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Easy Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice

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I’m pretty sure I could serve my husband black beans and rice every day and he’d be fine with it.  The night before deployment I made his favorite roast pork tenderloin with black beans & rice and a side of plantains. He loved it. Some people might want a fancy dinner out before leaving or after returning home, but he always wants his Cuban favorites. He is always most excited about made from scratch Cuban black beans, but on normal days I use canned black beans that I doctor up a bit. This “weeknight” easy Cuban black bean recipe is what I’m sharing here today. In addition to using canned black beans, I also use bacon in this recipe instead of smoked ham hocks. The bacon really adds that certain something, but it is optional. If you don’t have bacon or don’t eat it, feel free to leave it out for a vegetarian-friendly dish.

Weeknight Cuban-Style Black Beans and RiceYes, those are dominoes in the background! Cubans love their dominoes. Dominoes is the national game of Cuba. Traditional Cuban dominoes is played a little differently (with two teams of two) and is almost always played with a “double nine” set (which this set is!).

cuban dominoesI classify black beans and rice as both an entree and a side. This recipe makes enough that four people could easily have it as a generous side helping, or two could eat it as and entree (probably with a few leftovers). We’ll have them as a side sometimes, but I know how much Papi Chulo loves black beans and rice. Or, honestly, even just rice. We have this special rice wooden rice spoon from Cuba that he conditions with Beekeeper’s Gold, a cutting board conditioner, and we use it every single time we have rice. (Edit – now I have my own, all-natural cutting board polish recipe!)

cuban wood rice spoon So now that you know how to make your black beans and rice experience extra-authenic with a game of dominoes and a prized rice spoon, let’s get to the recipe!

cuban black beans and rice

5.0 from 2 reviews
Easy Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
For the beans
  • ⅓ cup of chopped onion (chop fairly fine, but there's no need to mince it!)
  • ⅓ cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 strips of bacon, cut into ½" pieces (if not using, substitute 1 tablespoon olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained (but hang on to the can!)
  • 1 bay leaf
For the rice
  • 1 cup of rice (or as much as you want)
  • 1½ cups of water (or as directed by your rice package)
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the pieces of bacon. If you're not using bacon, simply add about one tablespoon of olive oil and skip ahead to the fourth step.
  2. Cook the bacon until a lot of the fat has rendered out and the pieces have almost halved in size, but are not crispy. There's no need to crisp the bacon because it just gets soggy again when you simmer it with the beans!
  3. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and set it to drain on paper towels. Leave the bacon fat in the saucepan.
  4. Add the onions to the hot bacon fat and stir to coat. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook for about 2 minutes, until they've reduced in size but aren't crisping or caramelized. They should be beginning to turn translucent and soft, but not quite there yet.
  5. Add the bel pepper and stir to coat, then cook for about 2 additional minutes.
  6. Add the garlic, thyme, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir. Cook until the spices become noticeably fragrant - just about 30 seconds.
  7. Add the drained black beans and stir, then add a can's worth of water. Stir again, then add the bay leaf.
  8. Partially cover and increase heat to medium-high. Once the beans are simmering, reduce heat to medium low and keep partially covered. This allows the beans to keep simmering while some of the liquid cooks off.
  9. Allow the beans to barely simmer, stirring occasionally, until the volume of liquid has reduced down by about half. Realisatailly, you can eat the beans any time, but allowing them to simmer partially covered for 20-30 minutes results in better flavor and texture. If they get too dry before the rice is ready, just stir in a little more water. If removed from the heat and allowed to sit, they will quickly develop a "scummy" layer and won't look very pretty at dinner time!
  10. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and mash about half of the beans with a fork, potato masher, or back of a large spoon.
For the rice
  1. Once the beans are simmering, start your rice. Cook it according to the package directions, but use olive oil instead of butter (or whatever fat you usually add). Use about 1 teaspoon of olive oil per cup of rice.
  2. Fluff with a fork when done.
  3. Top the rice with the black beans and serve, or serve the two separately.

I know that looks like a lot of steps, but it really is easy and ever so tasty! It’s not what your abuela would do, but black beans are also really good with some cheese. He loves adding feta to them. A bit of a cultural mishmash, I know, but it really is delicious.

If you’re not going with the vegetarian option and want even more flavor, use chicken stock instead of water. It adds a little something extra!

Cuban Black BeansIf you want to make a full, Cuban-inpired meal, make sure to check out the “Cuban” option on the drop down recipe tab at the top of the page! I have several Cuban-tested and approved recipes posted, and I add more fairly regularly.



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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Marieken May 5, 2015, 07:08

    This sounds like something I want to try, I was thinking ‘I haven’t had beans for a while now’ just a couple of days ago 🙂 I would use vegetarian bacon though.

    • Natashalh May 5, 2015, 09:42

      If there’s a vegetarian bacon you like, I’m sure it would work fine. If not, just using some extra olive oil is fine, too! I don’t even always include the bacon, especially if I’m running short on time.

  • Erin@WellPlated May 5, 2015, 12:57

    My husband did the Peace Corps in the Dominican Tepublic and talks about how much he misses his host mother’s rice and beans. I will have to try this recipe out on him and see if it helps soothe the separation. I know they are different, but I bet he’d still love it!

    • Natashalh May 5, 2015, 14:23

      They are fairly similar, I think. I believe in the DR they sometimes put some tomato, too, and tend to mix it all together instead of topping the rice with beans. Overall, not so different.

      Thanks for stopping in!

  • Duni May 5, 2015, 20:44

    I like meals with a lot of carbs -rice and beans sounds perfect 🙂
    I used to play dominoes with my brother a lot. Loved it!!

    • Natashalh May 6, 2015, 06:16

      I’ve played a lot of dominoes, too – for an entire summer my job was to play 18th century games with visitors at Colonial Williamsburg!
      Rice and beans are such a good combination because you can get everything you need in one easy dish!

  • Paige May 6, 2015, 03:08

    Oh man, this looks sooooo good. How I eat my beans and rice depends on what else is with them! If we’re having tacos, then I usually just plop them onto my plate separately, but if the dish is “red beans and rice” then I mix those babies together. 🙂

    • Natashalh May 6, 2015, 06:18

      I understand that people from Eastern Cuba do eat red beans and rice, but I think they’re really popular in Jamaica. On other parts of the island they cook the black beans and rice together so the rice ends up a sort of grey purple! Who knew there were some many variants of the same dish on a small(ish) island?

  • Cynthia May 6, 2015, 11:43

    We are a beans and rice kind of house. I do mix mine, but one scoop at a time (silly I guess). The hubby just mixes it all at once! This recipe looks delicious and a must try for sure!

    • Natashalh May 6, 2015, 14:13

      My husband usually puts them separate on his plate and then mixes them a bite at a time. He also likes to have black beans and rice with a banana!

  • Katrinshine May 9, 2015, 08:37

    I will definitely try it!

    • Natashalh May 9, 2015, 15:09

      I need to make more soon! I finally ran out of leftovers. =)

  • Carol February 10, 2017, 12:30

    Pleasantly surprised, I have never tried beans and rice,
    Great taste,very quick to put together,I am hooked
    Thanks for sharing

    • Natashalh February 10, 2017, 14:55

      So glad you enjoyed! Thank you so much for letting me know. =)

  • Glenn A Sikes July 6, 2017, 11:57

    Love your sofrito ingredients. I never used thyme in sofrito before…

    • Natashalh July 8, 2017, 10:45

      Thank you! It adds a nice touch. =)

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