Black Beans Surprise

The surprising part of this side dish is how amazing it tastes, especially considering how simple it is to make.  Whenever we cook Tex-Mex at home, we struggle a bit with what kind of side dish to serve.  This rice is a good one, but it’s a bit complicated and takes a little longer to cook.  Same with this salad.  Sliced avocado with chips and salsa is an easy favorite, but it gets a little old if we serve it every time.  (Although, I love avocado so much that I could eat it every day.)  Beans are a staple at most Tex-Mex restaurants, where they are served in a variety of ways:  regular beans refried, black beans refried and borracho beans — just to name a few.  We like black beans, but had never previously served them solo as a side dish at home.  So we researched some recipes online and decided to experiment with our own version, incorporating Tex-Mex ingredients we know and like from other dishes (onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, Cotija cheese and cilantro.)  We figured the result would be a pretty basic black bean side dish, but were pleasantly surprised by the rich and complex layers of flavor in the finished product.  Move over avocado, there’s a new favorite Tex-Mex sidekick in town. . .

Update:  We made these the other night and just happened to have a jalapeno and a couple slices of leftover (cooked) bacon.  We sauteed the jalapeno with the onion and crumbled the bacon and added it when we put in the beans.  The spice from the jalapeno and the bacon flavor made these beans taste even better!


Start by heating a little oil (olive, vegetable or canola) over medium-high heat in a small pot.  Add the chopped onion and a dash of salt, then cook until the onion softens — about 5-7 minutes.


Next, add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant — about 30 seconds.


Add the cayenne pepper and cook for another 30 seconds.  The cayenne pepper gives this dish a little spice, so if you don’t like spicy food, just use a little dash of it.


Add the black beans, with their juices.  (A lot of recipes involving black beans call for rinsing them first, but this recipe incorporates the liquid, which adds another layer of flavor.)


Bring the beans to a boil, then simmer until most of the liquid cooks off — about 10-12 minutes.  Keep an eye on the beans and stir often to make sure they don’t boil and don’t stick to the bottom.


Garnish the beans with chopped cilantro and crumbled Cotija cheese (a mild Mexican cheese.)  Finely chopped and seeded tomatoes would make a nice topping as well.


We served the beans that night alongside “Pork Chops with Salsa Verde Rice” from the Homesick Texan‘s cookbook.  (Great recipe from a wonderful book!)  We still can’t get over how delicious these beans turned out, with such basic ingredients and simple preparation.

Black Beans


  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (could also use olive or canola oil)
  • 1 small onion (or half of a medium onion), chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • crumbled Cotija cheese for garnish (optional)
  • seeded and finely chopped tomato for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a small pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions (and the jalapeno if you are using one) with a dash of salt and cook until soft — about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant — about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the cayenne pepper and cook for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the beans (with their juices) and the bacon if you are using it, bring to a boil, then simmer (stirring often) until much of the liquid cooks off — about 10-12 minutes.  Salt to taste.
  5. Garnish with cilantro, cheese and/or tomato.

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