Slightly sweet and adaptably spicy, these Black Beans with Bacon are savory perfection! The recipe is downright bulletproof, too: fast, flexible, and so easy to make!
What's the Story Behind this Recipe?
Our daughter Em makes the best black beans ever! She's been making them about once a week for the past few months, and we have been devouring them - for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
When I asked Em if she'd mind sharing her recipe, she carefully walked me through her process, meticulously noting the ingredient amounts as we went along. She did such a great job that when I made two subsequent test batches, I was easily able to replicate her flavors perfectly! (Which means you can too!)
Why You Will Love these Black Beans
You will be surprised at how fast and easy this black bean recipe comes together. Start to finish, they take just 30 minutes to make, but the flavors blend so well that they taste like they've been simmering all day!
One of the things you will love most about Em's recipe is how versatile these beans are! Here are just a few ways that we like to eat them.
• For Breakfast: We like to heat leftover beans and serve spread on a tortilla, topped a little fresh tomato and fried egg.
• As a Soup: These beans make a surprisingly good black bean soup. Just thin leftovers down with a little stock or water, heat them up and top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.
• As a Topping for Tacos and Baked Potatoes: This is one of our favorite things to do with leftover beans.
• As a Bean Dip: These beans thicken up very nicely, and can easily be served with chips or crudité. Makes a great, protein-rich afternoon snack!
• At a Potluck: Em's beans travel well, have a long "open-air" life, and taste great hot or cool.
What Goes into this Recipe
One of the many things you will love about this simple black beans recipe is its flexible ingredient list. You can use your favorite peppers, onions, and chili powder to make it your own!
Like your beans on the mild side? No problem! Follow the recipe as is. Like your black beans hot and spicy? You can do that - just throw in a hotter pepper or a little more of your favorite chili powder.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
★ Black Beans: Use home-cooked black beans or canned.
★ Sweet peppers: Use whatever color sweet peppers you like best. We like to avoid the green ones for this recipe because they have a bitter undertone, but you can use whatever makes you happy.
★ Onion: red onions seem to work best, but yellow of sweet onions will also work.
★ Bacon: Use a thick cut bacon if possible.
★ Chicken broth: Use a good quality canned or boxed chicken broth. You can also use homemade chicken stock; however, if it is very hearty, you will want to water it down a little.
Don't have any chicken broth? Sub in an equal amount of water and three teaspoons of Better than Bouillon or three bouillon cubes. (In this case, dissolve the bouillon in hot water before adding to the mixture.)
★ Cilantro: Cilantro brightens the flavor after cooking, and is a delicious addition and an eye-catching garnish.
However, if you plan to serve this dish to company (especially folks you don't know well) leave the cilantro off and serve it on the side instead. Some people have a genetic variation in a group of olfactory-receptor genes that make cilantro taste like soap to them. These Spicy Black Beans will taste fabulous even without the cilantro.
★ Garlic: Fresh is always best, but if you don't have any, you can use two teaspoons of garlic powder or granulated garlic.
How to Make this Recipe
In a small bowl, combine cumin, oregano, chili powder, chili flakes (optional), brown sugar, and salt. Set aside.
Put bacon batons into cold skillet and turn heat on to medium. Bring up to heat and cook bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set aside.
Put chopped onion into hot pan. Cook onion in bacon grease until translucent.
Add peppers and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and spices and cook another minute.
Add drained, rinsed beans1, chicken stock, and water to vegetable mixture. Liquid should just cover beans.2
Use a wooden spatula or spoon to deglaze the bottom of the pan.3
Smash beans with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon.4
Reduce bring beans to a simmer, and reduce heat. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, until spoon leaves a space when dragged through the beans.
Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and reserve bacon. Season to taste.
Serve topped with grated cotija and additional chopped cilantro, if desired.
FAQs & Expert Tips
First, beans should be soaked; it shortens the cooking time and improves the texture. You can either do this overnight, or by doing a quick soak.
Quick Soak Method: For enough beans to make this black beans recipe, place ⅔ cup beans in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and boil for two minutes.
Remove the beans from the heat and let sit for one hour. Drain in a colander and discard the soaking water. (This decreases the content of a particular type of sugar called oligosaccharide which the human body cannot fully digest. Oligosaccharide is what causes gas and bloating.)
To cook the soaked beans: Return the beans to the saucepan and cover with fresh water, then bring them to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer over low heat for about 2 hours, or until tender.
Em’s Sweet & Spicy Black Beans with Bacon
- 2 cups cooked black beans 2 cans, drained & rinsed
- 1 cup chopped sweet pepper yellow, orange, red, or green
- ½ large chopped onion red, yellow, or sweet
- 2 strips thick cut bacon cut into ¼ batons
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder use your favorite
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅔ cup chicken stock
- ⅔ cup water
- ¼ cup grated cotija optional
- 1 handful chopped cilantro optional
- In a small bowl, combine cumin, oregano, chili powder, chili flakes (optional), brown sugar, and salt. Set aside.
- Put bacon batons into cold skillet and turn heat on to medium. Bring up to heat and cook bacon until crispy.Remove bacon from pan and set aside.
- Put chopped onion into hot pan. Cook onion in bacon grease until translucent.Add peppers and cook 5 additional minutes.Add garlic and spices. Cook another minute.
- Add drained, rinsed beans to mixture.Add chicken stock and water. Liquid should just cover beans.Use a wooden spatula or spoon to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
- Smash beans with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon.
- Reduce bring beans to a simmer, and reduce heat.Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, until spoon leaves a space when dragged through the beans.
- Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and reserve bacon. Season to taste.
- Serve topped with grated cotija and additional chopped cilantro.
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Originally published May 18, 2016. Post has been updated with new content, images, and recipe instructions to improve reader experience.