If you like classic Black Beans and Rice as a side for your pollo, lechon or whatever… you will love my Black Beans with Calabaza Squash! I tell you, Calabaza is a total game changer in this classic recipe.
I remember when my friend Josette, who is from Puerto Rico, made her beans for dinner once. With just one bite I immediately detected some secret ingredient that pulled this humble side dish together like nothing else.
“What’s in these beans?” I asked. “Is it potato?”
“Is it sweet potato?”
And I was like, What?? It would have never occurred to me to add squash to beans and rice. Oh, well… Eat, Live, Learn 🙏🏻
CALABAZA, YOU COMPLETE ME. LOVE, BLACK BEAN 💕
The pairing of black beans and calabaza is a full-on love affair. One of those opposites-attract relationships packed with heat, spice, and chemistry. This particular squash adds a hint of organic sweetness and thickness to the beans, making this side heartier, fuller, and more flavorful. Since that first time at Josette’s, I have always made sure to add calabaza to my beans. Over the years, I have increased the amount to a perfect ratio of 1 part squash and 2 parts beans. Now, I don’t have a sweet tooth, and this proportion tastes very balanced to me. Feel free to tweak it as you go: you might like more or less, depending on your taste buds. Cooking is a living, creative art, constantly shifting and morphing. I believe that recipes are there to guide, but you have to make them your own to really master and appreciate them.
YOUR SHOPPING LIST
Calabaza is a significant addition to this classic side dish, but it’s not the only tasty ingredient that goes into it. To make this recipe you’ll need:
- Black Beans (I prefer dry beans cooked in my Instant Pot, but organic canned beans will do as well. Just rinse them thoroughly)
- Calabaza Squash
- Vidalia Onion (or your favorite onion)
- Jalapeño Pepper and Sweet Pepper
- Fresh Cilantro
- Olive Oil
- Himalayan Salt
TIP: ROAST THE CALABAZA FIRST
Before getting started, I strongly suggest roasting the calabaza in your oven. It will make it soft enough to peel and chop without any effort while lending it a rich nutty flavor. It’s a huge difference, so DON’T SKIP THIS STEP, PLEASE. Depending on the quantity of squash you’re roasting, it might take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. For 1 pound of calabaza, I preheat my oven to 400F and set the rack in the middle without a pan, so it roasts evenly all around and faster (about 20 minutes). I remove the seeds and all the “strings” around them before putting the whole chunk of squash inside the oven. After 10 minutes, I poke it with a long fork. When the tines go all the way in without too much resistance, I take the squash out. After letting it cool off for a few minutes, I proceed to remove the rind and chop the pulp.
Once you have your beans ready and all the other ingredients nicely chopped, you are good to go. This is an easy recipe, I promise. As you can see in this video, it’s as far from rocket science as you can possibly get. So, with that in mind…
Ready. Set. Dump & Stir!
RICE WITH YOUR BLACK BEANS & CALABAZA?
This dish is traditionally paired with rice, which is naturally gluten-free. However, if you are not just concerned about gluten but are entirely off grains, you can complete this side with cauliflower rice. I just made this batch to go with this delicious Ropa Vieja last week (check out the recipe here). I made it with white rice for my dinner guests, but I would have skipped the rice on a regular night and probably would have not missed it much.
SORRY, MY PALEO AIP PEEPS…
In my efforts to cope with my autoimmune diseases, I have known the struggle of sticking with the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol more than once. I still follow the protocol intermittently for a few weeks at a time when I feel the need. That’s why I’m always including tips and suggestions for my fellow AIP peeps. Unfortunately, this recipe has too many reintroductions (beans and peppers) to be made compliant. I would save this dish for a future time when your health and gut allow it. And trust me, it’s worth the wait! 😋
Here’s the full recipe for you. I hope you try it and enjoy it!
Black Beans with Calabaza Squash
- 2 lbs Black Beans Home cooked or canned (rinsed and drained)
- 1 lb Calabaza Squash Roasted and chopped
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil Extra-virgin
- 1 Vidalia Onion Large and chopped
- 5 Garlic Cloves Minced
- 2 stalks Celery Chopped
- 1 Jalapeño Seeded and chopped
- 4 tbsp Red Bell Pepper Chopped
- 4 tbsp Fresh Cilantro Chopped
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan Salt Adjust to taste
Roasted Calabaza Squash
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Remove seeds and strings from the core of the Calabaza
- Place Calabaza on middle rack without a pan, so it roasts fast and evenly for 20 minutes
- Poke Calabaza with a long-tined fork after 10 minutes (halfway) to check for doneness
- When the fork goes through with not too much resistance (usually after 20 minutes of roasting), remove Calabaza and let it cool off a little before peeling and dicing it.
Black Beans with Calabaza Squash
- Place a saucepan on medium-high heat and add the olive oil when warm
- Add in onions and garlic. Saute for 3-5 minutes
- Add celery, peppers, and calabaza. Stir and saute for a couple of minutes
- Add the Black Beans
- Add a pinch of salt and half the fresh cilantro (reserve the other half for garnish)
- Cover with a lid and let simmer for 25 minutes
- Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving bowl
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