Supremely Delicious Black Beans From Scratch
Recently, I was chatting with a friend about many food bloggers’ often overzealous use of “The Best” in every other recipe. We were talking about how goofy it can be to claim a food as the very best for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that there are now so many recipes out there that claim to be “the best” that it’s impossible to truly determine the best even if you really could.
Note: I’ve totally done this, though in my defense, that post is peppered with disclaimers!
Anyway, here I find myself, not even 24 hours since that conversation, really really wanting to title this recipe “The Best Black Beans from Scratch.” I guess we food bloggers just get darn excited about our recipes that it can be tough to restrain ourselves.
I’ve made black beans from scratch a gazillion ways in my search to create tender, flavorful – indeed supremely delicious – black beans. I wanted to be able to scoop the beans directly from their cooking pot onto my plate and be blown away, and this recipe does that for me. I love these black beans and I want to label them “the best” so gosh darn badly but, yeah. For the sake of the internet, I will refrain.
So what do I do to make these supremely delicious? Well, not a lot, I admit … but that simplicity is part of the beauty.
How to Cook Black Beans
I start out with one pound of dried black beans – the fresher the better. I recently learned that dried beans that are more than a year old tend to have less flavor and can take much longer to cook. Who knew?! Well, probably everyone – but I didn’t. So buy your beans from a place where you know turnover is fairly high so that you have the freshest black beans in your cupboard.
Some people don’t feel the need to soak their beans, but I’m a pro-soaker. The threat of gastro-related side effects is enough to keep me firmly on “soak” side of the line – plus, soaking can help some beans cook a little faster. Win win.
And then … and then … we have the aromatics. These are what get me most excited. These are ingredients that are carefully selected to add flavor to the beans without affecting the cooking process. We’ve got onion, garlic, a bay leaf, and my secret weapon: whole cloves. Awhile back I had a feeling that the subtly warm spiced aura that cloves impart would pair fabulously with black beans, and, in my opinion, I was right. So now, I never cook up a pot of black beans without a little bundle of cloves thrown into the mix.
And then we simmer.
After the beans have cooked, and only after! I add a bunch of salt directly to the pot of beans, along with a bit of red wine vinegar to just accentuate and brighten the flavors.
I love to make a big pot of these beans on Sunday to enjoy all week long. They also freeze well – I like to freeze in 1 1/2 cup increments so I can just pull out a bag of cooked black beans and use them in place of one can of them.
Note: If you prefer to cook your black beans in a slow cooker, Lindsey’s how-to is terrific!
Supremely Delicious Black Beans From Scratch
My favorite way to enjoy black beans is straight out of the pot after they’ve simmered with this simple list of heady aromatics. So easy and truly “supremely delicious.”
- 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 whole cloves (the spice, not more garlic), inside a tea infuser or tied in a cheesecloth bundle
- About 10 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Place the beans in a colander and rinse under water. Wash well to rinse out any dirt clumps and pick out any tiny rocks or twigs you might see. Pour into a large soup pot or Dutch oven and cover with water to about 4 inches above the top of the beans. Set in a safe place and let sit for 8 hours or overnight.
- When it’s time to cook the beans, discard soaking water by draining the beans in a colander. Give them a quick rinse. Return soaked beans to the pot and add the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and cloves. Add about 10 cups water, filled to about 4 inches above the top of the beans. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, 30-40 minutes (longer for higher altitudes). You can tell the beans are done when you blow on them and skins peel back (I also bite into a couple just to be sure!)
- Remove from heat and stir in the salt and red wine vinegar. Remove the bay leaf, bundle of cloves, and any large bits of onion and garlic you can find.
- Scoop them up with a slotted spoon to serve immediately or let then cool then spoon drained beans into airtight zipper bags to freeze for later. They also keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.