Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)

Quintessentially Cuban, but these black beans make a delicious and nutritious accompaniment or side dish with any cuisine. Rice and beans are an ideal meal
for the thoughtful cook on a tight budget. Together, they constitute a complete protein, and a big plate costs less than fifty cents to make. My black beans are vegetarian. That’s a little unusual for Cuban black beans, but I think you’ll agree
that they taste great this way and are so much healthier for us.

Serves:  10

  • 1 pound dry black turtle beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 large green pepper (cored, seeded & coarsely chopped)
  • 1 large onion (peeled & coarsely chopped)
  • 6 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dry leaf oregano (crushed)
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Place beans in colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water, removing any small stones or bits of soil that may have eluded the packer.
  2. Transfer beans to a large pot, cover with water and soak for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. When ready to cook, add a little more water if needed to cover.  Do not rinse or drain the liquid.
  4. Add remaining ingredients.
  5. Cover the pot and bring to a boil on top of the stove.
  6. Lower the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  7. Mash garlic cloves and some of the beans against the sides of the pot to thicken the liquid.
  8. Remove cover and continue cooking slowly until the liquid is reduced and has the consistency of gravy.
  9. Stir frequently to prevent beans from sticking and scorching.
  10. Before serving remove bay leaves, adjust seasonings and add a little more olive oil if desired.
  11. Transfer to serving bowl.
  12. Garnish with a bit of finely chopped red onion and chopped fresh parsley.

NOTE: These beans are cooked in the water they soaked in. This is what gives Cuban black beans their deep blue-black color. Many recipes and package directions suggest you drain the beans after soaking and cook them in fresh water as this is supposed to make the beans less “musical.” It also, however, takes away some of the color and richness of the beans.

VARIATION: Many people like to add meat to their beans — a little salt pork or a ham bone. You can put in whatever you have on hand for extra flavor.

HELPFUL HINT: No time to soak the beans overnight? No problem. Just bring the beans and water to a boil, cook for two minutes, remove from heat and let stand for one hour. Then resume the recipe above at step 4.