Cuban Rice And Beans Recipe

Looking to other cultures to find ideas for nourishing dishes is always fun to do. Richard Wilk is a cultural anthropologist who wrote a book about the origins of rice and beans, a popular dish in many countries worldwide (via NPR). In his extensive research, he determined that the duo originates from all over the globe, including South America and West Africa. Rice and beans are such a great match, and depending on the time and place, they are generally relatively cheap and accessible.

Recipe developer Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert runs the blog Wholly Nourished, and as a holistic dietitian, she recognizes the power of whole foods. She created this Cuban rice and beans recipe as a delicious take on a timeless meal, and says, "I love this dish, because it's an easy vegetarian/vegan dish to make!" Together, the rice-and-beans duo makes up "a complete protein," according to the American Heart Association. By adding some seasonings, this combo is both satiating and flavorful. Whether you enjoy it alone or serve it as a side dish, you're sure to be satisfied.

Gather the ingredients for Cuban rice and beans

To begin, you'll need extra-virgin olive oil to cook the onion, red bell pepper, and garlic. Bachtell-Shelbert opts for olive oil, but if you use a different oil for sautéing vegetables, then feel free to adapt. You'll want to dice the onion and red bell pepper and mince the garlic so that they are evenly distributed throughout the dish. Next, long-grain rice is favored for this preparation, and Bachtell-Shelbert explains that she uses it "because that is what is traditionally used in the native dish." 

As far as seasonings are concerned, cumin and oregano work well in this recipe. Bachtell-Shelbert prefers these, but remarks, "You can add any spices or vegetable you choose." She also points out, "Rice and beans are such a great base to play around with the herbs," so flexibility is welcome. 

For the beans, canned black beans keep the preparation simple and avoid having to use a pressure cooker. Be sure not to discard the canned bean liquid, as it helps build flavor and a creamy texture. Bon Appétit reported that the liquid is a combination of salt, water, and starch from the beans, so be careful before adding more salt to the dish. You'll need water or broth to cook the rice — both work, but broth will add more complexity. Finally, toss in a couple of bay leaves for an extra element of flavor.

Sauté the onions and red pepper, then add the garlic

If you have a Dutch oven, you'll want to use it for this recipe, otherwise a heavy bottom saucepan will do the trick. Place the pan over the stovetop on medium heat, and pour the olive oil inside to heat. Once it has warmed up, add the diced onions and red bell peppers, and sauté them for three minutes. Then, stir in the minced garlic, and sauté for another minute.

Add the rice and spices, and toast them in the pan

Once the vegetables have sautéed for a few minutes, it's time to add in the rice and seasoning. Pour the long-grain rice into the saucepan, and then stir in the cumin and oregano. Allow the rice and spices to toast for one minute while you continuously stir them with a wooden spoon or spatula to prevent burning. Toasting the rice will really help the nutty flavors from the rice develop and will reduce the chance that the grains of rice will stick together.

Add the beans, water, and bay leaves, and bring everything to a boil, then simmer

Next, pour the black beans, the liquid from the can, and the broth or water into the saucepan with the rice. Toss in the bay leaves, and give everything a quick stir. Then, raise the stovetop heat to high, bringing the contents of the pan to a boil. Once they start bubbling, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Cook the dish for 25 to 30 minutes, then serve

With the lid on and the heat down to a simmer, cook the rice and beans for 25 to 30 minutes until the water is absorbed. Bachtell-Shelbert warns, "You can definitely overcook this." To prevent any disappointment, she adds, "I would recommend checking the rice at 25 minutes." 

When the dish is ready, turn the heat off, and remove the two bay leaves before serving. Bachtell-Shelbert says, "I would eat this as a main vegetarian dish with a side salad." If you can't imagine a meal without meat, she suggests, "For a carnivore, pair [it] with Cuban chicken or pork." If you want to stick with the Cuban theme, she suggests, "Plantains would be amazing as well!"

The leftovers of this rice and beans recipe keep well and are a great option to add to the table. Bachtell-Shelbert indicates to place them in an airtight container, and keep them in the fridge for a max of five days.

Cuban Rice And Beans Recipe
5 from 40 ratings
This Cuban rice and beans recipe is such an easy, tasty side dish to whip up for a weeknight dinner.
Prep Time
Cook Time
serving rice and beans
Total time: 45 minutes
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (about ¾ cup)
  • ½ large red bell pepper, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, with the liquid
  • 1 ½ cups water (or broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and peppers, and sauté them for 3 minutes.
  3. Then, add the minced garlic, and sauté the contents for 1 more minute.
  4. Add the rice, cumin, and oregano, toasting them for 1 minute while you stir constantly.
  5. Add the beans with their liquid, the water or broth, and the bay leaves.
  6. Raise the heat to high, and bring the contents of the pan to a boil.
  7. Then, cover the pan, and reduce the contents to a simmer.
  8. Cook the rice and beans for 25 to 30 minutes until the water is absorbed.
  9. Remove the bay leaves, and serve this dish.
Calories per Serving 247
Total Fat 2.5 g
Saturated Fat 0.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 47.6 g
Dietary Fiber 7.3 g
Total Sugars 1.6 g
Sodium 128.2 mg
Protein 8.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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