Making Mexican-style black beans from scratch is surprisingly easy! This classic Mexican side dish is vegetarian and uses just a few ingredients.
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This Mexican black beans recipe is made from scratch and so easy! No soaking required. No stock needed. Very little effort. Give them a stir from time to time. You got this.
Why aren't we soaking the beans? Aren't you always supposed to do that? Not really. Soaking beans overnight tends to make them taste like water. All the flavor seeps out of them.
If we wait and don't add the the black beans to water until we're ready to simmer, we'll create a creamy, smooth broth with mind-blowing Mexican flavors. Just let those beans do their thing. It's simple, it's vegetarian, and it makes a great side dish!
Mexican black beans are easy to make, no soaking required!
- Just 6 ingredients. (Plus optional toppings.)
- No pre-soaking required. We just start cooking!
- They're vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, gluten free and dairy free!
- Ready in about 2 hours.
- A simple side dish for so many Mexican main courses.
- Quick prep: Just sauté some onions, then let the black beans simmer away.
Ingredients you'll need
- Dried black beans: Choose a high-quality brand. Cheap beans don't make delicious broth. Goya and La Preferida are good choices and widely available. If you want to go with an heirloom variety, that works, too!
- Yellow or white onion: White onion is more traditional for Mexican recipes, but I prefer the mellower sweetness of a yellow onion. Pick the one you like best.
- Epazote: Epazote is an aromatic herb commonly used in central and southern Mexican cooking. It has a light, mint/tea/tarragon sort of flavor and aroma. You can get it at Mexican grocery stores. If you can't find it or simply don't like it, leave it out, these black beans will still taste really good!
- Vegetable oil: To sauté the onion. I used olive oil, but canola oil would do just fine.
- Water: No stock necessary! Let those beans taste bean-y!
- Cilantro: Optional garnish
- Cotija cheese or queso fresco: Optional topping
Recommended tools and equipment
- Dutch oven or large, deep pot: We'll cook the onion and simmer the black beans in the same pot.
- Chef's knife and cutting board: To chop the onion.
- Wooden spoon or silicone spatula: For stirring.
How to make Mexican black beans
Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.
Step 1: Pick over the black beans
Pick over the beans to check for any stones, or beans that look bad. Then rinse thoroughly.
Step 2: Sauté the onions
Add the vegetable oil to a deep pot over medium heat. I love my Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven for recipes like this.
Add the onion and cook until golden, stirring often, about 10-15 minutes.
Step 3: Add black beans, water, and simmer
Add beans and water to the pot and remove any beans that float.
Add epazote if using, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 2 hours.
Stir the beans from time to time, and make sure that the water is about ½ inch above the beans at all times. Add more if it sinks below this level.
PRO TIP You want the beans to be cooked all the way through and creamy. If they aren't ready after 2 hours, simmer a little longer, adding a bit more water if necessary.
Once the black beans are cooked all the way through, add the salt and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
Serve topped with crumbled cotija cheese on top if desired, garnish with fresh cilantro.
Tips and variations for Mexican black beans
- The instructions are correct: you don't salt the beans until they are finished cooking! I could not believe this when I first tried the recipe, but it's true. Wait until they are done, then add the salt and simmer a little longer. I don't know how this works, but it does.
- You can add other Mexican herbs and spices to suit your taste. If you like a little cumin, add it! If you want the black beans spicy, cook up some chopped jalapeño or serrano peppers with the onion.
- This recipe can be made with pinto beans and other types of Mexican beans. Cooking time may need to be adjusted.
- If you would like, you can substitute lard or bacon drippings when sautéing the onion.
Storage and reheating instructions
- Store Mexican black beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- They freeze well for up to 3 months.
- To reheat, thaw first if frozen. Then place in a saucepan with a lid over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more water if necessary.
No, you can cook the beans without soaking them. Cook them low and slow for about 2 hours, and they turn out perfectly.
The trick to cooking Mexican black beans so they turn out creamy inside and not chalky is to use a little fat when cooking, (in this case, the olive oil used to sauté the onion) and to keep them covered with water by about ½ an inch at all times.
You can freeze these black beans for 2 - 3 months in an airtight container or ziptop freezer bags. So make a big batch to have at the ready when you need them for a side dish or for use in other recipes.
- Use in other Mexican recipes like tacos or burritos topped with homemade Tomatillo Salsa Verde.
- Serve black beans as a vegetarian main dish with rice and assorted toppings.
- Make nachos with them and serve with Mango Avocado Salsa.
Black beans make a perfect side dish for so many Mexican recipes!
- Baked Eggs in Avocados with Chorizo and Queso Fresco or Chilaquiles Verdes with Fried Eggs and Chorizo make for a great Mexican brunch!
- Almond Orange Mole with Grilled Halibut is light but full of flavor from the quick mole sauce
More black beans recipes
These recipes use canned black beans, or make Mexican black beans from scratch and put some aside so you can use them here!
- Spicy Black Beans with Cheddar, Garlic, and Chipotle is a cross between dinner and dip and ready in 15 minutes, so how can you say no?
- One Pot Chicken Thighs with Rice and Black Beans is a crowd-pleasing one-pan meal!
Mexican Black Beans (Frijoles de la Olla)
- 1 lb black beans picked over for stones
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion small in size, diced
- 1 sprig epazote optional
- 2 quarts water
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- cotija cheese or queso fresco optional, to sprinkle on top
- fresh cilantro optional, garnish
- salt to taste, once beans have finished cooking
- Pick over the beans to check for any stones, or beans that look bad. Then rinse thoroughly.
- Add the vegetable oil to a deep pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden, stirring often, about 10-15 minutes.
- Add beans and water to the pot with the onion. Remove any beans that float. Add epazote if using, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 2 hours.
- Stir the beans from time to time, and make sure that the water is about ½ inch above the beans at all times. Add more if it sinks below this level. You want the beans to be cooked all the way through and creamy. If they aren’t ready after 2 hours, simmer a little longer, adding a bit more water if necessary.
- Once beans are cooked all the way through, add the salt and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Serve topped with crumbled cotija cheese on top, garnish with fresh cilantro.
- The instructions are correct: you don’t salt the beans until they are finished cooking! I could not believe this when I first tried the recipe, but it’s true. I should know better than to doubt Rick Bayless. Wait until they are done, then add the salt and simmer a little longer. I don’t know how this works, but it does.
- My Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven is a go-to for this recipe, because it cooks the beans evenly.
- This recipe is adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. He is one of my favorite chefs. I have many of his cookbooks and I love his Chicago restaurants.