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I’ve resisted cooking my own beans for all of my life because I’d never seen anybody do it. I had a misconception that it was complicated and annoying. As it turns out, you can’t spend very much time in the American southwest without people judging you for not knowing how to cook your own beans. I decided it was the time and the place to figure it out.

When we arrived in Santa Fe, we had a fantastic dinner at a restaurant called Pasquals, and I had some delicious black beans there. We couldn’t help buying their cookbook, and I quickly located their black bean recipe. This recipe and technique comes from them, with slight modifications.

According to the Pasquals cookbook: “Do not soak black beans overnight. Presoaking actually seems to lengthen the cooking time.” This was news to me, and led me to read up on the “to soak or not to soak” controversy. I was intrigued by this article, which used the good ol’ scientific method and a systematic experiment to convince me that soaking beans overnight is not necessary and that the texture and flavor actually come out better if you cook them from dry and unrinsed beans for a couple of hours.

Another helpful texture tip from the cookbook: “To achieve soft, tender beans, do not add salt until the end of the cooking process. Adding salt too early will make the beans tough.”

As for flavoring the beans, right now I’m in favor of keeping things simple. My tendency is go to a little overboard flavoring each component of the meal (chili powder, cumin, salsa, lime, and garlic in the beans, in the rice, on the veggies, etc), but the problem becomes that the seasonings overpower everything and nothing on the plate is distinguishable from anything else. I’m learning that the magic of southwest cuisine is in the combination of simple flavors together in a dish, rather than over flavoring each component.

These beans are simple, and perfect. Enjoy!

Perfect Black Beans

  • Servings: Makes about 4 cups
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Active Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 2-3 hours

Each 6 oz Serving* Contains:

  • 1 Protein

Note: The other ingredients in this recipe are negligible in their volume. I count them as condiments and just measure 6 oz of beans, as I would normally.

*Adjust these quantities as needed for your own individual food plan


  • 2.5 cups (about 1.25 pounds) dried black beans (organic preferred)
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red or green chilis, (or salsa if you can’t find chilis)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 quarts water (or to about double the height of the beans)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste) added after cooking


  1. Combine all ingredients except for salt in a large pot or crockpot.
  2. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the beans are soft, about 2 hours.
  3. Add water as needed to keep the beans immersed during cooking.
  4. When the beans are properly cooked, they should be tender with the skin remaining unbroken.
  5. Season with salt. Cool the beans and store them in their liquid, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. They can be frozen for up to 2 months.