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Jan 21, 2010 02:57 PM

Tried and true Cuban black bean soup recipe?

Hello all,

I've been on a soup making kick lately and decided that I want to make my first cuban black bean soup but haven't really seen a good recipe online. Anyone have suggestions or links?


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  1. Here's my basic recipe:

    Cuban Black Bean and Ham Soup
    makes 6-8 servings

    3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, undrained or 1 lb pre-cooked from dried
    1 pound smoked ham, diced fairly small
    1 tbsp olive oil or to taste
    1 cup diced onions
    ¾ cup diced red bell peppers
    2 tbsps minced garlic, yes, that much garlic
    1 tsp ground cumin
    3 tbsps chopped fresh cilantro
    1/2 tsp dried thyme
    1 (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes, or 1 cup canned, diced tomatoes and a diced jalapeno or for some real heat, 1/4 scotch bonnet pepper
    1 (6-ounce) can good quality tomato paste
    2 quarts good homemade chicken stock
    2 bay leaves
    salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Sour cream and chopped cilantro for garnish

    In a 5-quart stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, red bell peppers and garlic and hot peppers, if using. Sauté vegetables for 3–5 minutes or until softened. Stir in ham and cook 2–3 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. Season with cumin, cilantro and thyme. Sauté for 1 minute to allow spices to toast. Blend in tomatoes and tomato paste. Add chicken stock and black beans. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 30–45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If a thicker, smoother soup is desired, purée half of the soup in a blender or food processor. Serve hot with a good dollop of sour cream, chopped onion, and cilantro.

    Here's a good way to cook dried black beans for black bean soup:

    1 pound black beans
    1 smoked ham hock
    2 bay leaves

    Soak your beans overnight. Put the beans and ham hock in a medium saucepan and pour in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Toss in the bay leaves and bring the water to a boil. Adjust the heat so the water is boiling very gently and cook the beans, skimming off any foam that rises to the top, until tender, about 2 hours. Keep an eye on the beans; they should always be covered by liquid. When the liquid meets the level of the beans, top it off with a 1/2-inch or so of cold water.

    Toward the end of cooking, ease up on the liquid you add; the goal is to have the beans barely covered with liquid by the time they're tender. You can remove the meat from the ham hock and add it to the soup. These beans have lots of flavor and are a great start for a soup.

    Buen provecho!

    1. I make it this way: in my 20 qt soup pot, 4 lb of black beans, a ham bone, 4-5 onions chopped, 1 green pepper chopped, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 4 bay leaves, 8 oz can tomato sauce, water to half-fill the pot. Simmer for 3 hours. Fish out the ham bone and bay leaves. Put half of the beans through the Cuisinart to puree them then return them to the pot. This step is essential to get the mouth-feel of black bean soup. The total volume should be cooked down to about 8 quarts of soup. Adjust seasoning using salt, garlic, cumin. Take any bits of ham meat off the bone and return to the pot. I serve black bean soup with a pitcher of sherry on the table to add to individual bowls. In Puerto Rico they serve it with little pots of rice and chopped raw onion.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Querencia

        Both yours and Bushwickgirl's sound delicious. I love the sherry idea. Are the little pots of rice kept separate from the soup, or do people add it bit by bit to their soup . . . or . . ?

        Also, would you serve it with lime wedges, or maybe some sherry vinegar? Or maybe there's not generally acid element. This is the perfect time of year for this soup.

        1. re: cinnamon girl

          Yes, rice as topping, along with chopped onion and cilantro. Lime is nice, sherry vinegar also. The soup actually needs a bit of an acid "kick."

      2. i like both recipes. growing up in florida, i don't know where mom got her cuban bean soup recipe, but it also has oregano. we serve the soup over white rice with chopped onions on the top (option at the table), and a splash of pepper vinegar, also optional.

        1. The Gasparilla Cookbook (Jr. League of Tampa from the '60's) has the best recipe imo. I'll paraphrase later if there is interest.

          (The Frugal Gourmet has a terrible recipe btw.)

          We serve with white rice and chopped onion on the side - each person mixes them into their bowl as desired. A little lime is nice too!

          9 Replies
          1. re: meatn3

            Thanks. I'd love it if you paraphrased your recipe M3!

              1. re: meatn3

                I must be losing my mind - the recipe is not in that cookbook! Not sure if I have the wrong edition or if I just remembered the source incorrectly.

                I'll keep looking...

              2. re: cinnamon girl

                I have not made this particular recipe, but I have had it at their restaurants and it is very good:


                1. re: meatn3

                  meatn3, that's probably my mom's recipe, too. we were from fort myers (and the columbia was "it" for cuban dining); that recipe probably is a good approximation of what might have been in that tampa junior league cookbook. i don't think mom's recipe has the sugar, though.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    My Mother & I used to make an annual trip to St. Armands Key to shop - and The Columbia was always the place for lunch! Black bean soup, their signature salad and a Cuban, split.

                    Maybe out Fl. trips will overlap and we'll be at The Columbia at the same time!

                    Re: the recipe, I don't recall using sugar in my misplaced recipe either.

                    1. re: meatn3

                      meatn3, if you are ever down fort myers way, go to the cuban restaurant in cape coral, called "el rincon cubano" or simply "rincon cubano." my review is on the florida board. it's the real deal! (although their cubans don't equal the best back in the day -- from the "snack house" in downtown fort myers, located in the arcade plaza, i believe).

                  2. re: meatn3

                    Thanks so much for looking M3. I'm glad to see others do this too: I'm often convinced of the source for something I've been making for years only to learn .... mmm .... not so much. The one you give the link for looks delicious too.

                    What a perfect-sounding lunch you used to share with your mother. Is there anything unusual about their signature salad?

                    1. re: cinnamon girl

                      Their "1905" salad is one of their signature dishes. It is made table side, usually by a very dashing waiter. All ingredients are super fresh - look just picked - and the dressing is very nice.

                      The atmosphere at the locations I've been to (Tampa - the original, Sarasota and St. Augustine) have an old world Spanish feel. They have been around for so long that they figure into the family memories of many who grew up near one. A bit of an institution in much of Fl.

              3. I've never written down my recipe and it's not necessarily Cuban, but it always gets rave reviews. I make a large pot because it freezes beautifully.
                Soak 2 bags black beans, soaked overnight. Add enough low salt chicken stock to cover the beans by a few inches. Add a few bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook unti the beans are tender, adding more stock as necessary to prevent burning and to get the consistency you want (not too runny, not too thick). Add a couple tins of chopped tomatoes.

                In a large pan (I use a wok), add some olive oil and saute chopped garlic (1/4 of a head or to taste). Add some chopped red or green chillies, then add 7-8 chopped mixed peppers (red, green, yellow and orange) and chopped red onion (depends on size...think I add 3 or 6). Sauté the vegetables until just tender. (Don't overcook, especially if you are freezing the soup because they'll cook a bit more when you reheat.)

                Add cumin and salt to taste, then add a couple good glugs of Marsala. Simmer until the flavours develop, then add a large bunch of chopped fresh cilantro/corriander. Add more chicken stock if necessary to get your desired consistancy: not too thick or thin --just nice and juicy!

                Serve over white rice with a dollop of sour cream.