Tuesday 10 October 2017

Slow Cooker Cuban Black Beans

We were introduced to Cuban-style black beans by The Lost American.  It's classic peasant food:  slow cooking cheap meat (smoked ham hock) with dried beans, to feed as many as possible.  Ham hock is hard to find here, so generally speaking I use bacon off-cuts aka "cooking bacon" which I can buy for 60p for 500g.  Once or twice, I've used lumps of ham.  When I have found ham hock, it was sold from the hot-meat counter at the supermarket for several Pounds each.

This is one of those meals which you suddenly find yourself craving.  I think that's down to its smokey flavour.  The only downside to cooking it in a slow cooker/crockpot is that everything comes out a dark brown  colour.  Please read the notes section before you proceed. 

The cost is between £2 and £3 depending on how much bacon you use and assuming 10p for the cheapest herbs and spices.  This makes at least 5 portions of soupy stew, more if you serve it over rice.


500g black turtle beans, soaked overnight and drained (£1.10)
1 onion chopped (12p)
6 cloves garlic, crushed (10p)
2 green peppers, roughly cubed (40p)
150g-500g  cooking bacon, roughly chopped (or use leftover ham, see notes below) (18p-60p)
2 chilies, chopped (or 1 heaped teaspoon ground chilli)
1 smoked dried pepper (if you are lucky enough to find them) (say 50p)
1 bay leaf 
1 tablespoon oregano 
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspooon liquid smoke (2p)
Boiling water to cover


  1. Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Ensure that there is at least a 2.5cm (1 inch) covering of boiling water, more if your slow cooker lid doesn’t seal well.
  2. Put the lid on, set the cooker to high and cook for a minimum of 8 hours.  
  3. If it gets a bit dry, add more boiling water (cold water will cause the pot to crack).
  4. If it turns out soupy, serve with lots of fresh bread.  Otherwise, serve over rice.

See what I mean by brown?


  • Slow cookers/crockpots are meant to have well-fitting lids that seal so you need less liquid.  I’m on my third and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a bit of a myth.  The original crockpot has a rubber gasket around the lid and that does seal.  For all the others, you’re dependent upon how well the lid fits the rim.  My current one has certainly boiled dry.  
  • You need to cook this on high for the beans to go soft.  (It should be possible to mush them with a spoon.)  The first time I cooked this, I used  “automatic”, which starts off as high and then swaps to low after 2 hours.  We got home 12 hours after it started cooking and the beans were still hard.
  • I can only find black beans, aka black turtle beans, in Waitrose.
  • Where do you get the Liquid Smoke?  Ocado sell a 148ml bottle of Stubbs Liquid Smoke for £1.89, so I based the cost on that.  My bottle is years old.

- Pam