Cuban Black Bean Soup

This Cuban black bean soup is made from scratch from dried black beans, peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, and vinegar. lt’s cheap, simple, and vegetarian.

A bowl of Cuban black bean soup with a wooden ladle next to a yellow plate filled with white rice.

I was studying medieval history at the University of Valladolid, and my family in Miami had sent me a few pounds of dried black beans, which are not easy to find. I decided to surprise some good friends from Havana and make black bean soup, one of the great dishes of their hometown. To my bewildered embarrassment, they proceeded to set me straight: “Never, never, never do you use tomatoes in a Havana black bean soup.” And never, never, never did I forget the lesson. The soup sometimes gets some of its deep flavor from ham hocks or bacon, but many Cubans prefer to make simpler, but equally flavorful, vegetarian versions.–Maricel E. Presilla

Cuban Black Bean Soup

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 40 M
  • 3 H, 15 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 2 reviews
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  • For the beans
  • For the sofrito
  • To finish the soup


Cook the beans

Place the beans, water, onion, green pepper, and bay leaf in a 6-quart heavy pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more water if necessary as the beans cook. The soup should be brothy yet creamy. (Cooking beans is not an exact science so check the water often.)

Discard the onion, pepper, and bay leaf and lower the heat to medium-low. Ladle about 1/3 cup beans into a bowl and mash them with the back of the ladle or a spoon into a coarse purée and set aside. Keep the soup at a simmer while you make the sofrito.

Make the sofrito

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until light golden, about 20 seconds. Add the onion, green pepper, Caribbean peppers, and bay leaf and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add the cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the reserved mashed black beans and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Finish the soup

Stir the bean-enriched sofrito into the pot of beans, then stir in the vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary; the soup should be aromatic with sweet, tangy notes. Add the chopped roasted pepper, if using. Keep the pot over medium-low heat, cover partially, and simmer until creamy, 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and ladle the soup into bowls. If desired, plonk the bottle of olive oil on the table and invite everyone to drizzle some over the soup. (The soup tastes even better the day after it’s made. Let it cool and then cover and refrigerate. Reheat at a very gentle simmer. The soup can also be frozen for up to 3 months so you may want to double the recipe.) Originally published March 13, 2013.

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    How To Serve Cuban Black Bean Soup Like They Do In Cuba

    • Cubans tend to serve this soup alongside or on top of white rice. A dollop of homemade Mexican or Central American crema or some chopped white onion and parsley or cilantro wouldn’t be a terrible addition.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    I love bean soups of all types, but this Cuban black bean soup is in a whole different category. Earthy and full of subtle flavors, the vegetables in the bean broth play perfectly against the vividness of the sofrito. Every ingredient has a role; nothing upstages anything else.

    I used an Anaheim pepper instead of the Caribbean sweet peppers, which added the tiniest bite. I served it with chunks of avocado on top. I bought twice the amount of dried beans necessary, so I can make another batch soon. I’m also going to try freezing it. This’d be a great dish to have on hand.

    I loved this Cuban black bean soup! I struggled with not putting any meat in the soup for flavoring; however, in the end I followed the recipe exactly and I found that the flavors were really very good. This is an excellent recipe and one that I’ll definitely make again.

    After tasting the soup, I found that I needed to use the full 2 teaspoons of salt. I also opted to add a little more red wine vinegar, about a teaspoon, to get that “tangy” quality (I really like vinegar in my beans). I found that as the dish cooked uncovered, a lot of my water had cooked off by the time the beans became “creamy,” as the recipe states. It was still very good, but wasn’t soupy and couldn’t be ladled as the recipe states.

    Perhaps at some point the recipe should direct us to cover the beans? Or to add a little water/vegetable broth if the beans begin to thicken? The beans were even better the next day. I added some additional water to loosen them up and they were perfect.


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    1. I LOVE Cuban Black Bean Soup!

      When I make it I cook my dried beans in a pot with a smoked hammock first. Then I go on to finish the soup s-l-o-w simmering the beans and most of the sofrito until it gets thick. Depending on the beans I start with this can easily be a 2-day process but soooo worth the time. The flavors that time develops are rich and earthy and sublime.

      I also think the vinegar is really a very important ingredient. I use a mature flavorful one that I’d sip from the bottle. In fact, the truth is I’m an odd duck that prefers the flavor of vinegar to wine and I actually do sip it if it’s good and don’t buy it if it ain’t worth sipping.

      I’ve never had access to Cuban peppers so I have to resort to bell peppers but, even lacking that authenticity I think this is a delicious and comforting soup that more Americans should be familiar with.

      1. Thanks, Rainey. I’m with you all the way on buying the best quality vinegar you can find. It’s definitely worth it!

    2. I spent years in Key West and Miami where black bean soup is always on the menu somewhere. I think this recipe is great and can be added to suit oneself.

    3. I grew up in Cuba and lived there for 24 yrs. My way of making black beans is quite different I was born in Havana and lived there til 1961 and maybe that’s why it’s different.

      1. I am in the deep, deep South. I remember the delicious Black Bean Soup served at the Coach and Six Restaurant in Atlanta. It was served with Sherry at the end, not vinegar. It was delicious.

        But on to a more pressing question. I am stumped over the Caribbean or Cubanelle peppers. Since there never will be those types in my area please lead me to another one to use that I might easily locate. I have the Black Beans on hand. I am ready!!!!

        1. Hello, pat. Your best bets are Anaheim peppers or banana peppers. If you can’t find them, then stepping down to the common green bell pepper will have to do. But I’d add a pinch of cayenne or a few drops of hot sauce to give it the bit heat the Cubanelle would.

    4. I wanted to make Cuban bean soup and wasn’t going to look up a recipe. What’s so difficult? It’s black beans, no tomato, bay leaf, and onion, right?

      I’m so glad I found this recipe. My guess at a soup would have tasted fine, but this stuff is wonderful. There are a few more steps than just throwing it all in a pot and simmering, but the end result is really flavorful and well-balanced. It’s tough to describe. The soup’s just seasoned perfectly where none of the spices, vinegar, or aromatic vegetables jump right out, but everything comes together and the end result is flavorful and complex.

      1. Hi S, so happy that you found this recipe for black bean soup. Those aromatics and seasonings really elevate the dish to something more than just a bean soup.

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