Three years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Havana, Cuba for a week of vacation. That year was definitely a world wind of travel, as my Cuba trip was sandwiched in between my visits to England and Morocco. I am so very grateful for the small window to time I was able to visit the once restricted country. Cuba being so close and full of culture was definitely a must to explore. I encourage everyone to visit Cuba at least once in their lifetime. I am trying to make my way back soon myself.
This Caribbean island is of course known for its fascinating 1950s colorful aesthetic seen in the architecture and classic cars. The fusion of Spanish and African is apparent throughout Cuban music, dance, history and cuisine! While I was in Cuba I definitely enjoyed the flavorful, fresh dishes. Every morning I looked forward to my Cuban breakfast made of fresh fruits, Cuban bread and the strong full bodied coffee. It was during my second evening of my Cuban adventure that I first discovered the best tasting black beans I had ever experienced.
I decided to walk a few blocks from where I was staying in Old Havana to enjoy an authentic Cuban dinner. I ordered this amazing fresh grilled fish dinner that came with a side of some savory legumes. The beans were so delectable and full of flavor. You could tell with each bite that some serious love and time had gone into these beans. I just had to discover how I could recreate such full flavor once I returned home.
I purchased my authentic Cuban cookbook prior to my departure back to the States as tradition. Once I got back to Los Angeles I perused through my book and found the source of Cuban black beans flavor. Cuban sofrito is the base of many Cuban recipes. It’s that umami flavor you taste when eating Cuban food like beans, rice and stews. The primary ingredients in Cuban sofrito are onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Common secondary ingredients include tomatoes, dry white wine, oregano, bay leaf, cilantro and other spices.
I decided to take my newly discovered culinary skills and create my own recipe for a delicious and palatable meal. My Cuban Black Bean Stew is made with my own sofrito recipe and some other unique flavors. It is completely vegan but I promise you won’t even miss the meat. This stew can be made and served at any time of the year as well. This is honestly one of my favorite recipes because it’s so versatile. I usually like to eat alone with garnishes I mention below. I also like to serve it as nachos, tacos, enchiladas, etc. This recipe makes a large quantity, but it also freezes very well so no worries.
Check out my recipe below and make sure you save this one!
Cuban Black Bean Stew
1 medium onion, quartered (about 1 cup)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large bell pepper or 4 miniature peppers, cut into large pieces
1 Anaheim (or large mild pepper), seeded and cut into large pieces
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 quart (32oz.) reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 can (1 ½ cups) canned chopped tomatoes
1 ½ cups of water
32 oz. dried black beans or 8 cans rinsed but not drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 bunch cilantro, for garnish
juice of ½ lime, for garnish
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Vegan grated cheddar, for garnish
Make black beans. In a large pot add black beans and triple the amount of water. To the pot add 3 bay leaves, onion scraps and peppers scraps and allow beans to soak overnight. Once beans have finished soaking overnight, cover the pot and simmer until the beans are tender, an hour or more. Remove vegetable scraps and bay leaves from the beans. Add salt to taste after beans have finished cooking. Allow beans to cool.
Meanwhile, make a sofrito. Add onion, garlic cloves, bell pepper and Anaheim pepper to food processor or blender. Pulse vegetables until they are finely chopped, almost a paste consistency. This is your sofrito.
In a large heavy pot or dutch oven add vegetable oil and cook on medium heat until oil begins to smoke. Stir in the sofrito and continue to stir until fragrant and begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 4 minutes. Stir in the oregano, cumin, chili powder and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Stir in ketchup and Worchestershire sauce and cook for another minute. Deglaze bottom of the pot by adding the broth, tomatoes and water and scrapping of bits off bottom. Cover pot and allow stew to simmer for approximately 5-10 minutes. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Allow stew to cool to above room temperature.
Place stew in a bowl. Garnish the black bean stew with vegan cheese, cilantro, green onions and fresh lime juice.
This stew gets better the longer it sits, so its even better the next day!