How to Cook Black Beans (From Scratch!)


Many black bean recipes incorporate bacon or lard, but these beans are vegan

You can simplify the recipe by omitting any of the seasonings listed in the ingredients, but for the best flavour, I recommend using all of them.

This foolproof recipe yields perfectly tender and delicious black beans. Make a pot and enjoy black beans all week! No need to soak the beans before using. Recipe yields 6 cups beans (the equivalent of 4 cans); you can freeze leftovers or cut the recipe in half.


  • 1 pound (16 ounces or scant 2 ½ cups) dried black beans*
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • One strip of orange zest, about 2 inches long by ½ inch wide
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (omit or reduce if sensitive to spice)
  • 8 cups water**, more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, optional
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice


  1. First, pick through your black beans for debris (sometimes tiny rocks can sneak in). Place the beans in a fine mesh colander or sieve and rinse very well. Pour the beans into a large Dutch oven or saucepan (4 quarts or larger in capacity).
  2. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, salt, cumin, orange zest and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pot. Pour in the water.
  3. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Give the beans a stir to make sure none are stuck to the bottom of the pot, and set a timer for 1 hour. Leave the pot uncovered and adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer (you should see several small bubbles popping to the surface at any given moment).
  4. Once the timer goes off, test a couple of beans by using a fork to press them against the side of the pot. If they’re easy to press through, taste a few (carefully! they’re hot!) to see if they’re sufficiently plump, tender and delicious.
  5. Otherwise, continue cooking, testing in 15 to 30 minute intervals as needed, until they’re done. If you’re running low on liquid, add water in 1-cup increments so the beans are covered at all time. (As mentioned in the post, if your beans are old, they can take several hours to cook and require a lot more water, and some very old beans may never cook through.)
  6. Once the beans are very tender and tasty, you can increase the heat a little to reduce the cooking liquid into a more gravy-like consistency, about 5 to 15 minutes (it will continue to thicken up as the beans cool).
  7. Remove the pot from the heat. Carefully remove the orange zest and both bay leaves. Use a fork to press the garlic against the side of the bowl to break it up. Add the cilantro, if using, and lime juice. Stir to combine. Season to taste with additional salt, if needed. Use as desired.
  8. Allow leftover beans to cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 to 5 days. You can also freeze leftover beans for several months.

Black Bean Seasonings

Here’s what I add to the pot before cooking:

  • Red onion and garlic lend a savoury backbone to these beans. We’ll chop up the onion and add it raw (I tried cooking it first, as I do for most recipes, but the flavour is distracting at that point). We’ll peel the cloves and add them whole. Once the beans are done, we’ll just smash them against the side of the pot and stir them in. Easy!
  • Bay leaves further amplify the savouriness of these beans, offering an herbal flavour somewhat similar to oregano or thyme.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (just a splash) makes these beans cook up nice and creamy.
  • Ground cumin is commonly added to black beans, because they’re perfect together!
  • Orange zest offers a subtle “je ne sais quoi” flavour. Just one small strip (peeled with a vegetable peeler) makes a big difference. I never would have thought to add orange, but Serious Eats suggested this Cuban twist and I love it.
  • Red pepper flakes lend some heat. If you prefer mild beans, reduce or omit them.