Mexican Black Beans from scratch are easy to make and great to have on hand for a delicious side dish, and for adding to all sorts of other recipes. A fine Mexican herb, Epazote, makes this recipe extra special.
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I am so grateful to my Oaxacan friend, Ana, who taught me how to make these Mexican Black Beans from scratch.
One day she brought me a bundle of fresh Epazote and and told me how it was used in Oaxaca to cook black beans. Super excited, as this herb was new to me, I almost immediately made them.
And I’ve been making her Mexican Black Beans recipe ever since.
What is Epazote?
- Epazote is an aromatic, leafy herb that’s native to Central America.
- It’s been grown for its culinary and medicinal uses for thousands of years.
- Though it’s most flavorful when fresh, Epazote can also be used dried.
- Epazote can be used in a variety of dishes including quesadillas, soups, stews, enchiladas, and of course today’s Mexican Black Beans.
- In parts of Mexico, Epazote is as common as Rosemary is in the United States — in the way that it’s very likely growing in your neighbor’s yard.
- Epazote is added to black bean recipes because, along with soaking the beans, it reduces bloating and other digestive issues associated with eating beans.
- What does Epazote taste like? Don’t be fooled by the pungent, petroleum-like smell of the herb — the leaves taste like a blend of citrus, pine, oregano, anise, and mustard greens.
- Where to Buy Epazote. You can find Epazote in most Latin food markets in the United States.
Learn more about Epazote here.
What’s in this recipe?
- dried black beans
- olive oil
How to Make it
- Soak the beans overnight.
- Simmer the beans for about 20 minutes and remove any foam that has appeared on the surface during this time.
- Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Again, add enough water to go a couple of inches above the beans. Add onion, garlic and Epazote. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1½ hours.
- Remove Epazote, the larger chunks of onion and skins. Remove the garlic, and once it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft cloves out onto a cutting board, roughly chop them, and mix them into the beans.
- Coat the a sauté pan with oil, add chopped onion and cook until soft. Add the cooked beans and ground cumin, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
(More detailed instructions are below.)
- I suggest making a very large batch of the beans. While they're easy to make, the soaking takes a lot of time, and they're excellent to have on hand, as they can be added to so many different meals and recipes.
- I usually soak and cook the beans in very large batches. This is part one of the recipe. Then, I make the Mexican Black Bean recipe about 4 cups at a time, which is about 8 servings as a side dish. This is part two of the recipe. It feels fresher this way. (You'll see below that you can store them in the refrigerator or freezer ahead of time -- you can do this whether or not you've done part two yet.)
- The beans expand a lot, so be sure when choosing a bowl or pot to soak them in, it's large enough to accommodate them.
- f the beans are not as soft as you'd like at the end of the cooking time, keep simmering them, and you can add water as needed. (If there's still excess water that hasn't been absorbed when they're ready, drain them.)
- I do one thing differently from how this method of cooking the beans was explained to me. After soaking and cooking them (part one), I squeeze the garlic cloves from the head back into the beans. I remove the onion because all of the flavor has been extracted from it -- but, I think the garlic still has more flavor to offer. If you love garlic, do it. And if you don't, skip it.
- You can make part two of this recipe without making part one, if you want to used canned black beans. If you choose to do this, drain the beans first. The beans will still be delicious, but are better when made from scratch. In my humble opinion. 😉
Can you make them ahead?
You absolutely can make Mexican Black Beans ahead, and you should so they're at the ready when you need or want them.
Refrigerator. The beans can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in a tightly sealed container.
Freezer. You can freeze them in a tightly sealed container for up to a month. They're best when frozen in small batches. To thaw, place them in the refrigerator two days before you want to use them.
Uses for Mexican Black Beans
The beans make for a fabulous side dish with meats, fish, poultry and vegetarian dishes. And they're perfect for so many recipes including (but not limited to!) burritos, tacos, salads, casseroles, chili recipes, stews, soups and quesadillas.
I hope you love this Mexican Black Beans recipe as much as we do!
Recipes using black beans:
Mexican Black Beans From Scratch
- 2 pounds dry black beans
- 1 whole (medium-sized) yellow onion, washed and cut in half
- 1 large head of garlic, washed, about ½ inch cut off top (use two heads if they're small)
- 1 bunch Epazote, washed
- water (amounts will vary, depending on the size of the pot)
- Soak the beans. In a very large mixing pot, soak the beans in about three times their volume of lukewarm water, for about 12 hours. Drain the beans, add them to a large stockpot, and fill the pot with enough cold water to go a couple inches above the beans.
- Simmer the beans. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, and simmer the beans for about 20 minutes. Use a large metal spoon to remove any foam that has appeared on the surface during this time. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Again, add enough water to go a couple of inches above the beans.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook the beans. Add the onion, garlic and Epazote. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer until the beans are tender, at least 1½-2 hours. (Drain if necessary.) Remove Epazote, the larger chunks of onion and skins (the halves will have separated during the cooking). Then remove the head (or heads) of garlic. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft cloves out onto a cutting board, roughly chop it, and mix it into the beans.
- Cool. Cool the beans to room temperature, or move on to Part Two (below). Once cooled, the soaked, cooked beans can be stored. (Refrigerator: The beans can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in a tightly sealed container. Freezer: You can freeze them in a tightly sealed container for up to a month. They're best when frozen in small batches. To thaw, place them in the refrigerator two days before you want to use them.)
Part Two (You should do this part in two batches.)
- Cook the onions. Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with the oil, add the onion and place of low-medium heat. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onions are soft, about 7 minutes.
- Add the beans and spices. Add the beans and cumin and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with crumbled Cotija, avocado slices and/or cilantro if desired. (Here's How to Season to Taste.)
- If the beans are not as soft as you'd like at the end of the cooking time, keep simmering them, and you can add water as needed. (If there's still excess water that hasn't been absorbed when they're ready, drain them.)
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Hello from Australia ! The moment I saw 'epazote' in print I was off to Mr Google . . . I remember looking it up way back but memory banks remained closed 🙂 ! I love all kinds of beans, know so little about real Mexican cooking and am always thrilled to add a new recipe into my files . No problems with plans ahead . . . the herb is available on line from a very reputable dealer and black beans, dry or tinned are no problem . . .hate to sound childish but this looks quite 'exotic' so would love to serve to friends . . . a big hug northwards on a complicated day for the States and the world . . .
Hi Eha. Thanks so much for the comments of the beans. AND for the hug! Yes, it's indeed very crazy over here at the moment, to say the least. 😉 I yearn for a calm and collected environment!! I'll just keep serving up the comfort foods. 🙂 ~Valentina
These beans look divine, Valentina! I'll be on the lookout for epazote - I've never tried it and it sounds incredible.
Thanks, Marissa! Hope you come across it. Enjoy and have a great weekend. 🙂 ~Valentina
Thank you for introducing me a new herb! Gotta look for some to try. The bean looks comforting and I am sure it tastes great too.
Thanks, Angie. I'm so happy to introduce you to something new. I've learned of so many "new-to-me" ingredients from you! Have a lovely weekend. 🙂 ~Valentina
I adore Mexican beans done any way, so this looks soooo delicious to me! Never heard of the herb, so you've taught me something new today! I made enchiladas yesterday and these beans would be perfect with them (they're in the freezer now).
Thanks for the authentic recipe (and to your friend, too)!
Thanks so much, Christina. They really are so delicious. I try to always have a container in the fridge and freezer. (And my apologies for the tiny sprig of cilantro as garnish. Hahaha! 😉 ~Valentina
One of my favorite beans. It's dificult or impossible to find fresh Epazote here, but had some dried sent to me from the US. It's like gold to me, but I'll definitly give some up for this lovely dish. Thanks for sharing and thanks to Ana for sharing as well...
Thanks so much, Ron. I'm going to get some of the dried also. Will be fun to experiment with it. Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
Kelly | Foodtasia
Valentina, I love black beans and I can't wait to try your recipe with epazote!
Thanks so much, Kelly! Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
David Scott Allen
Mark just planted epazote for our winter herb garden - I have only had it dried until now. Can't wait to try these (with shallots, natch) - love having an authentic recipe to use! Thanks to you, Valentina, and to Ana!
So fantastic you guys are growing it! Funny, when I posted this, my brother sent me a pic of it growing in his yard, he lives 20 minutes from me here in LA. He said it was growing at his place before he was even there. So cool. Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
David @ Spiced
Interesting! I don't believe I've ever stumbled across Epazote in the store before - but now I'm putting it on the list to watch out for. I do love Mexican black beans, and I appreciate you sharing the authentic way to make them! Perfect for so many different recipes!
Thanks, David. Hope you come across it one day! Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
Dawn - Girl Heart Food
We love beans in our home and there is nothing like scratch-made! These look like they're packed with flavour. Great for a side, but I could easily make a whole meal out of just these! YUM! Have a great week ahead 🙂
Thanks, Dawn. True, from scratch is so good! Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
This should be in everyone's freezer instead of canned beans in the pantry. I am going to start looking for Epazote in the stores. I always enjoy learning about new herbs, thanks for your great information as always.
I totally agree, Cathy. And I never realized how much better from scratch could be until I made these. Thanks and enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
New to making black beans and made your recipe yesterday. After cooking the beans and before going on to the second part, do you drain the beans.
Is it better to have a large deep pot when cooking a large amount. There was so much liquid left in my pot, but I used a large wide, not so deep pot.
The beans were also a bit dry, but tasted fantastic.
Wanting to perfect the recipe next time.
My apologies for the late reply. (I've been on holiday for the paste 10 days. 🙂 )
Yes, you drain the beans after soaking them if there's excess water. A large deep pot is great. As for the dryness, you can cook them longer if necessary -- until the desired texture. (I will add that to the recipe notes -- thank you.)
Thanks for writing in and I hope this helps! 🙂 Valentina
Is there a substitute for epazote? I have called every Spanish market in Denver and no one seems to have it 🤷🏼♀️ Maybe they call it something different?
Hi Alison, Thanks for writing in. I'm happy your asked this question. Here's a list of a handful of possible alternatives. (None will be exactly the same in that they don't have the additional benefit of reducing bloating and other digestive issues associated with eating beans.) I hope this helps and that you love the beans! 🙂 ~Valentina