Cuban Dinner Recipe: Black beans + ropa vieja

Food is an extremely important part of Cuban culture. In this post, we’re sharing two recipes from the family of our co-founder, Cynthia, who is Cuban! We hope you enjoy making them with your family as much as we do.

Cuban Black Beans

This recipe includes instructions for dry black beans. Read the notes at the end for alternative instructions.

Note: Soak dry black beans for 8 hours before starting the recipe.

  • 1 pound of dry black beans pre-soaked
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion coarsely chopped or quartered
  • 1 yellow onion chopped small
  • 8 garlic cloves minced or crushed
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped small
  • 1-2 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 – 1 ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • 4 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • ½ cup of good dry red wine
What to do:
  1. Add water, bay leaves, 1 coarsely chopped onion, 2 teaspoon of salt, baking soda and pre-soaked black beans to your Instant Pot, set on high pressure for 50 minutes. You can also use a standard pressure cookerin that case, add 1 more cup of water. Once at a boil, pressure cook for 50 minutes.
  2. Allow Instant Pot (or pressure cooker) to naturally release. This can take about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium to medium high heat in a medium frying pan. Add in onions, peppers, oregano, cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to pan and cook until onions and peppers have softened. Add garlic and stir for 60 seconds more. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of red wine.
  4. Once onions and peppers have softened, add in a cup of cooked black beans to your pan and gently smash the beans into the onion mixture.
  5. Return the onion mixture to the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker). Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt and stir well.
  6. Press the sauté mode on Instant Pot (or high heat if using a pressure cooker) and cook down 20-30 minutes. Stir beans occasionally to avoid sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan. Taste for salt and add more if needed.
  7. Serve over white rice.

An alternative to using dry beans is using 6 (12 oz) cans of cooked black beans. Warm the beans in a heavy bottom pot and start following the recipe at instruction #3. Once you add the onion mixture, cook for only 5 more minutes and use less salt.

Ropa Vieja

  • 2 lbs of beef (flank steak, or brisket)
  • 2 onions (1 cut into quarters and the other sliced into long, thin strips)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 tablespoons (or 4 oz can) tomato purée
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1-2 cups of reserved beef stock
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
What to do:
  1. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Place the meat in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. If cut of meat is large, cut into smaller pieces against the grain.
  3. Add a quartered onion and 2 bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add water to cover the meat by 2 inches (5 cm). If using pressure cooker, bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 50 minutes. For Instant Pot, set the timer to 50 minutes on high. Allow to depressurize on its own.
  5. Check the tenderness of the meat with a fork. If it is not soft enough, continue cooking for 20 minutes from boiling.
  6. Once the meat is fork tender, remove the meat from the broth and reserve the broth.
  7. When the meat is lukewarm, shred it and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and set aside.
  8. In a deep Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and peppers. Season with salt, cumin, oregano, black pepper. Once the onions and peppers are soft add crushed garlic, stirring regularly.
  9. Add ½ cup of the reserved meat broth and red wine to deglaze the pan. Add tomato purée and mix in and stir well.
  10. Add the meat and stir well.  (Add more reserved stock to avoid meat drying out.)
  11. Cook uncovered and over high heat for 5-10 minutes.
  12. Cover the Dutch oven and cook for another 15-20 minutes over medium heat until the sauce is creamy and reaches the consistency in the picture below.
  1. Serve hot, with white rice. (And beans!)

Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.