The Best Cuban Congrí Rice (Black Beans and Rice)
This Cuban congri rice recipe launched the Bean Train Blog! This is Mami’s best beans and rice recipe and the one that her kids and grandkids want to learn and pass down. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, my brother calls from North Carolina asking how to make it. Every time. That’s what gave me the idea to start this blog, so, Thank You, Henry!
I’m willing to tackle any cuisine, cook up a storm and invite a few extra mouths. But I hadn’t made this recipe until I started the blog. I knew I was grandma material when I could make this recipe just like Mami’s (well, almost, but don’t tell her!).
Congri vs. Moros Debate
Congri is a traditional Spanish black beans rice dish served with just about anything Cuban, especially with roast pork (lechón asado) on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena). Now let’s briefly consider the congri vs. moros debate (or just skip this paragraph if you’re not Cuban). Depending on where in Cuba you lived, congri is made with red beans and rice and moros y cristianos is made with black beans and rice. My mom was a Havana gal, so I grew up calling this black bean version congri.
It’s been hard perfecting this black beans and rice recipe because my mom doesn’t use exact measurements. It’s a little pinch of this, a dash of that, and a handful of the other thing. She cooks “a ojo de buen cubero” which basically means she eyeballs everything. But she’s been making this recipe for so long that it always comes out fantastic. I had to watch her like a hawk to get the measurements down.
How To Soak and Cook Your Beans For Congri Rice
You can’t use canned beans for this congri recipe. You really need to make them from scratch because you’ll be using the bean broth as well as the beans. Softening the beans can be done quickly in the Instant Pot, but you’ll need to finish the rice on the stovetop. Now let’s talk about soaking the beans. My mom always soaked the beans overnight and then replaced the water with fresh water. Some folks say this is not necessary. But recently, I’ve been reading more about anti-nutrients and lectins and how soaking the beans helps remove some of the harmful anti-nutrient compounds. Added bonus, soaking also reduces the complex sugars that can lead to gassy side effects. So, it turns out Mami was right. Soak them beans!
You can also turn this rice dish into vegan black beans and rice by omitting the salt pork. Add a little extra salt in that case. You can taste and make that call. Salt pork is common in southern cooking, so it should be easy to find. But, you can substitute bacon or pancetta for the salt pork if it’s easier. I use a lot of it in this recipe because my daughter loves it so much, but you can use a little less and still have great flavor. ¡Buen Provecho!
I have taken for granted how comfortable and fearless I feel in the kitchen. I owe my mother a debt of gratitude for encouraging me to cook, but I didn’t realize it until a few years ago. Sometimes hurt makes us focus on the negative, and we miss the goodness around us. My mom tended to be very critical of me when I was growing up, which damaged my self-esteem. But she always supported my efforts in the kitchen. I never thanked her for that.
A few years ago, a very talented friend of mine shared why she doesn’t enjoy cooking. When she was young, she tried to make her Dad breakfast and burnt it, and her dad called her stupid. That made me think about my own confidence in the kitchen and how my mother treated my first cooking attempt.
I was eight years old when I made my first dish from scratch. Having seen my mom make Spanish omelet dozens of times, I was sure I could pull it off. So I cracked the eggs, cut up a potato, and cooked it together, not realizing that you had to cook the potato before adding it to the omelet.
I served my mom and stepdad raw potato omelet! They ate it up and told me how delicious it was!! Years later, my dad confessed that Mami made him eat it and say he loved it.
My mom has her shortcomings, but she also has excellent qualities. Being a parent myself, I realize that moms are not perfect, but we do the best we know-how. So thank you, Mami, for sharing your love of cooking with me and always letting me try new things in the kitchen. Sorry, I burned the kitchen a little (just once).
Cuban Congrí Rice (Black Beans and Rice)
- Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 14 servings 1x
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Cooktop
- Cuisine: Cuban
Congri is a traditional Spanish black beans rice side dish served with just about anything Cuban, especially with roast pork (lechón asado) on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena).
- 12 oz bag uncooked black beans
- 2 cups white rice (long grain)
- 2 oz salt pork, cut into ½ inch cubes (you can use a bit less)
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- ¼ green pepper, cut into three pieces (you can also mince this)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 3 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Rinse the beans and soak them in water overnight. If you’re in a hurry, bring unsoaked beans to a boil, turn off the heat and let them soak for an hour.
- Drain the water, put the beans in a large pot, add six cups of water, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon oregano, and three bay leaves. Cook it in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot affiliate link for about seven minutes. Once done, separate the beans from the broth and reserve both. Don’t leave the beans in the broth as that will make the beans too soft. They will continue cooking in the rice. (See note below for stovetop instructions.)
- Once the beans are just about done, rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside. My kids are rebels, and they don’t rinse the rice, and it’s still OK just so you know.
- Heat a dutch oven (or caldero*) over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the salt pork and one-quarter cup water. Once the water evaporates, add about two tablespoons of olive oil and brown the salt pork for about six minutes. Once done, remove the pork from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot.
- Add the onion, garlic, and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent about four to five minutes. (Note on the peppers: My mom usually leaves the peppers in big 1 inch pieces and removes them at the end. But you can mince them if you like.)
- Now add rice and sauté for a minute. Add two cups of the bean broth (stir the bean broth before you measure it out to make sure you get the sediment at the bottom, this helps turn the rice black).
- To the rice mixture, add one cup of black beans. Add one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon oregano, half a teaspoon cumin, one quarter teaspoon ground black pepper, and one bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Sometimes you may need to add a little more salt, or you may like it with a little more cumin. My mom’s philosophy with seasoning is less is more, and she’s usually right, but you’ve got some wiggle room here.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to as low as possible until the water evaporates about twenty to thirty minutes. Check the rice and see if it’s soft. If it’s still a little hard, you can add a bit more bean broth. Put a sheet of aluminum foil over the pot and then the lid. This helps to lock in all the steam. Give it a few minutes and check again. Fluff the rice and serve with your favorite meat.
- Some favorites to try it with Ropa Vieja, Picadillo, Tasajo, Lechon, Bacalao… just about anything if you’re Cuban.
- Soaking Time: You must soak the beans. I usually do it for 4 hours or overnight. But if you’re in a hurry, you can bring the beans to a boil in six cups of water, turn it off and let it soak for one hour. The reason to do this is to remove some of the harmful lectins and to make the beans easy to digest. However, Dr. Gundry, an export on lectins, says that soaking isn’t necessary if you’re using a pressure cooker.
- Troubleshooting: If your beans are too soft, don’t add them with the rice. You can add them after the rice is done cooking, just before serving.
- Stovetop Instructions: Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are fork tender but not too soft (they should still be whole). This should take about one hour or so.
- Leftover Beans and Broth: You will have leftovers beans and broth. You can save these to make black bean soup or save the beans to use in salads and meal prepping.
- Freezing Instructions: You can freeze leftover beans and broth, portioned out and separated so you can make Congri another time. Both the beans and the rice freeze well and can be kept up to 3 months in the freezer. You can portion the Congri in small 1-cup containers, as my Mom does for me ❤️
- Prep time does not include soaking the beans.
- Serving Size: half cup
Keywords: congri rice, congri vs moros, spanish black beans and rice, black beans and rice