Cuban Black Beans and Rice recipe - Moros y Cristianos
No other dish represents Cuban cuisine better
than Moros y Cristianos. Seasoned black beans served with
fluffy white rice. Some Cubans serve rice topped with beans,
others mix them. I myself top the rice with beans, and let
my guests decide for themselves!
This recipe calls for the use of dried black beans. If
you're short on time, you can use the quick version for
canned beans at the page bottom. But there's nothing quite
like the depth of flavor you get from traditional Moros y
Cristianos. Or the aroma of sofrito and seasoned beans
simmering, as it fills your home. A wonderful mingling of
scents that I personally call "Cuban air freshener."
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic (optional)
20 cherry tomatoes (or four Roma tomatoes), chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 medium onions, peeled chopped
8 to 10 garlic cloves, diced or minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
For the Beans:
1 pound dried black beans
1 pound smoked ham hocks (or ham
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Instructions on Soaking Your Beans
There are two common ways to soak beans
before cooking them. The most traditional method of
soaking is the overnight method. Add the black beans to a
large pot, pour in enough cold water so that the beans are
covered by at least one inch of water. Allow the beans
soak overnight. Before cooking, drain the water the beans
were soaked in, and replace with fresh water.
Then there's the quick-soak method. Add
the dry beans to a large pot, add cold water until there's
at least an inch of water above the beans. Cover the pot,
then cook on high heat until the water comes to a boil.
Allow it to boil for one minute, then turn off the heat,
and let stand (still covered) for one hour. But unlike
overnight soaking, you won't discard the water in the pot
to add new water before cooking.
I always quick-soak black beans. The
reasons why are given down at the bottom of this page. So
if you quick-soak, get started on your sofrito as your
beans take an hour to soak before cooking. It's also the
time to remove your ham hocks from the refrigerator, and
allow them to come to room temperature.
Instructions on How to Make Sofrito:
Sofrito is the sauce used as a base for Moros
y Cristianos, as well as many other Cuban meals. You have
an hour to wait for your beans to soak, so take that time
to chop your cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and
Add the olive oil to a nonstick skillet
over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chopped
ingredients, then the spices. Sautee until the bell
peppers and onions in particular are softened (about 10
minutes). Reduce heat to low, and allow the sofrito to
simmer for a while, so the flavors can merge better (10-20
minutes, stirring occasionally). Although you may get the
best results by sautéing the onions and bell peppers
first, then the garlic (20-60 seconds until slightly
golden), then add the seasonings and chopped tomatoes. You should be left with
about a quart of a thick, chunky sauce. Remove from heat
and set aside.
Instructions on How to Cook the
Make sure that there's still at least
an inch of water above the black beans. Place the pot over
high heat, then stir in the sofrito. Add the ham hocks,
try to keep them as submerged under water as possible
(although parts of the ham hocks will probably stick out
of the water). Add the bay leaves. Allow the mixture to
come to a boil for one minute, then reduce heat to low (or
just between medium low and medium). Allow it to simmer
covered for an hour, just barely bubbling.
After an hour and a half, remove the
ham hocks from the pot and set aside. Remove the bay
leaves. As the beans are still simmering, return the lid
to the pot. Remove the meaty part of the ham from the
bones and pork fat. If you like, you can shred the pork
with two forks, then return it to the pot. Cook for
another 30-60 minutes, until the beans are tender, and the
beans are in a thick "gravy" (it shouldn't be watery).
Remove pot from heat.
Instructions on How to Cook the
This recipe calls for a cup of rice and
two cups of water, but you can also add a half cup more of
rice and water if cooking for more than one person that
To give the rice a nice hint of garlic,
there's a great tip from Miami Cuban chef
Lourdes Castro that I always use. Heat two tablespoons
of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Then add a
smashed garlic clove (I use two), and cook until the
garlic starts to turn golden brown. Remove the garlic and
Add water and salt, and bring to a
boil. Stir in the rice until it comes to a boil again.
Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, then simmer for 20
minutes until the rice is tender and no water is visible.
Remove pan from the heat, and allow it stand covered for
5-10 minutes to finish steaming. Remove lid and fluff the
rice with a fork. For each person dining, simply add the
black bean mix over the rice, or mix together. Serves 8.
Some cooks or restaurants will mix the
cooked black beans with rice before serving them. Others
will simply spoon the black beans on top of the rice or
place them side by side, so people can mix them together
There's no wrong way to serve it. But
typically for every cup of cooked white rice, you would
serve it with a half or full cup of cooked black beans. I
love black beans, so my plate is usually 50% beans and 50%
rice, mixed together.
Cooking Tips and Other
1. Always sort and rinse your beans
before even adding them to a pot. Using a colander, sift
through the beans and remove any tiny pebbles, gritty
pieces of field dirt, and beans that are either withered,
discolored, or broken. Once you carefully sift through the
beans and remove anything that doesn't belong, rinse them
well to make sure there's no field dust left on them.
2. There's always a big debate over
whether it's better to soak beans overnight, or quick-soak
them before cooking. There's a
great article by the managing culinary director of
Serious Eats on how cooked black beans absorb more flavor,
are darker in color, and have better texture when they
aren't soaked overnight. I tend to agree, and only prep my
black beans with the quick-soak method.
3. You can find smoked ham hocks and
shanks in the refrigerated butcher section of most large
supermarkets. The hock is basically the pig's "ankle"
area, whereas the shank is the "calf" of the leg. You'll
get noticeably more meat from ham shanks than you will
4. If you can't find smoked ham
hocks/shanks/tails, you can also cook with a large cube of
salt pork. It's also sold pre-packaged in grocery stores,
and will look like a thick square of bacon. Sliced Spanish
chorizo can also be used.
5. I've had beans cook tender in two
hours. Other times, in four hours. Cook with the heat too
low, and it can take a long time for the beans and water
to turn into a thick gravy with tender beans. Cook with
the heat on medium or higher, and you may have to keep
adding water. Otherwise you'll have beans soft on the
outside, but a bit too firm inside.
6. The first hour or two of simmering,
you will rarely need to stir the beans, if at all. But pay
more attention as the water reduces, and the black "gravy"
the beans are in starts to thicken. It will require more
stirring, to keep from burning.
7. Keep in mind that when the beans
finish cooking, they won't look like the cooked beans you
buy in a can. There will be plenty of whole beans, but
they will be in a thick, dark sauce. Just try to picture
creamy, thick refried beans, but with a bunch of whole
beans still part of the mix.
8. You may not need to add salt to the
beans as they cook, depending on how much flavor the
smoked or cured ham adds.
8. Depending on the type of long-grain
rice you plan on cooking with, you may want to rinse it
several times before cooking. This can help remove any
excess starch from the surface of the rice (if any), and
makes for less sticky/gluey cooked rice.
Quick and Easy Beans:
If you're in a hurry, you can used
canned black beans to make Moros y Cristianos. Simply
sautee onion and garlic in olive oil, add the seasonings,
and then the beans. Raise heat to high until the mixture
comes to a boil, then simmer. You can also use the back of
a mixing spoon to smash some of the beans against the
bottom or sides of a pot or saucepan. This will release
some of the starch needed to create a thick, creamy sauce.
Then simmer everything until the flavors come together,
about 15-20 minutes.
But again, if you're going to make
Cuba's signature dish, better to do it the old fashioned
way. I cook a huge batch of black beans at least once a
week, and the entire process (prepping, sofrito, the
beans) takes hours. But the depth of the flavor in the
finished beans makes it worth the effort.
Main Cuban recipe pages:
• soups •