the fifties.

    • Oooh, I love your suggestions and YES, you are most definitely qualified to offer any insight! I appreciate your generous comment and I am always so interested to learn the “authentic” way to make global recipes. That said, something I always teach my students is that they don’t have to follow recipes exactly for them to taste good and taking liberties with traditional recipes to suit one’s tastes is what makes cooking fun! Thank you sharing your knowledge here. I always appreciate thoughtful feedback. 🙂

    • Dumbass

      • Hey Chris… if you don’t have something nice to say or add keep your weak mind idle and your mouth shut!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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