Pat’s Favorite Cuban Black Bean Soup

Cuban black bean soup

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Pat Murphy — the husband of one of our favorite Puerto Rican food cocineras Michelle Ezratty Murphy — siempre looked forward to the smoky black bean soup made from scratch by his aunt’s Cuban neighbor.

Luckily, the vecina came over with a big container of the black bean soup frequently.

See how to make this Cuban black bean soup from scratch and the ingredients that gives the sopa its depth of hearty, authentic flavor.

While bean dishes are plentiful and much loved across Latin America, Pat especially loves his neighbor’s sopa for its unmistakably Cuban sabor. For one, the beans are black. Second, the soup is flavored with lime juice and cumin. And third: Ham hocks! In Puerto Rico, a stew or soup like this would typically call for diced ham. But this Cuban recipe uses on-the-bone ham hocks, adding a distinctly authentic Cuban texture. Plus, its use of bone marrow gives the dish a deep, earthy flavor that makes it one of Pat’s forever-favorite soups — in both cold and hot weather.

Quality ham hock comes from a butcher, so be sure to buy one from your local carnicero, Pat and Michelle advise. And for the tastiest ham of all, wait until someone is roasting a pig and get yourself invited, they add. When she was growing up on the island, Michelle remembers entire towns in Puerto Rico specializing in selling lechón asado from whole roasted pigs on the spit. People would travel from all over for a plate of the delicious cerdo with all the fixings. That’s the spirit of the ham hocks you want for this soup, if you can find them. That said, this black bean soup recipe is so good, it will work with regular grocery store ham hocks, if that is all you can find, they say.

While Michelle and Pat now live far away from the Caribbean in landlocked Arizona, they crave Cuban and Puerto Rican food — often — and are willing to put in the time and effort to achieve the mouth-watering depth of flavor at home. You’ll often find them cooking criollo dishes like Pat’s Titi Rosa’s arroz con pollo, culling through 30 recipes to make the ultimate Cuban ropa vieja, baking empanadas de picadillo, and most sumptuous and time consuming of all: making from-scratch holiday pasteles made with yautía, green bananas and pork for the holidays.

High on their list of must-make comidas, of course: this classic black bean soup. It’s a perfect example of how sturdy and flavorful Latino dishes need to be. “Latin American food has to be able to sit in a pot on a stove all day long,” says Michelle, admiringly — and still taste delicious, always at the ready when the family comes over, because large groups of people must be fed. Back in Puerto Rico, when he was growing up, a huge caserola of something delicioso would be simmering on his aunt’s stove, waiting for Pat and his cousins to drop by and enjoy.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing, that is for sure,” Michelle said, adding that even if family and friends stopped by at different times, they could always count on great company and food, often including this smoky-savory black bean soup, bien calientita and ready to serve.

Check out more criollo recipes from these married expert cocineros!

Ready to Make a Hearty Pot of Cuban Black Bean Soup?

Pat’s Favorite Black Bean Cuban Soup

Recipe by Pat’s Aunt’s Cuban neighbor
4.0 from 48 votes
Cuisine: Cuban


Prep time
Cooking time




  • 1 lb dry black beans

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, large, seeded and diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, large, minced

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted

  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 10 ajíes dulce, cut and seeded

  • 12 cups chicken stock (or 3 Tbsp Chicken Better than Bouillon mixed with 12 cups of water)

  • 2 ham hocks, uncooked

  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed

  • 1 Tbsp lime juice

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper salt, or to taste

  • 2 tsp sugar

  • 1 red bell pepper, large, fire-roasted and chopped, for garnish


  • In a large bowl, place the dried beans and sift through them, removing any stems or leaves.
  • Pour cold water into the bowl, covering the beans with at least 1 inch over the top of the beans. Soak overnight.
  • The next day, drain the beans and rinse well in cold water.
  • Put the beans into a large stock pot with the ham hock, bay leaves and chicken stock. Set aside.
  • In a large pan, heat up 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the onions, green peppers and cumin seeds in the pan, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add minced garlic, ground cumin, oregano and sauté for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Pour about 2 Tbsp of the chicken stock from stock pot into the hot pan to deglaze any bits from the bottom of the pan. Set aside the pan to cool.
  • In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, ají dulce peppers, lime juice, salt, black pepper, sugar, sauteed onion and pepper mixture which has been cooled. Blend until pureed.
  • Add the pureed mixture into the pot with the beans, ham hock, bay leaves and chicken stock. Bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to medium and cover until the beans are tender, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
  • After the beans are tender, ladle out about 1/3 cup of the beans and mash them well. Put them back in to the stock pot. This step will thicken the soup. Stir well. Taste for salt and pepper.
  • With the pot partially covered, simmer for another 35 to 45 minutes on medium low.
  • Once the soup is creamy, remove from the heat. Remove the ham hocks and allow to cool.
  • Once cooled, remove the bone, and shred the ham. The ham can be served in chunks off the bone, or shredded and stirred into the soup.
  • Chop the roasted red pepper and fold into the soup as garnish.
  • Serve warm in bowls, with a side of tostones, if you wish!


  • Start from scratch with dry beans to avoid the salt and additives in canned habichuelas. Tastes better, too, say Pat and Michelle.
  • If the soup seems to be too thick after simmering, add water or broth 1 tablespoon at a time. 

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