The Quarantine Cookbook: The perfect black bean and its uses

As we settle in to self-isolation, we’re sharing some of our favorite delicious, easy-to-make recipes for the hungry at home.

When I was a kid, I used to eat beans straight from the can — something that I didn’t realize was weird until I came to college, and my roommate looked at me like I’d just become possessed. Needless to say, I love beans, and lately, I’ve been cooking them from scratch, rather than draining a can. It’s actually quite fun, and while they take longer to prepare, they taste much better. Plus, you can do so many different things with the beans — or you can just eat them plain. But more on that later. Let’s start with the beans. 

Total cook time: 50 minutes (but the beans have to soak overnight) 

Servings: It depends on how much you like beans.

We’re still social distancing and I still don’t have a son who can tell you how good these beans are. These two things aren’t going to change any time soon, it seems. 


1 package of dry black beans (use about a cup)

1 dried pepper (you can substitute pepper flakes or just leave it out if you don’t have it)

1 clove of garlic, peeled (I can’t make this stuff up. Once I cooked beans with someone and they didn’t peel the garlic) 

1 bay leaf


Olive oil 


Step One: Measure about a cup of dry beans and put them in a bowl. Fill the bowl with plenty of fresh water, and let the beans soak for at least 6-8 hours. For best results, soak them overnight. You cannot skip this step. I’m serious. I have tried many times. Trust me. You cannot outsmart the beans. 

Step Two: Drain the excess water from the beans and dump them in a stove pot. Add plenty of fresh water, the bay leaf, the dried pepper and the clove of garlic. 

Important sidenote: A dried pepper is not a regular red pepper. It is not a red pepper put in the oven, either. I am not saying this because I think you’re an idiot. I am saying this because I am a fool who was once told to use dried pepper and put a red pepper in the oven. It is a small, spicy dried-out pepper that looks like this. It can be purchased at most grocery stores, or just left out or substituted with red pepper flakes. 

Leah Mensch | Contributing Editor
When Leah made this mistake, a friend texted her, “Did you grow up in the suburbs, perhaps? Yes, you did.”

Step Three: Bring the beans to a boil and boil them assertively for about 15 minutes. Then let simmer for 30 additional minutes. 

Step Four: After 45 minutes have passed, add salt and a glug of olive oil to the pot. Then let simmer for about 10 more minutes. Taste the bean and see if it’s soft. If it is, congratulations. You have almost finished raising the perfect bean. 

Step Five: Drain the beans in a colander and admire their beauty. The labor is over.

And if you don’t want to eat them plain, here are a few serving suggestions:

  1. Use the beans in a soup. Black bean, or a chili, or even a taco soup. The sky’s the limit. 
  2. Serve over rice with some cheddar cheese grated on top. Garnish with veggies and sweet potato. I promise the sweet potato is good. 
  3. TACOS! Whether it’s a walking taco, or a tortilla, or you put the beans inside a taco shell, they’ll taste fantastic. 
  4. Garnish your salad with these beans. Beans are a great source of protein, and therefore a good vegetarian option in place of meat, and even tofu. Or if you’re like me, you’re still going to eat the beans with meat. No shame. 
  5. Literally anything else. Just please don’t use them to make black bean brownies. And if you really must, just don’t tell me.