Home cooks often have a misconception that cooking dried beans well is impossible. All it takes is one pot of undercooked beans that boils over onto the stovetop and leaves a sticky, starchy mess for weeks to come, and suddenly they have resigned themselves to a lifetime of rinsing and draining fifteen ounce cans. I believed in canned beans, too, until I tried these black beans from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The black beans are tender, perfectly seasoned, and freeze remarkably well, making tacos and burritos a cinch on any given night.
The original recipe calls for cooking beans in a slow cooker, but since I was born in the nineties and not the seventies, I’ve changed the recipe so that the beans cook in the oven at a low temperature for about three hours. Three hours is a long time to spend on one dish, but aside from a quickly sautéed onion in the beginning and one stir half-way through cooking, these beans are a hands-free recipe.
The ambient heat of the oven cooks the beans from all directions, which prevents the blown out beans that often result from stovetop cooking. Even better, the recipe is made from dried black beans, with no presoaking necessary. I don’t know about you, but my interest in making a recipe is inversely proportional to the number of days I have to plan ahead to make it, so I appreciate that the beans will be cooked on the day you start preparing them.
With seasonings like cumin, smoked paprika, and a dash of lime, the beans are flavorful enough to eat with some rice for a simple meal, yet subtle enough to use as a filling for burritos without overpowering other components. This simple dish is a favorite at our house, and leftovers are scarce and highly sought after. I’ve made these beans at least seven or eight times, and as long as my brother keeps saying that these black beans are better than Chipotle’s, I don’t plan on retiring this recipe.
Oven Braised Black Beans
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (seeds and ribs removed if you’re sensitive to heat)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons table salt
1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked through to remove any stones
9 cups water
1 tablespoon lime juice
Serving accompaniments: rice, lime wedges, avocado, salsa, tortillas, sharp cheese, tortilla chips, and other desired garnishes
- Remove all the racks from the oven except for the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 300F.
- In a large, oven-safe Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the jalapeno, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, and paprika, and sauté until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the salt, beans, and water, and stir to combine.
- Cover the Dutch oven, and transfer it to the oven. Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours, stirring halfway, until the beans are tender. In the last 45-60 minutes of cooking, remove the lid so that some of the water will reduce and form a thicker sauce. Serve with rice and avocado for a simple meal, or use the beans to fill burritos, enchiladas, tacos, or quesadillas.
Note: These beans freeze extremely well. Freeze them in a freezer-safe container with about ½ inch of headroom to accommodate the expansion from the freezing liquid. Before serving, defrost in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, then reheat on low in a skillet until hot.