Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice
Reprinted with permission. From The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by The Editors at America's Test Kitchen, 2015. Photograph by Carl Tremblay.
- Servings: 6 to 8.
This vegan, gluten-free recipe is from America's Test Kitchen's The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.
Why This Recipe Works
From America's Test Kitchen: Beans and rice is a familiar combination the world over, but Cuban black beans and rice (known as moros y cristianos) is unique in that the rice is cooked in the inky concentrated liquid left over from cooking the beans, which renders the grains just as flavorful. For our own version, we reserved half of the ingredients for the sofrito (the traditional combination of sautéed garlic, bell pepper, and onion) and added them to the cooking liquid to infuse the beans with aromatic flavor. Lightly browning the remaining sofrito vegetables along with spices and tomato paste added complex flavor to this simple dish.
Once the beans were soft, we combined them with the sofrito and rice to finish cooking. Baking the rice and beans eliminated the crusty bottom that can form when the dish is cooked on the stovetop. You will need a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid for this recipe.
For more information on the science behind salt-soaking beans, and how to speed up the process if you’re tight on time, see The Science of Salt-Soaking Beans (below).
- 1 cup dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
- 2 large green bell peppers, halved, stemmed, and seeded
- 1 large onion, peeled and halved crosswise
- 1 head garlic (5 cloves minced, remaining head halved crosswise and left unpeeled)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 scallions, sliced thin
- Lime wedges
- Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
- In Dutch oven, combine drained beans, 4 cups water, 1 bell pepper half, 1 onion half (with root end), halved garlic head, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until beans are just soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Discard pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Drain beans in colander set over large bowl, reserving 21/2 cups bean cooking liquid. (If you don’t have enough cooking liquid, add water as needed to measure 21/2 cups.) Do not wash pot.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut remaining bell peppers and onion into 2‑inch pieces and pulse in food processor until chopped into rough 1/4‑inch pieces, about 8 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
- Add oil to now-empty pot and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add processed peppers and onion, cumin, oregano, and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in rice and cook for 30 seconds.
- Stir in beans, reserved bean cooking liquid, vinegar, and 11/2 teaspoons salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Fluff rice with fork and let rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Serve with scallions and lime wedges.
The Science of Salt-Soaking Beans
Most people think of brining as a way to keep lean meat juicy and tender, but brining isn't just for meat. When you soak dried beans in salted water, they cook up with softer skins and are less likely to blow out and disintegrate. Why? It has to do with how the sodium ions in salt interact with the cells of the bean skins. As the beans soak, the sodium ions replace some of the calcium and magnesium ions in the skins. Because sodium ions are more weakly charged than calcium and magnesium ions, they allow more water to penetrate into the skins, leading to a softer texture.
During soaking, the sodium ions will filter only partway into the beans, so their greatest effect is on the cells in the outermost part of the beans. Softening the skins also makes them less likely to split as the beans cook, keeping the beans intact. For 1 pound of dried beans, dissolve 3 tablespoons of table salt in 4 quarts of cold water. Soak the beans at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. Drain and rinse them well before using.
For a Quick Salt-Soak
If you are pressed for time you can ™quick-soak your beans. Simply combine the salt, water, and beans in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans well before using.