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Recipe for slow cooker Puerto Rican black beans with sofrito and cilantro {vegan, gluten-free}


Three times I attempted this black bean recipe, as I tried to recreate a dish I enjoyed years ago in a local Puerto Rican restaurant. Three times I loaded my slow cooker with dried beans, not presoaked, just rinsed and picked over. First, I tried cooking them without any seasoning, thinking I'd add the flavorings at the end so they wouldn't keep the beans from softening. (Not enough water; the beans turned into a solid blob before I realized it.) The second time, I added sufficient liquid, but in an act of defiance, the perfectly cooked beans refused to absorb the sofrito, tomato or spices. (Blech.) The third time, success: dry beans, correct amount of water, sofrito and tomato and spices added right at the beginning, everything coming together with no more intervention on my part than a stir somewhere between hours five and six. In a pinch, you can substitute store-bought sofrito (I like Goya red sofrito, though it contains a tiny amount of MSG), but it takes just a minute to make your own from scratch.


Slow cooker Puerto Rican black beans with sofrito and cilantro

From the pantry, you'll need: dried black beans, chopped tomato, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, red pepper flakes, onion, garlic.

In Puerto Rico, sofrito seldom contains tomato; it's a green condiment, called recaito. The red sofrito, more common in Cuba, is the one I prefer, and my homemade recipe is a combination of the two. This sofrito recipe makes 2 cups; you'll have some left over, to use in soups and stews. Serves 6, as a main course with rice.


For the sofrito:
1 green bell pepper, seeded, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seed, seeded, roughly chopped
1 large tomato, seeded, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled, roughly chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

For the beans:
2 cups dried black beans
3/4 cup sofrito
1/2 cup chopped canned tomato
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp mild red pepper flakes
1 small onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped


Place all of the sofrito ingredients in a food processor or blender, and chop finely (do not pureé).

In a 3-quart slow cooker, combine the beans, 3/4 cup of the sofrito, tomato, cumin, Mexican oregano, red pepper flakes, onion and garlic. Add 4 cups of water, and stir.

Cook on LOW for 7 hours, until the beans are soft but still hold their shape. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Stir in the fresh cilantro, and serve hot, over rice.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Quick and easy black beans and rice
Whole wheat pizza with pumpkin, black beans and caramelized onions
Moros y cristianos
Vegan black bean and sweet potato stew
South End Deep Root Chili

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Spicy Mexican black beans, from Andrea Meyers
Mexican baked eggs with black beans, tomatoes, green chiles and cilantro, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Black bean soup, from Simply Recipes
Puerto Rican rice and beans, from Cooking with Anne
Brown rice with black beans and cilantro, from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


This dish sounds excellent, Lydia! I really want to try this one for some time my son will be home. He loves black bean dishes like this one. Love the sofrito part of the recipe, too. So easy, like you said. :-)


Thank you for doing all the hard and thankless experimentation. I considered shifting to the pressure cooker, but I think the slow cooking must really make the flavors bloom -- like the next day is better effect.

This is exactly the type of recipe I was looking for to make for my friends who will be visiting this weekend. So, thanks for the recipe and I'm anxious to make it!

Shirley, this one is naturally gluten-free, too. I hope your son likes it. And you can turn the leftovers into amazing black bean soup.

Susan, third time was the charm (the first two times, definitely not!). I can be a very lazy cook at times, so I really wanted to just dump things into the slow cooker and let it do the work for me.

Robert, I'm so glad you found this recipe and I'm sure your friends will enjoy it.

My husband will LOVE this! I am adding it to next week's menu. Thanks :)

Alyssa, anyone who's a fan of black beans will love these. And you can always add a bit more heat to them, if you wish.

This looks delicious and I´d love to try it but we don´t have a slow cooker. Could it be done in a casserole pot in the oven and cooked slowly over a couple of hours?

Breadguy, you can cook these on top of the stove, rather than in the oven. Presoak the beans overnight; then, drain, add the remaining ingredients, plus additional water, cover and cook for an hour, then taste and continue cooking until done. The slow cooker prevents evaporation of the liquid, which helps to flavor the beans.

This looks and sounds wonderful; but I can't stand cilantro. I love to cook beans in my slow cooker. Any suggestions for substitutions?

I love sofrito! Congratulations on tackling this recipe. Cooking dry beans without pre-soaking them can be tricky, but your final dish looks amazing!

Linda, I'm not a real fan of cilantro, either, though it works well in this recipe. You can always substitute fresh parsley, or omit altogether.

Ben, thanks for the encouragement! I love beans, and often forget to presoak, so I'm delighted to find a way to cook them without it. A pressure cooker would work, also, but I'm still fearful of cooking that way. Must get over it.

This sounds fabulous. I can't wait to give it a try. I don't use my slow cooker enough and this will be a good reason to take it out.

ohhh so fabulous! and thanks again for doing the hard part of testing to get it right!

Donna, I'm determined to use my slow cookers more often, so I get to know more about what they can do. I'm fairly new to slow cooker cooking, but in the summer I love it because it keeps the kitchen cool.

Carol, you'll like this!

I tried this over the weekend, thinking that it would be like all of my many failed dry bean experiments, and end up as chicken food. I had everything on hand already, so what the heck.

It turned out perfectly! There are only 2 of us, so I froze the remaining portions for lunches. Thank you!

Heather, I'm so glad you tried this recipe! I feel the same way you do, that so many bean recipes don't work. But I tried and tried to get this one right, and I really appreciate that you took the time to come back and let us know that you liked it.

I'm so sad! I tried this, and it didn't really work. It was DELICIOUS, but the beans didn't get soft. That said, I'm horrible at following directions, and used what I had on hand...which was pinto beans. It was so yummy, I'll get black beans and try again!

I also tried this. I followed the recipe to a 'T' it was not good...at all. We felt like it was missing...flavor. We were barley able to get it down with some extra cilantro and chopped green onions. I make a lot of black bean dishes and was pretty disappointed in this one:'(

Naisia, I'm always sad when one of my recipes doesn't work for someone. Clearly people have had mixed experiences with this one. For me, it's been reliably good (and for others). There are lots of other black bean recipes on this blog, so I hope you'll try one of those.

I'm making this today after Kalyn linked to it on twitter. I just had a power outage at home for 2 hours (don't ask)! Can I turn it up to high for the last hour or so? I'm having friends over and don't want to have dinner too late!
p.s. it looks great!

Roxann, this makes me very nervous. The instructions that come with slow cookers always say not to leave food in the canister for more than two hours unless it's actively cooking or on the keep warm setting. I would recommend that you throw it out (I'm so sorry). But, if you feel the beans are mostly cooked and the outage was less than 2 hours, you can try cooking on high; you'll have to stir more frequently, and some beans might explode, but it shouldn't affect the taste.

I am making this right now. I don't understand why you only add 3/4 C of the sofrito to the recipe & then add addtl of the same ingredients to the beans. Why not just add more sofrito? Also, I had a TON of the sofrito left over. What do I do w/ it?

I tried this recipe because it sounded so good! I was a little disappointed after making it. The texture of the beans turned out really well but I was hoping it would have more flavor. It seemed really bland. It also turned out to have more liquid than I would have liked (which may be an issue on my part). I did add some jalapenos to the beans which made it have a nice kick. I will probably add more cilantro and some scallions I have in the fridge.

Susan, you can freeze leftover sofrito. Adding the sofrito in stages adds some complexity to the flavor.

Carter, thanks for your feedback. I'm sorry you were disappointed with the recipe. I must confess that when I make it for myself, I add a lot more heat -- but when I write recipes for the blog, I try to moderate the heat level as that seems to work for most people. I do know that all slow cookers cook differently, so I hope you try this again and make the adjustments for your own slow cooker. I love having batches of these beans on hand for quick weekday rice-and-bean dinners.

I am making this for the second time. (using my leftover sofrito per your suggestion) My husband told me over & over how good they were. I use 5 cups of beans, 3C of sofrito, a can of diced tomatoes w/ the juice & basically follow the recipe. I don't add any add't onion, garlic. I am cooking them overnight and freezing them. Thanks for the feedback & for a delicious recipe. I am new to beans & this was a nice surprise!

I made this today for the first time and like some of the other posters I found it very bland. Do you have a suggestion? Could I add more sofrito to start? I was frankly surprized at how bland it was. They tasted like canned plain beans to me. Unlike some others, my beans were perfectly cooked. I did add the salt and pepper at the end but it needed some other flavor to it.

Emily, I know this recipe has been great for some and not for others. I'm sorry you were disappointed. Add more hot sauce and cilantro to bump up the flavor to your taste, and let us know what works for you.

I just tried this recipe and LOVED it! I admit I made a couple tweaks, but only minor - I did use Goya sofrito, and added 1/3 cup Goya recaito as well (I had them on hand) and I upped the crushed red pepper because we like things spicy. 7 hours later, I came back into the kitchen and it smelled great. So far I've put these beans on salad,on rice, served with pork, and plan on putting them in tacos and quesadillas later in the week. This is a wonderful base recipe – the crock pot is the secret, it was too hot and humid here to have the stove burner on all day. This is going to become a staple in our house. Thank you!

This is lovely. I have some instant black beans in my food storage I think I'll try it with. Thanks so much.

I've made this several times with a few changes. Since I've never had sofrito I wasn't sure what it was supposed to taste like, so I bought a jar of the Red Sofrito by Goya. Also the first time I made this the beans never got soft, so I soak my beans overnight the day before, and still have to have the slow cooker on high for 12 hours. I added more onion, garlic and sofrito than called for int he recipe, but now it is a go to meal. Thank you for introducing me to Puerto Rican Black Beans!

Did you soak the beans in water beforehand?

Maria, I didn't presoak.

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