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Nigella's Cuban Black Beans recipe

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Nigella's versatile and delicious Cuban Black Beans. Don't miss the roasted garlic yoghurt recipe in the notes section.

  • Prep10m
  • Stand30m
  • Cook2h
  • Total2h 40m


I've recently learned that phytohaemagglutinin (how do you even pronounce it?) is a toxin found in raw beans, particularly kidney beans, and is harmful to humans. It's difficult to find information on phytohaemagglutinin relating to black beans but be aware that slow cookers don't always reach high enough temperatures to cook the beans safely. Wikipedia states that the toxins can be reduced to safe levels by:

  • Boiling unsoaked beans for at least 30 minutes at 100°C (212°F)
  • Boiling presoaked beans for 15 minutes at 100°C (212°F)
  • Cooking for 2 hours at 80°C (176°F)
  • Pressure cooking for 45 minutes at 15 psi

If you're going to cook these beans in a slow cooker I recommend boiling them as described above before slow cooking. The oven cooking method is hot enough to cook these beans safely.

An Instant Pot customer service rep informed me that the slow cooking temperatures for my Duo Evo Plus are:

  • Low: 82-87.8°C / 180-190°F
  • High: 93-99°C / 200-210°F

I’ve cooked Nigella's Cuban Black Beans many times since the book, Simply Nigella (affiliate link) came out in 2015. Chop a couple of onions, peppers and some garlic; the rest is just assembly. What you do need to do, however, is give these beans time. Either a couple of hours in a low oven or longer in a slow cooker. As a bonus, this is one of the few recipes I’ve come across where the dried beans don’t need to be pre-soaked.

One small addition I've included is a tablespoon of chipotle paste. It gives the beans more depth and interest. I usually add two tablespoons but this does make the beans quite spicy so start with a tablespoon.

Although these beans are a great side dish for any Mexican food, I tend to make them as the main event. They make work lunches a treat when paired with rice and yoghurt and of the many meals I reheat at work, these beans attract the most compliments. One colleague swears they smell just like Dominos BBQ pizza.

My last batch of beans went into quesadillas along with cheddar cheese and caramelised garlic yoghurt; it was an absolute joy of a dinner. The garlic yoghurt is also from Simply Nigella (see notes for the recipe).

For years I cooked these beans in my oven as I didn’t own a slow cooker but a few weeks ago a colleague lent one to me. To be honest, the beans taste similar regardless of how they’re cooked as I let them cool first before reheating, which thickens and intensifies the sauce.

The oven method requires browning the onions first but when using a slow cooker, the raw ingredients go straight in - the recipe doesn’t mention browning. After seven hours in the slow cooker I swear I could still taste the tang of raw onion. Once the beans cooled and were reheated they tasted like their normal selves but I would definitely recommend browning the onions, regardless of which method you use.


Make sure to use relatively fresh beans. I used some that were at least two years old and they refused to soften in my slow cooker. A brand new batch of beans softened after just four hours.

Garlic yoghurt

Slice the top off a bulb of garlic (take the very tips off the cloves and keep the base intact) then wrap in foil and bake for around 40 minutes in a 200°C (180°C fan) oven.

Like Nigella, I don’t turn on my oven just for the purpose of roasting garlic but if I’m cooking something else I’ll often throw in a bulb at the same time. Adjust the cooking time to suit the temperature of the oven; you don’t need to be precise. Once the cloves have caramelised to a dark bronze colour, the whole bulb goes into the fridge where it keeps for a week. The squidgy cloves can be added to soups, stews, or, my favourite by a mile, Greek yoghurt.

400g of Greek yoghurt, 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes and 5-6 roasted garlic cloves amounts to a beautiful sauce that reminds me of the yoghurt you get in a really good kebab shop.

Recipe credit

Simply Nigella (affiliate link) by Nigella Lawson.


Nigella's Cuban Black Beans

  • Prep10m
  • Stand30m
  • Cook2h
  • Total2h 40m
Serves: 6


  • 2 onions, chopped (any colour)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 peppers, diced (any colour)
  • 500g dried black turtle beans
  • 1 fresh red chilli, chopped
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chipotle paste (more if you like spice)
  • black pepper
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 litre water
  • salt


Slow cooker

  1. Fill a medium saucepan with boiling water and add 500g of dried black beans. Rapidly boil for 30 minutes then drain.
  2. Brown 2 chopped onions in a pan for around 5-10 minutes then add to a slow cooker along with 6 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 diced peppers, the boiled black beans, 1 chopped red chilli, 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon of chipotle paste, a pinch of black pepper, 2 fresh bay leaves and 1 litre of water.
  3. Cook for 6-8 hours until the beans are soft then add salt to taste.
  4. Leave to stand for half an hour or, if you can, allow to cool then reheat to eat. 


  1. Preheat your oven to 150°C (130°C fan).
  2. Brown 2 chopped onions and 6 chopped cloves of garlic for around 5-10 minutes in a lidded saucepan that will fit into your oven. Add 2 diced peppers, 500g dried black beans, 1 chopped red chilli, 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon of chipotle paste, a pinch of black pepper and 2 fresh bay leaves to the pan. Add enough water to cover the ingredients by 3cm then clamp the lid on the pan and place in the oven for 2 hours.
  3. If you can, check on the beans half way through, giving them a stir and adding more water if the level has fallen below the beans, but you can just leave them to cook and they should be fine.
  4. When the beans are cooked, salt to taste then leave to stand for half an hour or, if you can, allow to cool then reheat to eat. 

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