Learn how to cook black beans from scratch! Serve them as a hearty, flavorful side dish, or add them to your favorite black bean recipes.
When I opened the pantry last weekend, I found a bag of dried black beans that I’d been meaning to cook for weeks. With all the recipe testing that goes on in our kitchen, I hadn’t gotten around to it. But that day, a trip to the grocery store was totally out of the question. Six inches of snow had already accumulated outside, and six more were on their way. It seemed like the perfect time to cozy up in the kitchen and cook black beans from scratch.
Black beans are an ingredient that I use all the time. More often than not, I rely on the canned kind because they’re convenient, but when I have the time, I prefer to cook them myself. They come out creamy and flavorful, with a rich cooking liquid seasoned with cumin and garlic. Like canned beans, they’re great in tacos, enchiladas, and other black bean recipes, but they’re also a delicious side dish on their own.
You’ll find my method for how to cook black beans below. It takes a little time, but the cooking process is super easy and hands-off – an ideal activity for a long winter weekend at home. Cook a big batch one day, eat some for dinner, and freeze the rest. That way, you’ll be able to make delicious versions of your favorite black bean recipes whenever you please!
How to Cook Black Beans
My method for how to cook black beans from scratch is slightly different from my approach to cooking other types of beans. Because I often use them in black bean recipes like tacos and enchiladas, I want them to hold their shape. As a result, I don’t soak the beans before I cook them. I also find that not soaking creates a richer, creamier cooking liquid, which makes the beans an especially delicious side dish. So, I skip the soak, and follow these easy steps:
- First, sort and rinse the beans. Add them to a colander and discard any stones or debris. Rinse them well, and place them in a large pot.
- Then, add the water and seasonings. Because I like black beans to have a thick, flavorful cooking liquid, I always measure the water when I cook them. I start with 4 cups of water for every cup of beans, and I add more as needed to keep the beans submerged as they cook. After I pour in the water, I stir in cumin, olive oil, salt, and pepper and bring the pot to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the black beans are tender. I start checking mine at 1 hour and then again every 15 minutes after that. Depending on the freshness of your beans, it could take up to 2.5 hours. Right before the beans are ready, stir some garlic into the pot.
- Finally, season to taste. Taste the beans and season them with more salt and pepper. Then, have fun spicing them up however you like! They taste great with chili powder, Mexican oregano, lime juice and zest, and/or chopped cilantro. Enjoy!
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
Best Tips for Cooking Dry Black Beans
- Go ahead and add salt. If you’re familiar with cooking dry beans, you might be surprised that I add the salt right away. Rumor has it that salting the beans too soon can lengthen the cooking process, but in my experience, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve even cooked two pots of dried beans side by side, salting one but not the other. The timing was exactly the same, but the flavor in the salted pot was way better. Don’t be scared to salt!
- Fresher beans = better beans. The primary determinant of how long it takes to cook beans from scratch is NOT when you add the salt: it’s the freshness of the beans! If you can, source them from a grower or store with high turnover. The fresher your beans are, the better they’ll be.
- Add kombu for more digestible beans. Simmering dried beans with a piece of kombu kelp is said to make them more digestible, so if you like, feel free to add some after the pot comes to a boil and you reduce the heat to a simmer. Be careful not to boil the kombu – if you do, it can give the broth a bitter flavor.
- Save some for later. If you’re cooking black beans from scratch, you might as well make a big batch! Eat some right away, and save the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months. Feel free to drain them or to store them in their cooking liquid. Both ways work!
Best Black Bean Recipes
Once you learn how to cook black beans, you’ll find a million ways to use them. Season them with lime juice and zest, chili powder, oregano, and/or cilantro, and serve them as a side dish with Mexican or Latin American-inspired dishes like tacos or taquitos. Paired with some cilantro lime rice, they could also pass as a meal on their own!
Cooked black beans are a fantastic component in larger dishes, too. They’re the base of classic recipes like Black Bean Burgers and Black Bean Soup, and they add plant-based protein to vegetarian main dishes like Stuffed Peppers, Stuffed Poblanos, and my Vegan Meatballs.
But that’s not all! Black beans are also excellent in burritos, salads, and more. Show them off in any of these recipes:
- Best Breakfast Burrito
- Vegan Quesadillas
- Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas
- Cowboy Caviar
- Healthy Taco Salad
- Avocado Sweet Potato Tacos
Let me know what black bean recipes you try!
More Favorite Cooking Basics
If you loved learning how to cook black beans, try cooking one of these pantry items next:
How to Cook Black Beans
- 2 cups dried black beans
- 8 cups water, more as needed
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (3-inch) piece of kombu, rinsed, optional (see note)
- 3 garlic cloves, grated
- Chili powder
- Mexican oregano
- Lime juice and zest
- Chopped cilantro
- Place the beans in a large colander and sort through them to remove and discard any stones or debris.
- Rinse the beans and transfer them to a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the water, cumin, olive oil, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the kombu, if using, and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender. I like to check mine starting at 1 hour, and every 15 minutes after that. Depending on your freshness of your beans, it could take up to 2½ hours. Add more liquid to the pot, as needed, to keep your beans submerged.
- Remove the kombu and add the garlic during the last few minutes of cooking.
- Season the beans as you like, adding chili powder, oregano, and more salt and pepper, if desired. Let the beans cool in the cooking liquid (I like how it gets nice and thick). Just before serving, stir in lime juice, zest, and cilantro, if desired.