Meet my go-to, foolproof black bean recipe! If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to cook black beans from scratch, this guide is for you. These beans are rich and creamy, yet lively and full of flavor. They rival the frijoles negros I’ve loved in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Belize, and they make a delicious side dish or meal component.
Home-cooked black beans offer far more flavor than canned beans, especially when you include the right seasonings. Dried beans are also less expensive than canned beans and reduce waste. Plus, black beans are very good for you. They are rich in fiber and plant-based protein, and a fantastic source of folate, thiamin (vitamin B1), phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium.
If you’re learning to cook dried beans, it’s important to start them early. The wild card with dried beans is that you’ll never be 100 percent certain when they’ll finish cooking. Better to start cooking well before you’re in a rush for dinner.
Black Bean Seasonings
Many black bean recipes incorporate bacon or lard, but these beans are free of meat products (they’re vegetarian and vegan). I played around with spices and flavorings until I came up with a clear winner.
You can simplify the recipe by omitting any of the seasonings listed in the ingredients, but for the best flavor, I recommend using all of them. Here’s what I add to the pot before cooking:
- Red onion and garlic
- Bay leaves
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Ground cumin
- Orange zest
- Red pepper flakes
After cooking, I like to stir in some chopped cilantro (skip it if you don’t like it) and a squeeze of lime juice to brighten up the whole pot.
Black Bean Yield & Conversions
Dried black beans are typically sold in one-pound bags, so I wrote this recipe to use the whole bag. It yields a big pot of beans (about six cups). If you don’t think you’ll be able to finish off the whole pot within five days, you can easily halve the recipe or freeze leftovers for later.
Here are some measurements and conversions that might be helpful:
- Dried (raw) black beans: 1 pound = 16 ounces = scant 2 1/2 cups
- 1 pound dried black beans = 6 cups cooked black beans = four 15-ounce cans of cooked black beans
- Each 1/2 cup of dried beans yields a little over 1 cup cooked beans
The Great Bean Debates
To Soak, or Not to Soak
Here’s a compelling argument for not soaking beans by Kenji Lopez on Serious Eats. In summary, un-soaked beans require only marginally longer on the stove, have a deeper color, and better flavor. Soaking black beans is an unnecessary extra step.
To Salt Before Cooking, or Afterward
Salted beans cooked more evenly. Unsalted beans actually absorbed too much water and popped open before their skins sufficiently softened. Salting early also enhances the flavor.
Stovetop vs. Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)
Cooking your beans on the stovetop is the way to go. Instant Pot beans may cook unevenly, become mushy, or lack the condensed, stewy cooking liquid that stovetop beans offer.
Timing Issues with Old Beans and Hard Water
Cooking beans from scratch can be a bit unpredictable. Very old beans may never soften sufficiently. The minerals in hard water can also slow the cooking process. Use filtered or distilled water if possible.
How to Serve Black Beans
These black beans are a great side dish to serve with Mexican, Cuban, or other Latin American-inspired meals. They can also be incorporated into various recipes, such as burritos, casseroles, chilaquiles, enchiladas, quesadillas, and tacos. The options are endless!
Or, replace the bean component in other recipes with these home-cooked black beans. They are a fantastic burrito bowl component and can be paired with rice, sauces, extra greens or veggies, and various garnishes and accents.
For more recipe ideas and inspiration, check out Ekilove!