Cuban Black Beans

OK I admit it, I have never been able to make these without saying “Say hello to my little friends” in a terrible Tony Montana accent.

I hope I never stop too. I am the best.

I travelled to Cuba in 2010 and got to drive around the Country. One of the greatest places on the planet, I recommend anyone to go. The food gets a bad name and unfortunately, due to political and economic reasons, not a lot is on offer in the way of variety. But that is all changing now I believe.

One thing I will always remember is driving to the various guest houses that are pretty much, just people’s homes that they let you have a room in. Part of the cost is they cook you a meal, it seems standard and you get the same type of meal everywhere. It will consist of various courses and will nearly always contain the most amazing rice and black beans you will ever eat. The portion sizes are ridiculous and because I feared that the house owners were going without, in order for us Westerners to go with, I used to try and get them to half the portions. Something they would never do and I realised after a few attempts it was pretty insulting, so I gratefully accepted what they offered and made sure every last mouthful was eaten.

Amazing place. Amazing people.

This is simple cooking. A few flavours and all you need to do is chuck everything in a large pot and leave it to simmer. You don’t get easier or better than that. You can cheat and use canned black beans if you want, it will cut the prep and cooking time a lot, but it just won’t be the same.

Nutritionally wise, black beans are a food sent from the Gods, especially for vegans. Black beans are high in folic acid and magnesium and a good source of potassium and iron, but the real gem is in the low amount of fat and high amount of fibre and protein. One serving of the these beans alone will give you over 22grams of protein. Match it with some broccoli and ½ cup of cooked brown rice and you can get over 30 grams of protein and under 600 calories. For a body builder, that is terrible but for a vegan, that is pure amazement.

Plus it is cheap. Man is it cheap.

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

Black Beans Close


  • 400g (2 cups) dried black beans, soaked in a large pot of water for at least 4 hours, no longer than 12 (IMPORTANT)
  • 1 large onion, diced into larger pieces than you would normally
  • 1 green pepper (capsicum), diced into larger pieces than you would normally
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt (you’ll probably need a bit extra to taste, just keep tasting)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (as above, add slowly and keep tasting)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook it:

  1. Discard the water from the beans you have been soaking.
  2. Heat a large saucepan or casserole dish over a medium heat, add the oil
  3. Add the onions and peppers and fry for a few minutes to soften. About 5 will do it
  4. Add the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes
  5. Add the black beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaves and 1.5 litres (6 cups) of water
  6. Turn up the heat and as it begins to boil, put a lid on slightly askew,  turn the heat down and simmer for 1.5 hours checking regularly to see if it needs more water (it shouldn’t) and to skim the weird foamy bits off the top. You don’t want that in your insides. Stir every 10 – 15 minutes
  7. For the last 30 minutes, discard the bay leaves and add the vinegar and salt. If it needs more water, add a bit, if it is still really watery, remove the lid
  8. The beans should be ready now. If not, leave to cook a little longer. They are nearly there. Trust me.
  9. Serve with rice and veg

Recommended Tunes:


Machito “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite”

Machito was a Cuban native (there have been conflicting stories here, but we ALL want to believe it, so we do). However debateable his level of Cuban authenticity, his influence on what we all know as Afro-Cuban is not. He was one of the innovators and driving forces behind it.

OK, so choosing Machito would be like choosing Miles Davis for Jazz or nirvana for Grunge. It is not exactly an out there choice but I am matching an album to a bowl of black beans for God’s sake!  It HAS to be classic and in terms of Afro-Cuban Music, you do not get more classic than Machito. Dizzy and Charlie both looked up to, and called Machito an influence, so give it a go.

These beans may not be 100% authentic like the ones in Cuba, but this guy is the real deal. We have all danced (badly) to his beat, we may just not have known it…

Listen – but do yourself a favour and buy it on vinyl!!

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