This foolproof recipe yields perfectly tender and delicious black beans. Make a pot and enjoy black beans all week! No need to soak the beans before using. Recipe yields 6 cups beans (the equivalent of 4 cans); you can freeze leftovers or cut the recipe in half.
1 pound (16 ounces or scant 2 1/2 cups) dried black beans*
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
One strip of orange zest, about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (omit or reduce if sensitive to spice)
8 cups water**, more if needed
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, optional
1 tablespoon lime juice
First, pick through your black beans for debris (sometimes tiny rocks can sneak in). Place the beans in a fine mesh colander or sieve and rinse very well. Pour the beans into a large Dutch oven or saucepan (4 quarts or larger in capacity).
Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, salt, cumin, orange zest and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pot. Pour in the water.
Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Give the beans a stir to make sure none are stuck to the bottom of the pot, and set a timer for 1 hour. Leave the pot uncovered and adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer (you should see several small bubbles popping to the surface at any given moment).
Once the timer goes off, test a couple of beans by using a fork to press them against the side of the pot. If they’re easy to press through, taste a few (carefully! they’re hot!) to see if they’re sufficiently plump, tender and delicious.
Otherwise, continue cooking, testing in 15 to 30 minute intervals as needed, until they’re done. If you’re running low on liquid, add water in 1-cup increments so the beans are covered at all time. (As mentioned in the post, if your beans are old, they can take several hours to cook and require a lot more water, and some very old beans may never cook through.)
Once the beans are very tender and tasty, you can increase the heat a little to reduce the cooking liquid into a more gravy-like consistency, about 5 to 15 minutes (it will continue to thicken up as the beans cool).
Remove the pot from the heat. Carefully remove the orange zest and both bay leaves. Use a fork to press the garlic against the side of the bowl to break it up. Add the cilantro, if using, and lime juice. Stir to combine. Season to taste with additional salt, if needed. Use as desired.
Allow leftover beans to cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 to 5 days. You can also freeze leftover beans for several months.***
Recipe created with guidance from Serious Eats.
*Bean note: It’s very important that your beans are fresh. Freshly purchased beans from a store with good turnover can cook in as little as one hour. Older beans can require several hours on the stove (and several more cups of water). Very old beans may never soften all the way through, and will never be suitable for consumption.
**Water note: If you live in an area with hard water, the minerals in the water may impede the cooking process (your beans will take longer to cook). Use distilled or filtered water if possible.
***Freeze it: I like to freeze leftover beans with their cooking juices in wide-mouth, pint-sized mason jars. You could also use small freezer bags—once frozen flat, they can be stacked. Regardless of your container, be sure that your beans have cooled to room temperature before freezing. If you’re using a rigid container (instead of a bag), allow some room at the top for expansion, and wait until the beans are fully frozen before securely attaching an air-tight lid. Defrost the containers in the fridge for several hours before using as desired.
▸ Nutrition Information
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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