Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Shrimp

This dish is nowhere near as complex as our seafood pasta or Pad Thai recipes, yet while being one of the simpler dishes you can make it is at the same time, one of the tastiest. Prep time can vary from as little as 30 minutes on up depending upon how much time and input into the dish you wish to have, but will principally depend upon whether you use dried black beans or canned black beans. The rice will occupy about 30 minutes using a white grained rice and wild grain rices will require just a bit more cooking time (and more salt). I find it’s actually best with medium grain brown rice seasoned with cilantro and this recipe will reflect that.

For the beans you have a couple of options from using canned black beans to cooking up your own black beans all the way from dried black beans depending upon how much time you have, or input into the cooking process you want. However, either way it is a tremendously delicious meal from a Caribbean tradition of spices, seafood and heathy carbohydrates that is healthy and will fill you up. If you want to go with the canned beans options (which honestly works out pretty well and is something we tend to default to), we’ve been very happy with Bush’s canned black beans, but you’ll need to make some modifications to get you to “Cuban black beans”.

1 lb. black beans (thoroughly washed and sorted)
OR use
2 cans black beans with liquid

1 cup medium grain brown rice
1 large sweet onion (vidalia or similar)
1 medium green bell pepper (chopped)
1 medium red pepper (chopped)
3-6 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
1 6 ounce can of tomato paste
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 pound shrimp
2 tablespoon fresh cilantro or coriander
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
1-2 limes

Soak beans in large saucepan overnight in enough water to cover the beans up to 2 inches over the top. When ready to cook, salt the water and bring to a boil. Simmer until the beans are tender, then drain 60% of the liquid. Mash up about 20% of the beans and continue heating on low. Chop up and saute your onion, green pepper, red pepper and minced garlic until tender. Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, salt, sugar and black pepper and simmer until beans are tender and start falling apart. Total cooking time for beans with this methods will be 2-3 hours not including the overnight soak.

If you use canned beans, simply dump the beans out into a saucepan including their liquid and chop up and saute your onion, green pepper, red pepper and minced garlic until tender. Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, salt, sugar and black pepper. Total cooking time for this method is about 15 minutes and as stated before, works quite well, but may lack the subtle sophistication that can be brought through preparing your beans from scratch.

Prepare rice as you would any rice recipe remembering that brown rice tends to take just a bit longer than white rice to cook as well as just a bit more water (2.25 cups of water per cup of rice for brown rice and 2 cups of water per cup of white rice). The difference here is add in your coriander seeds and a healthy squeeze of lime to the water and rice to allow the flavors to cook into the rice.

Shrimp should be the last item to be cooked. I like them a little spicy and prepare them with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, a pinch of salt on the shrimp and chile pepper flakes to a desired spiciness. Heat the olive oil and chile pepper flakes in a small skillet to add spiciness to your dish. Note, if you want even spicier shrimp, the longer you cook up the chile pepper flakes in the olive oil before adding the shrimp, the hotter (spicier) the oil will get before you toss in the shrimp and flash cook them just until the bluish translucency goes away. Note: Most people overcook seafood, especially shrimp and scallops. The longer you cook them, the tougher they get and flavor is lost. Also, you really should add in just a tiny bit of salt to any salt water fish or crustacean in the cooking process. Kosher salt is preferable because of the morphology of the salt flakes, no additives, and an open granular structure which will help to hold to the substrate (shrimp) a bit better while providing for a better flavor experience with less salt than one might use with traditional table salt.

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, serve with lime and enjoy. I also suggest matching this dish with a nice pilsner.


23 Replies to “Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Shrimp”

  1. thanks for posting this. I needed a relatively easy but interesting dish to cook for a Friday night dinner after an exhausting week at school.

  2. Bryan,
    Thanks for posting this recipe. It looks great. I have a can of Black beans and I was looking for something to do with it and rice and shrimp. This looks perfect. I will try it tonight if I have the rest of the spice type ingredients. I know I have the major ingredients including the Pilsner. If not it will be another day.

    I will leave another comment after I try it.

    Thanks again.


  3. My husband’s Cuban and I’m the whitest girl you can find I just finished waiting to see if he’ll like it(:

  4. All I can say is “EXCELLENT”!! This will be my covered dish for a memorial day beach party. The only difference is I cut up the shrimp in small chunks and mix it with the beans, rice, etc.

    1. Hey Natalie,

      I’d say this meal would be a robust meal for 3 people. Could probably serve 4 nicely with this recipe. So, you might want to scale it up. Though, before I do any dinner party for 12, I’d want to test it out on a basic run first. ;-)

  5. Planning to make this for a family gathering a few weeks from now… not for the first time. The beans are delicious and I know how to treat shrimp.

    Warm flour tortillas and guacamole go well alongside.

  6. Im planning to make this tonight but I’m wondering what the cayenne pepper is for? Did I miss it in the recipe? Thanks

  7. This recipe is soooo good, so easy, and matched exactly what I had in the refrigerator today. Served with roasted plantains, a meal fit for a king! Thank you!

  8. Hi Bryan,
    Thanks for the recipe, I can’t wait to try it. Been looking for recipes for Cuban food since I visited there. I’m just a little confused on the steps, do I add the tomato, pepper, onion mixture to the beans after sautéing them and mashing some of the beans? And how much water am I cooking the beans in? A little tip I use for not having overlooked shrimp (because there is nothing worse!) bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil, add shrimp, cook for NO more than 2-3 minutes (depending on size) then quickly drain then and dump them in an ice bath. Thee will keep in the fridge for a day or so and when you need them all you have to do is give them a quick flash in whatever sauce, stir fry, etc you are using them in. I do this when I make scampi, I always make them a day ahead and just toss them in my scampi mixture. My scampi always gets rave reviews :) thanks again for this recipe, the beans are cooking as we speak in preparation for supper tomorrow!

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