Last Updated on May 20, 2020 by Chef Mireille
This method of making stewed beans is similar throughout the Spanish speaking Caribbean. Similar recipes can also be found in the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Today I am taking you to the tropical Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and you will learn all of the ins and outs that made this style of stewed beans so popular both in Puerto Rico and in the US, where the cuisine has travelled to.
OK, I am going to start by letting you in on a little secret….shhhh…don’t go telling everyone now how your habichuela guisada tastes so authentic. Many of the other ingredients are customizable and can vary, but there are two essential ingredients so that your beans have that special oomph that makes them different from plain old stewed beans.
The two ingredients that characterize Habichuela Guisada – Puerto Rican Stewed Beans are sofrito and annatto oil.
Sofrito is a seasoning that is the backbone of most Latin cuisine. Although you can buy store bought versions if you live in places like NYC with Latin populations, its no comparison to the fresh homemade version. There are different versions of sofrito – both red and green – used ubiquitously throughout Latin America. However, the green version is most often used in Puerto Rico. Check out my Homemade Sofrito Recipe.
The second secret is annatto oil. This is made by boiling 2 cups of oil with 3 tablespoons of annatto seed, also known as achiote. Boil for a few minutes and then let it rest for 20 minutes before draining the seeds. This gives the food both a golden color and added flavor.
Although in Puerto Rico this would be considered a side dish with some kind of meat like steak, chicken or fish, it can be a meal on its own for a Vegetarian if you omit the optional ham.
Vegetarians are few and far between in the Caribbean and Latin America, unless it is by circumstance where meat is too expensive. However, rice and beans can really be a complete food combination as all of your essential amino acids are present in this simple combo.
This is such a simple comfort food recipe and can easily be adapted to an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker.
Before we get to the recipe, it’s important to know what kind of beans to use.
What kind of beans should you use to make Habichuela Guisada – Puerto Rican Stewed Beans
Any starchy bean can be used. The usual options are Pink Beans, Roman Beans, Small Red Beans, Kidney Beans or Pinto Beans. Black Beans or Navy Beans can also be substituted.
To cut the cooking time. canned beans can also be used.
Since you know all about the two most important preparatory steps…Let’s start making Puerto Rican style Stewed Beans
Habichuela Guisada – Puerto Rican Stewed Beans
- 1 lb. pink beans Roman (cranberry) or Red beans can also be used
- 2 tablespoons annatto oil See Notes
- 1/4 cup sofrito
- 4 oz. ham or other smoked pork product (optional)
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 4 stalks oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons capers or olives
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 oz. pumpkin optional
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped culantro/recaito or cilantro
- Soak beans overnight.
- Heat the oil in a deep skillet or saucepan. Add sofrito and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add Canadian bacon (or ham) and saute for 5 minutes. Add beans and stir fry for 1 minute until the beans are well coated with the sofrito.
- Add tomato puree, oregano, bay leaves, cumin, coriander and 7 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, until beans are tender.
- Add capers, salt and pepper.
- Add pumpkin (if using) and simmer for 15 minutes, until pumpkin is fork tender.
- Add culantro/recaito and stir to mix.
- Drizzle with more annatto oil and serve with rice.
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