Black or Central/South American Red (not Pinto) Beans

I have tried soaking red and black beans overnight versus cooking them without soaking, and there isn’t a big difference. Some will say that soaking the beans overnight makes them less flavorful than just putting them right in the pot along with plenty of water to cover them, without soaking.

These methods are a compilation of watching my Costa Rican family and other latin friends — along with a lot of experimenting. I LOVE making black or small dark red South American beans!


  • 2 cups dried black or small South American red beans
  • 5 to 6 cups water (less if dried beans are pre-soaked)
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. Sazon Complete (or seasoned salt)
  • 2 Tbsp. Salsa Lizano (plus more for seasoning, after cooking also)
Here are the beans after soaking overnight in water
Drain & rinse beans before they go in the pot


Sort & rinse the dried beans, using a colander, and put them directly in a heavy pot. Cover with water by 1-inch and add chopped onion, garlic, cumin, a couple of bay leaves, a dash of sazon complete (or just a little seasoned salt) and a couple of tablespoons of Salsa Lizano.

The Sazon Complete (or seasoned salt) has salt in it. Some will say that if you salt beans, they will never get tender — and I have definitely experienced that, but if you don’t add too much right in the beginning then it will be okay.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and bring the pot up to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently for a couple of hours. Check the pot, at intervals, to make sure the water has not dropped too low and give them a stir — you want to make sure the beans are just barely covered in water all the time.

As the beans begin to soften, you can add more salt, to taste. Continue simmering to desired consistency.

If desired, you can use a whisk or spoon to mash down into the pot a few times, which will begin to break up some of the beans and thicken the sauce. I like to have mostly whole beans, but some mushed to make the sauce less watery.

Drained & rinsed beans in the pot
Ingredients for seasoning the beans, before cooking

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