When I first starting cooking beans from scratch, I was totally intimidated. I remember googling “can you cook chickpeas from scratch?” and being amazed at seeing all the results. Haha. We used to buy all our beans canned (I would buy flats of them at Costco), but when I started thinking about zero waste, I knew they had to go. It seemed wasteful to buy things just destined for the recycling when I could make them myself easily (and cheaply!). Not that I never used canned beans now- I do with no qualms when I want to/forget to soak.
I started buying big quantities of dried beans in the bulk section of my market and cooking a big pot every week. Not only was it cheaper, the beans were much more tasty and digested more easily (I always soak 24 hrs before cooking and rinse thoroughly- see my primer on cooking dried beans HERE.). The only thing I missed was the thick creaminess of canned black beans. Every time I cooked them from scratch, they would end up watery and blah. I love my black beans thick so I can dollop them on a plate, a tortilla etc without a watery mess going everywhere.
After some experimentation, I found a great and easy method: cook till tender, drain a lot of the water, then cook and stir till they release a lot of their starch and become creamy. That’s it! Eat on their own with a squeeze of lime, spread on a tortilla with avocado, radish and pico de gallo, with sautéed plantains and slaw, smashed even more into refritos, stuffed inside plantains for rellenos, blended into a soup with added garlic, onion, chipotle, lime and broth. There’s so many options here!
with tacos papas con rajas and pico
Note: If you’re looking for beans that are separate and easy to stir through a quinoa salad, for example, these aren’t it. These are almost a hybrid between whole and refritos. If you’re looking for more brothy beans, just don’t dump any liquid out.
creamy pot of black beans
1 pound (about 2 cups) dry black beans
12 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of the knife (I like them whole but feel free to chop them too)
Handful fresh epazote or fresh oregano sprigs (again, I leave them whole but feel free to chop)
1 or 2 dried chiles- I usually add árbol, but ancho, guajillo, chipotle are also amazing. If you don’t like spice you can omit.
2 teaspoons kosher salt ( more or less depending on taste)
optional add ins (any or all): 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and/or 1 chopped green bell pepper.
soak beans 24 hours in plenty of fresh water. Drain and rinse. Add to pot with the 12 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium so that it comes to a steady strong simmer- bubbling away not too hard but not to slow.
Let cook until tender but not falling apart. They shouldn’t be crunchy at all- you should be able to eat them as is now. The time will vary wildly depending on how old or fresh your beans are. For me it took about an hour (I just start it in the morning when I wake up and let it cook away while doing other things.)
When tender drain off much of the liquid- I took out a full quart (4 cups), add in all the rest of your ingredients and mix well. Turn up the heat to just before high and let cook, giving it a vigorous stir every 5 minutes or so until the broth thickens and isn’t as watery and becomes a little glossy. It will thicken a bit more as it cools too. This step took me about 30 minutes but again, depending on your beans, you may need more or less time.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed and enjoy! Will keep up to a week in the fridge in my anecdotal experience.