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Spicy Black Beans

I’ve been making this one for a couple years now, and I finally decided to write it down when a Vegan buddy of mine asked if I had any good recipes for Black Beans.

This is a Caribbean-inspired vegetarian(vegan) dish meant to supply the eater with a decent amount of protein and some spicy sweetness. Most of the veggies are interchangeable, so play around with it some. Pair with some brown rice to hit that nice black-bean and whole-grain rice combo that our bodies dig.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry black beans (or two cans cooked beans)
  • 1 white or sweet yellow onion
  • 4 – 6 cloves garlic (2-3 are for cooking the beans, so omit if using canned)
  • 2 – 3 bay leaves (omit for canned beans)
  • 3 medium/large tomatoes diced (or a 15oz can pre-diced tomatoes)
  • 1 small/medium sweet potato, chopped into 1in or smaller cubes
  • 1 – 1½ cups chopped okra (this one’s pretty important for that Caribbean feel)
  • 1 Red or green bell pepper
  • 1 – 2 small or medium zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1-1½ inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon of honey, or a handful of raisins. Up to you. Some people hate cooked raisins
  • 1-2 teaspoon Red Hot Chili Pepper flakes, or a couple fresh jalapeños, chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons coriander
  • Dash of paprika
  • Cayenne pepper (as needed)
  • Sea salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons red or white vinegar

Instructions

Prep

  • If using dried beans, soak the beans for a few hours, then boil them with ¼ of the onion, a few of the garlic cloves, and the bay leaves until cooked. Remove the bay leaves and drain the beans (or drain them first, if the idea of reaching into boiling water bothers you). You should end up with about 3 cups of beans. Good.
  • If you’re making brown rice, start it about 15 minutes before, and cook it with some nice broth. I usually start the rice before I start washing and chopping shit.

Veggies

  • Chop the rest of the onion and garlic. May as well chop the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and other veggies now too, unless you like procrastinating.
  • Preheat a large pan over medium-high heat, then add a tablespoon or two of oil (chef’s choice, but OO might be a little to heavy-flavored for this).
  • Cook the onions and pepper flakes until the onions are translucent (if using fresh peppers, hold off until you add the bell pepper).
  • Add the garlic and cook that until fragrant.
  • Add the cumin, paprika, and coriander, and stir frequently for about a minute – whenever it starts smelling good.
  • Add the sweet potato chunks and stir regularly for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the chopped bell pepper and okra, and stir another 5 mins.
  • Add the zucchini (and raisins, if not using honey), splash the vinegar in there, and stir for a couple minutes more.

Everything else

  • Lower the heat to medium/med-low. Add the tomatoes, beans, honey, and some salt and pepper to get started.
  • For the next 10 mins, or until the sweet potatoes are easy to smash, stir occasionally and taste. Add salt and pepper as you go. Add cayenne as needed, you want to balance out the sweetness with a little heat. Ideally it should be just a little spicy up front, and warm your mouth later as the sweetness fades.
  • Once it’s super tasty, and nobody’s gonna bust a tooth on those sweet potatoes, serve it over rice, making sure to add a little sauce with every bunch of the veggie/bean mix.

Variations

  • You can omit all the spicy shit if you don’t think your people can handle it, just be sure to leave out the honey/raisins too or it’ll be needlessly sweet.
  • Leave half the garlic out until you add the beans to make it more garlicky.
  • Swap out the bell pepper and zucchini for other junk, depending on what you’ve got, how you feel. Get creative. The sweet potato and okra are pretty key, but you could even play with those, I guess.