Cuban black beans and rice is a simple and healthy recipe that’s full of flavor and cheap to make. Dry beans are simmered until tender before adding a tasty spiced sofrito, vinegar and sugar for a delicious sweet and sour note. Serve with rice for a hearty plant-based meal!
- Moros y Cristianos or Frijoles Negros?
- Authentic Cuban black beans
- What is sofrito?
- How to make Cuban black beans and rice
- Variations and substitutions
- Make ahead and storage tips
- What to serve with Cuban style black beans and rice
- Recommended Products
- Did you make this recipe?
Moros y Cristianos or Frijoles Negros?
Beans and rice are a staple in Cuban cuisine and there are a multitude of dishes that incorporate both.
Probably the two most well-known Cuban bean and rice dishes are moros y cristianos and frijoles negros. But what is the difference between them?
Well, it’s simple. When rice and beans are cooked together in the same pot it’s called moros y cristianos or congrí. Congrí uses red beans while moros and cristianos uses black beans.
To make frijoles negros, black beans are cooked in their own pot and served alongside white rice, which has been cooked in a separate pot.
Frijoles negros and moros y cristianos are similarly seasoned with garlic, green pepper, onion, laurel, oregano and cumin.
The recipe that follows is for frijoles negros con arroz, or Cuban black beans served with rice and patacones!
Authentic Cuban black beans
While black beans are a staple thoughout Latin America, what makes Cuban frijoles negros stand out is the consistency of the dish.
Authentic Cuban black beans are often described as a potaje, or stew. The beans are tender and creamy in a sort of thick gravy.
This is why it’s important to use dried beans rather than canned.
The starch that is released from the beans as they cook is what gives authentic Cuban black beans their stew-like consistency.
Well-made Cuban black beans should be neither too soupy nor too dry.
The recipes I consulted are more or less the same, with varying proportions of the main ingredients.
A lot of English-language recipes are wack with random ingredients thrown in like jalapeños, bacon or ham hock.
Of course, some Cubans might add that but I went through 3 pages of Google and didn’t find one authentic Cuban recipe that called for any kind of meat, making this recipe naturally vegetarian and vegan-friendly!
What is sofrito?
Sofrito is the flavour base of many Spanish and Latin American dishes.
The sofrito used in Cuban black beans is simple. It is composed of onions, garlic, and green pepper. Sometimes spices can be added as well.
To make a sofrito, the onion, garlic and green pepper are lightly fried in a small pan. The sofrito is then added to the pot of beans as they cook.
This beauty of this recipe is that it the ingredients are very economical, healthy and the list is not very long!
Dried black beans: Dried beans are much cheaper than canned although they take a little forethought to leave them to soak overnight.
Water: No need to use stock, the water is flavoured with the sofrito.
Olive oil: To fry the vegetables.
Green pepper: Preferably you should use a cubanelle pepper, also known as an Italian frying pepper, as this is the most common type of green pepper in Cuban cuisine. The flesh is thinner and crisper than a bell pepper. However, you can substitute a bell pepper if you can’t find a cubanelle.
Onion and garlic: For the flavour base.
Laurel/Bay: Laurel is a common ingredient in slow-cooked stews such as this one.
Cumin: The earthy aroma is distinctive in Latin American cuisine.
Dried Oregano: Adds a nice herby freshness.
Smoked Paprika: This ingredient is optional but adds a nice touch of smokiness.
Sherry vinegar: This recipe has a slight sweet and sour flavour so vinegar counteracts the sugar. You can substitute white or red wine vinegar for the sherry vinegar.
Sugar: You can use white or brown sugar.
Salt: To season.
Rice: Long grain rice to serve along with the beans and soak up all their gravy.
How to make Cuban black beans and rice
Cuban black beans and rice is highly prized for its simplicity and ease of preparation. It takes a bit of time but the results are well worth it!
- Prep the beans
This recipe starts the night before you want to make it. Rinse the dried beans and inspect them to pick out any rocks.
Place them in a large bowl and cover with water. Leave them to soak overnight. Soaking dried beans overnight reduces their cooking time.
When you’re ready to cook, drain and rinse the rice and add them to a large pot with the water, half the green pepper, onion, 2 garlic cloves and the bay leaf.
Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover the pot with its lid. Cook for 45 minutes.
2. Prepare the sofrito
When the beans are about halfway done, you can start preparing the sofrito.
Heat a medium pan over medium heat and fry the remaining onion, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil.
Once the vegetables are tender, add the cumin, paprika, and oregano and fry them to bring out the flavour. Be careful that the heat is not too high so as not to burn the spices!
3. Combine and simmer
Add the sofrito into the pot with the beans and also add salt. Cover the pot back up and let it keep cooking.
4. Add the seasonings
After another 30 minutes has passed you can add the vinegar and sugar and give the beans a final 15 minutes to blend the flavours all together.
5. Adjust the consistency
As mentioned above, the consistency of Cuban black beans should be creamy in a thick gravy.
If your beans seem watery or soupy, simmer them with the lid off to allow the liquid to reduce.
Optionally, you can blend a small portion of the beans either by transferring a ladleful to a blender or by using an immersion blender.
On the other hand, if you’re happy with the consistency of the broth, then cover the pot back up for the final 15 minute simmer.
Variations and substitutions
Vino seco: A few Cuban frijoles negros recipes call for something called vino seco. This is a type of dry cooking wine that comes in both red and white varieties.
It’s not something you can find in any grocery store, but some people suggest you can substitute a good dry red or white wine. If you’re adventurous, you can add ½ to 1 tablespoon of wine along with the vinegar and sugar.
Peppers: As mentioned previously, the preferred pepper for this recipe is a green cubanelle. If you can’t find it, you can substitute a regular green bell pepper, or a red or yellow pepper if you don’t like green peppers.
Seasonings: You can adjust the amount of cumin, paprika and oregano that you use to your taste. Serve with a slice of fresh lime on the side to squeeze over.
This recipe can be adapted for canned beans (but it won’t be as good!). Since the broth needs to be thick and creamy, don’t drain or rinse the beans. Add the entire contents of the can of beans to the pot.
You won’t need as much water as called for in the recipe since canned beans are already cooked. Add one or two cups, then simmer the beans until the raw onion and green pepper are tender.
Add the sofrito and simmer until the consistency is like beans in a creamy gravy, or blend a ladleful of the beans to help thicken the broth.
Soaking dry beans overnight will reduce the cooking time and make them easier to digest. However, if you forgot to soak them overnight, you can do a quick soak.
To quick soak beans, cover them in water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit in the hot water for an hour. Proceed with the recipe.
Yes, Cuban black beans can be made in the Instant Pot. I would suggest reducing the amount of water to 3 cups since you won’t lose any to evaporation.
Add the beans, water, onion, garlic and green pepper to the pot and cook on high for 30 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 20 minutes. Open the lid and stir in your sofrito, vinegar, sugar and salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes for the flavours to meld.
If it’s too soupy, blend a bit to thicken it up.
Yes, follow the same instructions as for the Instant Pot and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours or low for 6 - 8 hours.
Make ahead and storage tips
These black beans can be made ahead of time, which makes them great for meal prep! Cook them on the weekend and store them for lunches throughout the week.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 6 months.
What to serve with Cuban style black beans and rice
Beans and rice is very filling, which makes this a great main meal.
Garnish with some fresh sliced avocado, a slice of lime and a sprinkling of cilantro.
Patacones, or tostones, are an excellent side dish. Or serve with some cornbread or tortillas.
Any type of salad will got well. For example, tomato and avocado salad, corn salad, or mango, avocado and red onion salad.
- ½ pound (225 grams) dried black beans, soaked overnight or all day
- 1 litre (4 ¼ cups) water
- ½ green pepper, finely diced, divided
- ½ medium onion, finely diced, divided
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- Long-grain rice, to serve
- Drain and rinse the soaked beans and put them in a pot along with the water, half the diced green pepper, ¼ of the diced onion, 2 cloves of the minced garlic and the bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot with the lid. Simmer for 45 minutes.
- After about 35 minutes start preparing the sofrito. In a pan heat the oil over medium heat and add the remaining onion. Sautee until tender then add the remaining green pepper. When the green pepper is tender add the remaining garlic and sautee for about a minute more or until the garlic is cooked. Add the cumin, oregano and paprika and fry, stirring continuously, for 30 seconds or until the spices are fragrant.
- Add this sofrito to the beans along with the salt, cover and simmer for 30 more minutes.
- You can start boiling water to cook the rice at this point.
- Finally, add the vinegar and sugar to the beans and simmer for 15 more minutes. If the beans seem to have a lot of water you can simmer them uncovered this time, otherwise cover them again. You can optionally transfer a portion of the beans to a blender and stir the blended beans back into the pot (I didn’t).
- Taste and add salt as necessary (I added an additional ½ teaspoon). Serve the rice into bowls with the black beans on top.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 360Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 279mgCarbohydrates: 59gFiber: 10gSugar: 10gProtein: 14g