Top Secret Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)

As with most things in my life, even black beans is a story.

In the past year, I’ve been practicing vegetarianism. Once in a while I come across a food at one of my local Jersey City take-out places that I fall in love with and crave. So it is with a particular Latin American take out spot in my neighborhood that makes the most heavenly frijoles negros (black beans) I’ve ever eaten.

Those beans are so damn good, I was determined to crack the code on them so I could replicate the flavor at home.

One of the first and easiest steps was to look up recipes on the interwebs. There are tons of them, most of which I don’t like, and which I knew didn’t match what I was getting locally.

The take-out black beans I get have an almost creamy consistency, and had nothing in them except disintegrated cilantro, and some magical blend of spices I needed to decode through some alchemical testing in my laboratory… er, I mean kitchen.

It turns out that the base flavor profile I was looking for hinged on an all-important ingredient: vinegar.

Yes, vinegar is used in the making of black beans. I think people who don’t cook them would be surprised to know that is what creates a tart undertone to the beans and makes flavor explode in your mouth with each delicious bite.

But not just any vinegar will do. Oh no.

Goya Distilled White Vinegar - a top secret ingredient

Goya Distilled White Vinegar – a top secret ingredient

I know this because I had to try out several kinds until I found the right one that matched my local take out. Not surprisingly when it comes to humble dishes simply prepared, this vinegar is the least expensive on the market.

I can buy a bottle of Goya Distilled White Vinegar in a plastic bottle for 85 cents, which is more than enough for many pots of yummy black beans. (I’m also saying do not use “cider vinegar” because I’ve noticed a lot of internet recipes call for it. It doesn’t taste right.)

The other ingredient you must have is fresh cilantro. If you don’t have it, don’t make the beans. The flavor profile won’t be right. Period.

Okay, here we go.

This recipe is one of my favorite “riffs” on frijoles negros and has some traditional elements and other flavors I enjoy too. This version of the dish is more acidic / tart because of the ingredients I prefer; but feel free to make your own riff too.



  • 1 can of Goya Black Beans – do not drain liquid (29 oz.) (Reserve 2 tablespoons of beans from the can in a separate dish)
  • 1 can of stewed or diced tomatoes – do not drain liquid (14.5 oz.)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh Cilantro, well washed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium size onion
  • 2 Tablespoons – Goya White Distilled Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons – olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 fresh lime
  • water (as needed)

Dice the med. size onion and set aside. Mince the 3 cloves of fresh garlic and set aside.

In a pot, empty most of the contents of the can of Goya Black Beans, including the liquid (minus 2 tablespoons of beans) and immediately add 2 Tbsp of Goya White Distillied Vinegar.

Bring the heat up enough to allow the beans to slowly start to bubble.

Chop the cilantro (including the stems) and mix it into the pot, and cover.

Once the beans have begun to bubble, add the can of diced tomatoes with liquid, mix, and re-cover.

In a pan, put 2 Tbsp of olive oil and bring up to saute heat. Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and stir rapidly – just enough to permit it to perfume. Add salt and pepper, mix.

Stir the onion and garlic mixture into the pot of beans, and re-cover.

Slice the fresh lime into quarters. Squeeze the juice from two lime quarters into the pot, stir the mixture, and re-cover again. (Discard the actual limes, do not put them in the pot.)

Allow the beans to continue cooking, and take the 2 tablespoons of beans you reserved and put them into a bowl and mash them thoroughly. Add the mashed beans into the pot. The mashed beans will create a creamy consistency.

The beans can stay covered on the stove with their flavors blending together for many hours, with the heat very low, as long as you keep checking the pot. If the amount of liquid is too reduced, add water until the consistency is where you want it. (I prefer my beans to be pretty liquidy with lots of delicious broth.)

Before you’re ready to serve the beans, squeeze the juice from the remaining two quarters of fresh lime into the pot and mix thoroughly.

Serve and enjoy!