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A dozen years ago, my then-boyfriend (now my husband) told me he would propose if I learned how to make frijoles negros (black beans). Only one woman was willing to teach me, show me the way, and share all of her recipes; my Tía Lourdes.
I’ll never forget driving down to her house in Miami to spend a week with her so she could teach me to cook in the name of love. I had never truly been in love before, and I remember telling her all about Miguel and how I wanted to learn to cook for my boyfriend, who loved Cuban food. She gave me all the cooking advice and taught me the foundations of our culture’s food.
I returned from that trip with a small arsenal of recipes. When I made her frijoles negros in a pressure cooker for Miguel, he just looked at me, and I knew I had nailed them. I remember I nodded, stuck out my hand, wiggled my ring finger, and said, “size 7”.
I am sharing my most treasured written recipe with you in honor of my aunt and that memory.
Tía Lourdes’ Quick Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)
- 1 lb dried black beans
- 1 green bell pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp table or kosher salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ cup Spanish olive oil
- 1 Spanish onion
- 4-6 cloves garlic
- 5-7 ají cachucha (sweet chili pepper)
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ cup vino seco or dry white wine can be substituted with dry sherry
- 3 leaves culantro can be substituted with ¼ bunch of cilantro, chopped
- ½-1 tsp granulated sugar
- Pour the beans into the pressure cooker. Comb through them with your hands, removing any stones you may find.
- Rinse the beans thoroughly until the water runs clear. You have to fill, swish, dump the water and repeat 2-3 times.
- Fill the pressure cooker containing the beans halfway with water. Add ½ green pepper with the seeds and stem removed, 2 bay leaves, and 1 tsp of salt. Cover with the lid and secure the latch to the pressure cooker.
- Over high heat, set the pressure cooker to boil.
- Once the pressure has built up in the pressure cooker, lower the heat to medium-high, set a timer, and cook for 45 minutes. (20 minutes if you soaked the beans overnight)
- On a cutting board, remove the seeds and stems from the remaining ½ green pepper. Leave the seeds in the ajícitos (sweet chili peppers). With the chef's knife, dice the peppers and onion.
- Using the flat side of the knife, smash the garlic cloves, splitting the skins and releasing the oil for easy peeling. Mince the garlic cloves. Add ¼-½ tsp of salt to the garlic, hold the blunt side of the knife with both hands and with your knife at a slight angle, drag the sharp edge across the garlic (pulling towards you) to make a garlic paste.
- In a sauté pan, add ½ cup Spanish olive oil over medium heat and heat the oil for about 2 minutes. Test the heat by adding 1 dice of the green pepper; if the oil sizzles, it's ready. Add the rest of the diced peppers, onion, garlic paste, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and ½ tsp ground cumin. Stir frequently so that the garlic doesn't burn and cook until soft and the onions are translucent, approximately 6-8 minutes. This medley is known as sofrito.
- When the timer for the pressure cooker goes off, turn off the heat and wait until the pressure valve has completely collapsed before opening, indicating there isn't any more pressure inside, approximately 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and taste the beans. They should be soft. If the beans are not soft, replace the lid and turn the heat to high, building the pressure back up. Cook for 15 more minutes and check again.If the beans are soft, turn the heat to medium-high, add ½ cup vino seco (dry cooking wine), sofrito from the sauté pan and, 3 culantro leaves and stir.
- Taste the beans for salt and add more if needed.
- Optional: add ½-1 tsp granulated sugar.
- Cook to thicken the beans. When the beans are done cooking, they should coat the mixing spoon.
- If you soak the black beans overnight, you can cut the cooking time in step 5 down to 20 minutes.
- For a thicker consistency, using the mixing spoon, mash some beans along the sides of the pot and stir to combine.
- For black bean soup, don't thicken.
- When thickening the beans in step 13, leave the mixing spoon in the pot. This trick helps prevent the beans from boiling over.
- Sharpen your little chef(s) cognitive development by allowing them to sort through the beans.
- Point out any stones they may find and compare them to the beans.
- Allow them to get their hands on the beans for some sensory play.
- Instead of rinsing the beans in the pot, have your little chef(s) sort the beans from the bag into a colander, and they can rinse them under running water, sharpening their fine motor skills.
Did you make this recipe?