How to Cook Black Beans

A few summers ago, a friend generously offered me her family’s vacation condo in Mexico for a week after she had to abandon her holiday plans at the last minute. With my hubby tied up with work commitments, I grabbed a girlfriend, along with the kids, and off we went.

It wasn’t until we pulled up to the luxurious grounds of the resort that we realized we’d hit the vacation jackpot. The place was breathtaking, as were the prices at the resort restaurant. Since we were staying in a condo, it made sense to hit the local supermarket rather than spend our children’s college funds in the dining room.

Our cooking goals were twofold: prepare dishes that 1) were in keeping with our south-of-the-border locale, and 2) wouldn’t eat up too much of our precious pool time (this was vacation, after all). We loaded up a goodly haul at the market –fruits, veggies, herbs, and the requisite chips and salsa– as well as a couple of pounds of dried black beans, which we tossed in as an afterthought.

Back at the condo, we brewed up a delicious pot of basic black beans that proved to be the staple of our diet for the week. We found ourselves working them into our meals at all hours of the day: underneath fried eggs at breakfast, pureed with lime and chili for a chip dip, tossed cold with corn alongside salad greens, served as a side to grilled fish with the tender, home-made tortillas we bought in town. Who knows whether it was the sun and cerveza, but somehow nobody tired of the beans.

Unfortunately, beans have a bit of a naughty reputation for, ahem, the gassiness that sometimes ensues after eating them. However, the manner in which they are cooked can help ameliorate this unseemly side-effect. Overnight soaking and cooking them with certain varieties of herbs and spices can help soften the skin of the beans, which is where much of the trouble making lies. In Mexico, we used the herb epazote for this purpose; in the recipe below, I’ve included cumin.

Although black beans take time to cook, it’s an easy task since no hovering is required. Rely on a pressure cooker or slow cooker for help if you have one. Make a big batch, a pound, or even two. Then, find ways to use them throughout the week. Quick Huevos Rancheros is a good place to start as is Easy Cheesy Thermos Beans.  If you tire of the beans, simply pack them into a storage container and stick them in the freezer for another day, perhaps in the sunshine with a cerveza in hand.

Pot of Black Beans

Black beans (and other beans for that matter) are a mom’s kitchen workhorse. With just a bit of planning and very little effort, you can turn this dirt cheap ingredient into a multitude of meals. They are also enormously nourishing, loaded with fiber, iron, protein and folate, along with the highest level of antioxidants of any other bean (thanks to its dark skin).
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 servings
Author Katie Morford


  • 1 pound black beans
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 6 ½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Pick over the beans, removing any pebbles. Put into a Dutch oven or soup pot and fill with water until it is about 2 inches over the beans. Leave overnight (see note).
  2. Drain the beans and rinse with fresh water. Set aside.
  3. Into your soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium and add the onion. Saute for a few minutes until tender.
  4. Add the beans back to the pot along with the garlic, cumin, bay leaves, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the beans are nearly tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

  5. Add the jalapeno and salt and continue to cook until tender but not mushy, another 15 minutes or so.
  6. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and stir.

Recipe Notes

If you haven’t planned ahead enough to soak beans overnight, you can “quick soak” them by putting them in a soup pot and covering them with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, drain the water, and rinse with fresh water. Continue with the instructions above as if you’d soaked them overnight. This method produces a tasty bean, although the thin skin is more likely to break in the process.


02.01.2011 at7:29 PM #

Pamela Hommeyer

I haven’t even read this yet and I already love it! I’ve been thinking about what do do with black beans. So, thanks, Katie.

02.02.2011 at3:34 PM #


Printing these recipes right now. THANKS!

02.02.2011 at3:34 PM #


Let me know how it goes!

02.02.2011 at4:29 PM #


I have a question regarding the nutritional difference between canned and dried beans. I generally try to avoid buying canned (and other prepared) foods, but I will admit to having a full pantry of canned beans (all varieties) as well as a few other items such as canned tomatoes in different forms. I know that canned beans have added sodium, but otherwise, are there any nutritional disadvantages to using the canned ones? Thank you in advance for addressing a long-time question.

02.02.2011 at4:29 PM #


Good question, Michelle. While fresh food is preferable, I too have the same canned pantry staples in my house. As you saw in today’s “hot tip,” I’m a fan of canned beans. They compare quite favorably to dried from a nutrition standpoint. Buying low-sodium beans and rinsing them will help cut down the salt.

02.08.2011 at6:19 AM #


Because of this post I started my week with a big pot of black beans. I used a different recipe so I could make them in the crockpot. We had the huevos rancheros tonight and tomorrow there will be a few thermoses of beans in the lunchboxes. Thanks for the ideas!

02.08.2011 at6:19 AM #


I’d love it if you would share how you did the beans in the crockpot and how it turned out.

08.21.2011 at7:07 PM #


Thanks for the recipe. I love beans

10.18.2012 at3:32 AM #


I have recently started to add beans to my diet. I must say I absolutely love them. Do you have some suggestions for seasonings to use rather than salt?

10.18.2012 at3:32 AM #


It really depends on what direction you want to go flavor-wise. Dried cumin, fresh cilantro, lime juice, and lemon juice and my usual suspects for beans. Any type of chili sauce or salsa, other favorite spices.

10.24.2013 at10:16 AM #

Pam H

Can you cook these in a slow cooker, like your pinto bean recipe?

10.24.2013 at10:16 AM #


The cooking time may vary, but yes.

02.23.2014 at12:11 PM #


How long do these beans keep in the refrigerator, roughly?

02.23.2014 at12:11 PM #


I would say about three days. They freeze very well.

05.20.2014 at7:35 PM #


i love these beans!

09.19.2017 at1:45 PM #


How long can I Keep the Black beans in the freeze?

09.19.2017 at1:45 PM #


I would say easily three months if they are packed well.

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