I wasn’t a bean fan growing up. I’ll eat them in certain contexts, like Quick White Chicken Chili, but I don’t love them, mostly because of the slightly grainy texture. Except at Cuban places.
There isn’t a lot of Cuban food in Orlando, but there is in Tampa, where Robby has family. There’s one tiny place we go to almost every time we visit for pressed Cuban sandwiches, platanos, and black beans. Those beans are like crack. I don’t know exactly what goes into them, but they have this un-bean-like softness with amaaaazing flavor. I have always chalked those up to some closely guarded secret which I would never be able to replicate.
Then I discovered that one of my friends makes really good black beans at home…in a slow cooker. They aren’t quite those fabulous Cuban beans, but they told me that great beans at home are possible. So I hunted The Internetz and came up with this very simple, very delicious recipe. Dry beans are cooked with onions, garlic, and a couple spices. It sounds too good to be true, but I wouldn’t do that to you. It is good. It is true.
Also, do you see that the slow cooker insert is on the stove in this photo? It’s not just sitting on the stove. I’m COOKING IN THE INSERT ON THE STOVE. We were gifted this gorgeous slow cooker last Christmas and this is the first time I’ve used it on the stovetop. So cool. (I do see on Amazon that some people with the 7-quart ones have had problems with the coating on the inserts bubbling, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue with the 4-quart ones.)
This dish exemplifies the reason that so many people adore slow cookers. Pop the ingredients in, leave them alone, come back later and dinner is ready. I served this over yellow rice, which did require another dish, but you don’t even have to do that. Top with a little cilantro and a squeeze of lime, and you are all set.
I did throw in some chicken. We’re struggling with the concept of Meatless Mondays (or meatless…ness), so while the beans on their own might be enough for some, we still like a bit of meat. It’s not necessary, of course, so you can leave it out for a nutritionally wonderful vegetarian meal.
One quick cooking note: the salt doesn’t get added until right the end. This is because, for whatever reason, salt added too early can keep the beans hard. If you forget to add it “on time,” just stir it in at the end and let the beans sit for a moment to absorb that all-important hint of salt.
The leftovers (because you just cooked a whole pound of beans) can be frozen, if you like. I recommend putting the beans in ziploc bags and freezing them flat for easier storage and thawing.
Recipe adapted from Cafe Johnsonia, with help from Moms With Crockpots (how’s that for being upfront about your purpose?) and Little Spice Jar. This last link is for a quick version using canned beans; check it out if you’re short on time!
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups water
2 chicken breasts
1 pound dry black beans, picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
On the stove, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Saute aromatics (onion, jalapeno, garlic) for a few minutes until they begin to soften.
Pour water into slow cooker insert. Add chicken, aromatics, beans, oregano, and bay leaves.
Cook for on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 8-10. (If not using chicken, reduce time to 3-4 hours on low or 6-8 on high.) Check periodically to make sure the beans stay covered with water.
Test the beans for doneness around 4 hours (8 if on low) by spooning out a few and blowing on them. They are ready when the skins peel back, or when the texture feels right to you.
Salt should be added for the last 30 minutes of cooking. If you miss that mark and find that they are already done, add the salt and the beans let sit off the heat for 20 minutes to absorb additional flavor.
When the beans and chicken are ready, remove the bay leaves. Shred chicken and return to the slow cooker.
Serve over yellow rice with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.