I love, love arroz congri made with red beans, Spanish chorizo and salt pork. There are different variations on this dish, but what I love about Cuban red beans and rice is the smoky, salty flavors of cured meats mixed with cumin and oregano. It’s perfect with chicken, beef, and pork.
Cuban cooking is very non-nonsense, easy to make and easy on the budget. With one bag of red kidney beans and three cups of rice you can make enough servings to feed 10 – 12 people, so you’re sure to have leftovers.
Chorizo is The Key Ingredient in Cuban Red Beans and Rice
You want to use Spanish chorizo for this recipe. This sausage is cured and can usually be found in the same section as pepperoni. You may also come across Mexican chorizo in your search, but that’s usually raw and tastes very different. If you can’t find the Spanish chorizo at your local supermarket, you can buy it from Amazon. I like to use the Palacios Brand for my recipes.
Salt pork is used in Southern cooking so it’s easy to find in most supermarkets. If you don’t have it, you can substitute bacon (but you may want to make some extra… it’s hard not to eat it while you’re cooking!)
Soak And Cook The Red Kidney Beans
It’s really tempting to take a shortcut and use canned beans to make this arroz congri, but you get the best results when you cook the beans from scratch. The bean broth adds a lot of flavor that balances the spices and the saltiness of the chorizo and salt pork.
The biggest time issue is soaking the beans for a few hours before you start the cooking process. If you plan ahead you can soak beans in the morning or the night before.
You don’t absolutely have to soak the beans, but it is recommended. My mom always did it this way and it turns out it’s for the best. Soaking the beans helps remove some of the harmful anti-nutrient compounds, plus it reduces the complex sugars that can lead to gassy side effects.
The process of cooking the beans is easy. You just bring the beans to a boil, throw in half a whole onion, half a whole bell pepper, a few bay leaves and garlic cloves and set to simmer. It takes about 1-2 hours on the stove top, but you can shorten the time using an instant pot. To check them for doneness, take a few beans out, run it through some cold water and taste it. It should be soft but not mushy.
Do This While the Red Beans Are Simmering
When the beans are almost ready, start prepping the rest of the arroz congri ingredients.
Chop the rest of the white onion and bell pepper and crush two garlic cloves. Cube the salt pork into quarter inch pieces and slice the chorizo into half-inch rounds. Rinse the rice.
Once the beans are cooked, strain the beans and reserve in a separate container. If you leave the beans in the hot liquid, they will continue to soften and can turn mushy.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, add a little water and cook the salt pork. Once the water evaporates, add a little olive and cook until golden brown. Throw in the onions, peppers, and garlic and sauté for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the chorizo and cook just a bit to release some of the color. Then add the rice and sauté for a few more minutes.
Add the bean broth and the beans, bring to a boil then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about half an hour, or until all the water is absorbed. You won’t be using all the beans and the broth, so that you can use freeze the leftover beans and broth to make this recipe again.
Batch and Freeze for Ease (Sorry for the cheesy line, but I couldn’t resist!)
This recipe takes a little time, but it’s worth it. You can shorten the time by cooking the beans the day before. The simmering is super low maintenance and can be done while you do other things. And since this recipe makes about 14 cups of arroz congri, you can freeze what you don’t use for the next time. I do that all the time, it freezes well.
Try Cuban Congri Rice is Made with Black Bean Too
A very popular version of Cuban congri rice is made with black beans. While it’s a similar cooking process, the flavor is different and relies more on the salt pork. I love this version too, especially with lots of crispy tocino (salt pork) on top!
It felt so good to work on this post! I’ve had quite a few changes in my life during the last year and it caused me to stop blogging altogether.
The last time I was cooking in the kitchen with Mami, I made congri rice and tasajo (recipe coming soon). I thought I’d get to post it back in January, but instead I had to pack all my kitchen stuff for a while. I’ve moved twice during this time and I’m currently in the middle of a kitchen renovation. OMG! 🤯 I have NO KITCHEN right now and haven’t cooked in months.
The process of preparing this post made me feel like my life was getting back to normal. By normal I mean I was going back to a place and activity that makes me feel connected and happy.
Whatever changes, ups and downs life brings, we need to make an effort to stay grounded and connected… with the people, places and things that bring us joy and peace. It’s OK to wander for a bit in the midst of change, in fact, it may be just what you need. But it feels so good to come home again.
Whatever is going on in your life, take the time to feed your soul. You’ll need the nourishment to welcome growth and opportunity. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it’s the best gift you can give the people you love.
This Cuban red beans and rice recipe is packed with salty, smokey flavors of Spanish chorizo, smoked paprika and salt pork. It’s the perfect complement to your favorite chicken, pork and beef dishes!
1 bag uncooked red beans (14 ounce)
1 medium onion, divided in half (you’ll chop one half and leave the other half whole)
1 medium red bell pepper divided in half (you’ll chop one half and leave the other half whole)
5 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (I like to use smoked paprika for this!)
2 teaspoons salt
5 ounces Spanish chorizo (about 2 sausage links)
3 ounces salt pork
3 cups uncooked white rice
3 tablespoons olive oil or pork fat
To Cook the Beans
Soak beans for 4-6 hours or overnight. (See note below.)
Drain the beans and add to a cooking pot with eight cups of water.
Add half of the onion and bell pepper to the pot. Don’t chop the onion and peppers in this step, because we’ll want to remove the pieces once the beans are cooked.
Add three garlic cloves and two bay leaves and set the beans to boil. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Check for doneness after an hour and keep checking until the beans are soft enough to be mashed, but not mushy. They should still have bite to them, like al dente pasta.
If you’re using an Instant Pot , cook for 12 minutes.
Remove the onion, pepper, garlic cloves and bay leaf. Drain the beans and reserve the liquid (bean broth). You want to make sure to separate the beans from the bean broth. Otherwise, the beans will continue to cook in the hot liquid and can become mushy. You want them to be just a bit undercooked because they’ll finish cooking with the rice.
You’ll need 2 ¼ cup cooked read beans and 4 cups bean broth.
You can use the leftover beans and broth to make a half batch of red bean soup, or you can freeze the beans and broth in separate containers to make this congri rice again.
To Make the Arroz Congri
Chop the other half of the onion and bell pepper and crush the remaining garlic cloves.
To a skillet, add the salt pork with ¼ cup water over medium high heat and cook until water evaporates and the fat renders. Add 3 tablespoons of pork grease or olive oil and cook until the pork is browned.
Add the onions, garlic, red bell pepper and sauté until softened. Add the chorizo and cook for about 1 minute.
Add the rice, cumin, black pepper, paprika, bay leaf and cook for 3 minutes. Add the broth and the beans. Add the 2 teaspoons of salt and taste. Adjust seasonings as desired. My mom’s recipe is a bit light on the spices, so feel free to add more to suit your preference.
Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium low and cover. Cook until the water is absorbed, and the rice is cooked. About 25 minutes. If you find that the rice is not done, just add about a quarter to a half a cup and continue to cook until done. Check it every 10 minutes.
Makes 14 cups rice
You don’t absolutely have to soak the beans, but it is recommended. Soaking the beans helps remove some of the harmful anti-nutrient compounds, plus it reduces the complex sugars that can lead to gassy side effects.
Cook time shown is based on using an Instant Pot . Add an extra 1 1/2 hours if you’re simmering the beans on the stove top.
You can freeze leftovers and reheat it in the microwave. I like to place a damp cloth over the rice to keep it moist as it cooks, it also keeps the beans from bursting.
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