The Best Black Beans, Made Cuban-Style with Mucho Amor

black beans white rice

Black beans are the soul of Cuban cooking, says Emily Gonzalez, 22, of Chicago.

Filling, affordable and delicioso, habichuelas negras are served pretty much every week in her Cuban-Mexican family, no matter the time of day or the dish they accompany. ”We eat them in the morning with eggs, mix them with chicken in quesadillas, put them in our empanadas, serve them with ropa vieja for special occasions like birthdays and Thanksgiving. And so many other dishes,” says Emily, a college student studying healthcare marketing.

Emily Gonzalez’s traditional Cuban black beans are so loved, her family even serves them for Thanksgiving instead of the expected mashed potatoes.

“They bring a comforting warmth to every meal. Our cherished Cuban black beans are more than just food. They represent a deep connection to our cultural roots. In a typical Cuban household, traditional black beans weave their way into most gatherings,” she explains.

A definining ingredient in Cuban cuisine, black beans, which are native to Latin America, are also called for in the recipes of many other parts of the Latino world, especially Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, Guatemala.

Her family’s love for this legume started at least one generation back with her abuelo, says Emily. ”Born in Havana, my grandfather, Faustino Heriberto Pérez, comes from an Afro-Cuban heritage. A storyteller with a wide variety of experiences, he’d talk to us a lot about the significance of black beans in his childhood. His family struggled to feed themselves within the limited resources of a tight budget. In Cuba, beans are the most affordable source of protein, so they became a staple of their daily meals.”

Almost a century later, with everyone now living in the Chicago area and, thankfully, no longer experiencing financial hardship or food insecurity, black beans are still a staple in Emily’s family table. Emily and her sisters gather for special meals, to cook a large pot of stewed black beans for their family recipe for congri, a belly-filling, garlicky mixture of black beans cooked with arroz blanco.

”I recall moments with my sister, when we were at my grandfather’s home, sifting through fresh beans, making sure each one was perfect,” says Emily. ”Sure, canned black beans are available, but the beauty of cooking traditional Cuban dishes with beans lies in starting with fresh ones, to make the most of their rich flavor.”

Watch Emily make their annual Thanksgiving Cuban-Mexican feast in this delicioso video.

A word on the ingredients: “My family measures based on our hearts, so play with the amounts to your taste,” says Emily. ”You can top your beans with red-pimento-stuffed Spanish olives once everything has been combined to your liking. My grandfather loved olives and once had the brilliant idea to add them to our black beans. We have never looked back and continue to include them in this recipe.”

Check out the family-famous black beans, below, that Emily and her family cook year-round in honor off their Cuban heritage and switch out for the expected mashed potatoes every Thanksgiving. To find more recipes from Emily’s family-famous Cuban-style T Day feast here.

Ready to Make Emily’s Family-Famous Black Beans?

Cuban Black Beans,

Recipe by Emily Gonzalez
5.0 from 1 vote
Cuisine: Cuban

8 to 10

Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 lbs dried black beans

  • 16 cups water

  • 1 packet sazon

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1/4 cup white wine

  • 1/4 cup onion, diced

  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, sliced in thin strips

  • 2 Tbsp adobo seasoning, or to taste

  • 2 tsp garlic, minced

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 2 oz Manzanilla olives

  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste


  • Sift through the dried black beans, tossing any discolored or broken ones or small stones that snuck in. Once you deem them perfect, rinse them well.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the beans and stir.
  • When the beans and liquid start boiling again, cook for 1 hour.
  • Stir the beans and add water to cover, if too much liquid has evaporated. Reduce the heat to simmer and gently boil the beans for 1 more hour, or until they are soft and fully cooked. When they are ready, lower the heat to low and cover the pot.
  • In a separate skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion becomes transparent.
  • Add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant.
  • Add the sautéed onion, pepper, and garlic mixture to the large pot with the beans. Stir until well combined. As soon as the beans have started simmering again on medium heat, add the white wine, vinegar, cumin, oregano, and sazon. Give the pot a last good stir and let it simmer for 1 to 2 last minutes. The black beans are ready to serve with white rice or cook into your favorite dishes, including Emily’s favorites: quesadillas and empanadas.

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