Cuban Black Beans and Coconut Infused Brown Rice

I've been on a bean kick for the past few weeks.  Must be the winter, I'm craving warm, slow cooked meals, comfort foods that are filling, hearty and healthy for you.  Last week I made my Vegetarian Red Beans with Okra and Brown Rice.  I kicked it up a notch by adding a bottle of Harpoon Hop Devil IPA to the cooking liquid and the results were extraordinary.  For the recipe, with the updated addition of the beer, click on this link here so you can make it too.  

This week I made a batch of Cuban Style Black Beans and served it over a coconut and cumin infused brown rice pilaf.  What makes them Cuban style is the use of black beans, adding in some oregano and the bay leaf for smokey flavor and then adding in a touch of rum for a final kick.  If you think about Mexican vs Cuban vs Spanish or any other Latin American Flavors, there are some repeat ingredients and somethings unique to each. The aromatics are all similar, onions, garlic, peppers.  The seasonings are somewhat similar, cumin, oregano, thyme.  Cuban cooking tends to be simpler and doesn't rely on the use of chilies for heat.  Cilantro is used in many cuisines, from Mexican to Thai, and Cuban cookery occasionally borrows this "soapy" tasting distinct herb.  My addition of lime juice, white vinegar and light rum are all classic flavor pairings that add a real zest and zing to the nearly finished dish.  Feel free to omit the rum if you don't or cannot have it.  The lime and vinegar are a must though.

The finished dish was equally good as my red beans and rice.  I think next week I'll be making Italian or Greek Style White Beans, so stay tuned.  This week's bean recipe which was created to serve 2 people with some left-overs (to make more, double the ingredients).  When we ate it for dinner at home, I served it with a side of turkey sausages for a bit of extra protein and fat.  It would be good with grilled or pan roasted chicken or even with shrimp.  For my work lunch, I'll stick to the pure vegan/vegetarian dish, allowing me to be kosher-safe and part-time vegetarian!

Cuban Black Beans Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Pound of Dried Black Beans - picked over and soaked for at least 2 hours to over-night
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable or Light Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion (about 1 1/2 Cups) - small dice
  • 2 Medium Red and Green Bell Peppers (about 2 cups total) - small dice
  • 4 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 /2 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
  • 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Cilantro or 1/4 Cup Fresh & Chopped Cilantro
  • 2 Dried Bay Leaves
  • 4 Cups Cold Water
  • 1/4 Cup Light or Golden Rum (optional, but it adds great flavor)
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime
  • 1 Teaspoon White Wine Vinegar
  • Heavy Bottomed 4 to 5 Quart Sauce Pot or Dutch Oven w/tight fitting lid
  • Salt - to taste after the beans are cooked
  • Onions, Red and Green Bell Peppers - julienne and sauteed for garnish (optional)
  1. Pick over and soak the black beans in cold water at least 2 hours or over night.  Drain and rinse the beans.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the sauce pot or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer.  Add in the diced onions and peppers and saute until the onions begin to take on a hint of colour and the peppers soften, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and saute another minute.
  3. Stir in the dried seasonings, cumin through ground black pepper, sauteing for 30 seconds to "bloom" the flavors; add in the bay leaves and 4 cups of cold water.  Bring the mixture to a rapid boil then immediately reduce the heat down to a low simmer. Cover pot, leaving a small crack open to allow the steam to evaporate; cook until the beans are tender and beginning to break down, about 2 to 3 hours.  Check the beans and stir them in the pot occasionally.  If the water is not evaporating or the beans are not soaking up the liquid, remove the lid to allow for more evaporation.  The beans should start to break down after 2 hours of slow simmering.  
  4. After the beans have been cooking for 2 hours or more, and the liquid level has reduced by nearly half, add in the juice of 1/2 of a lime, the vinegar, and if using, the rum.  Stir in the dried or fresh cilantro and cook down another hour.  
  5. Once the beans are cooked through and very tender, (the mixture should look mushy but still have some whole beans remaining) season to taste with salt and if needed, adjust the other seasonings - black pepper, cumin, oregano.  Remove the bay leaves and serve hot over rice and garnish with sauteed onions and peppers.  
  6. Makes 4 to 5 cups of Cuban Style beans and will serve 4 generously.  Double the recipe if you want to make a bigger batch.  The finished dish will freeze beautifully.  Keeps up to 5 days, tightly covered and refrigerated.
Coconut Infused Brown Rice Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 Cups Uncooked Brown Rice - medium or long grain - rinsed under cold water
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Coconut  - flaked or shredded
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano 
  • 2 2/3rds Cups Cold Water
  1. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer under cold running water. Shake off excess water and add to a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Add in the bay leaves, coconut flakes, salt, cumin and oregano.  Pour in the cold water and bring the mixture to a boil.  Immediately lower the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes; check to see if the water is evaporating too quickly, if needed, add more water. 
  3. Once the rice appears to have absorbed all the water, remove from heat and let stand, covered for 10 minutes or up to a half hour.
  4. Fluff with a fork before serving and season to taste with salt and pepper.


  1. Looks so good. I'm having a boring vegetable medley over regular brown rice tonight. Wish I could make this, but your recipe is too ambitious for me.

    I spent $14 on a mediocre Mexican enchiladas entree last night at Johnny Mananas. The portion was so small, I ate it in 5 mins flat.

    Trader Joes is great, but also expensive. I'd rather take all this money I spend on food and buy meals from you instead.

    We've got to talk about this!

  2. Actually, it's incredibly easy to make! You can omit a few steps too, but I like to do everything a bit more, I don't know, thoroughly? You can use pre-chopped veggies, though doing your own is cheaper. You don't have to presoak the beans, the only dried beans that absolutely needed to be soaked are chickpeas/cecci. I like the flavor of the saute veggies better - adds a layer of flavor but you could just chuck everything into a pot with some extra water and cook it until the beans are tender. As for flavorful rice, add a bullion cube or some dried seasonings to the pot when you are making your next batch.


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