Now that the holidays are over, I find myself turning to Cuban recipes to distract me from the long, gray, northern winter.
It’s amazing how something as simple as a piece of hot, crusty Cuban bread or a bowl of Cuban black beans can instantly transport me back to my childhood days in south Florida, where Cuban food was king and you could actually leave the house without getting frostbite.
My favorite recipe this winter is Cuban black bean soup. We used to make this soup to ward off the slight chill of Florida nights, but I’ve discovered it can counteract the bitter cold of a northern winter just as well.
I love the process of cooking this soup, savoring the aroma for hours and then finally curling up with a steaming bowl in front of my fireplace! If you want a delicious reminder of tropical weather and Cuban culture, this is the recipe for you.
My Favorite Cuban Black Bean Soup Recipe
In order to make this soup the Cuban way, you have to start the night before with dry beans. However, if you really want to, you can take a shortcut and create this soup in one day using 45 ounces of canned beans.
1. Prepare 1 pound of dry black beans by washing them in a colander with cold water. Be sure to look for any little rocks or broken beans and throw them away.
2. Soak the beans overnight in a large pot. Add enough water so that the beans are about 1 inch below the surface.
3. The next morning, drain the water and refill with clean water.
4. Chop up 1 medium red onion, 1 green bell pepper, and 3 cloves of garlic. Sauté these ingredients in a pan with a bit of olive oil until just softened. Add 1 teaspoon of cumin and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add contents of the pan to the pot. Also add 2 bay leaves, 1 ham hock, half a cup of olive oil, and about 2 teaspoons each of salt and black pepper.
6. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam, then cover and simmer for 4 to 5 hours. Be sure to check the soup after about 2 hours and add more water if needed.
7. When the beans are soft and the soup has thickened due to some of the beans breaking down, add one third of a cup of white vinegar and cook uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. This is what gives the soup its special tang.
8. Remove from heat and serve!
How to Serve Your Cuban Black Bean Soup
Serve it hot with sour cream and chopped onions as a garnish. Like many dishes in Cuban cooking, this soup pairs well with white rice and it is often served on top of a bowl of rice. Personally I like mine with a slice of Cuban bread instead of rice.
One of the best advices I can give you is to use a pressure cooker to make the job easier. The pressure cooker will save you about 4 hours of work while sealing in the flavor and preserving the nutrients of the beans.
To learn more about pressure cookers, how to choose the best one and why they are part of Latino culture check the section Best Pressure Cookers.
If you are just starting to learn about Hispanic cooking or dishes and the tools we use in our kitchens see Latin Kitchen Tools to learn more.