spicy black bean ragout

black bean ragout // the muffin myth

Hi Hi.

Listen, I know I’ve been terrible lately. You should see my dashboard – a graveyard of abandoned half written posts, which, when I find time to get back to them seem no longer relevant.

I’m trying to figure out a system that will help me do it all. A full time job, a full time thesis project for my masters degree in nutrition, rehabbing a broken ankle, being a good friend and a good wife, and this here blog. It’s a lot. It’s going to be a crazy 9 months (thesis defense will be on the 4th or 5th of June, not that I’m counting), and there will be times, probably often, when something has to slide. When that happens, as it inevitably will, I refuse to beat myself up over it. Some weeks I’ll be here with a recipe, other weeks with an article roundup. Maybe from time to time I’ll surprise us all by posting twice in the same week. Other times I won’t be here at all. I’ll thank you all in advance for your patience with those times. Your presence here means the world to me, and don’t think for a second I take any of you for granted.  It’s all just kind of bonkers right now.

spicy black bean ragout // the muffin myth

But enough about that. Let’s talk about these beans!

There are few things I love more than a big old pot of beans, and these are really spectacular. I’ve spent years, YEARS of my life trying to replicate the lovely puddle of black beans that comes on the plate in a Mexican restaurant. I could never get it right, and I could never figure out why.

Back in May I threw a taco fiesta for Paul’s birthday, which was a suitably epic evening including a guacamole competition (a guac off!) and a piñata. I had a big pot of black beans simmering on the stove and was flipping through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for inspiration when the page fell open to Deb’s black bean ragout. Woah! Just like me she’d been trying to perfect the puddle of beans for eons, but very unlike me, she’d cracked the code! The trick? You start with dried beans, layer all kinds of delicious things into the cooking liquid, and cook ‘em slow and low until they’ve broken down into a wonderfully flavourful black bean sludge. Yes, sludge. Yum.

These beans have changed my life! I’ve cooked up a big pot for taco nights from time to time, but the real beauty is having a mass of beans in the fridge.  The leftovers make great packed lunches (a lunchbox taco salad is now frequent in my lunch rotations) and even better breakfasts (coming soon(ish): kale and black bean breakfast tacos).

spicy black bean ragout // the muffin myth

One year ago: Caprese Salad
Two years ago: Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Three years ago: The Sandwich System

Spicy Black Bean Ragout Recipe:

The original recipe was written for a slow cooker, which I do not have, so I’ve tinkered with it a bit to figure out the best stovetop option. If you have a slow cooker then by all means just toss everything in there and fire it on. If you’re working with a stove top option the cooking time may vary a bit depending on your beans and the hardness of your water, but I’ve given a pretty good ballpark. These beans take a good amount of time, but very little effort and I think you’ll find they’re well worth it.

If the black beans have been soaked beforehand it will reduce the cooking time considerably, but it isn’t strictly necessary. If you have soaked the beans be sure to use the flavourful (and nutrient rich) soaking water for cooking.

Recipe barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen


450g dried black beans
9-10 cups water
1 large onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried chili flakes
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp limejuice


In a large pot combine everything except the lime juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until the beans are tender. This could take a couple of hours if you haven’t soaked the beans in advance or if your water is very hard (ours is extremely hard).

Once the beans are tender (test a few!), remove the lid and simmer the pot, uncovered, until it starts to reduce and thicken. Stir the pot every once in a while, scooping the beans up from the bottom of the pot. This could take another couple of hours. If you like a thicker bean ragout you can puree a small amount of the beans (I use a hand blender right in the pot) towards the end of cooking.

All told I find that this takes about 4-6 hours to get the thickness I’m after, but bear in mind they will thicken a bit more as they cool. Once the beans are done cooking and are nice and thick, stir in the lime juice and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve hot, warm, or cold. They’re delicious every which way.


Beans are a good source of folate, dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium and vitamin K.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013


  1. Emily says

    These are awesome! I already had some cooked beans in the freezer so I threw in the rest of the ingredients and simmered for about 20 minutes. Totally tasty. Can’t wait to try this the proper way and see how delicious they get.

  2. Jess says

    So good to hear your voice over the web! I don’t know how you’re juggling all of that, but think of how much you will have accomplished after this 9 month stretch – hang in, friend! Love black beans, and this dish looks incredible.

  3. Oh My Veggies (@ohmyveggies) says

    This looks a gazillion times better than refried beans out of a can. I want tacos now!

    I had a year with a schedule like that when I was in school and it was BRUTAL. There is no way I’d be able to maintain a blog on top of it. I’m impressed that you cooked something at all, much less wrote a post about it!

    • themuffinmyth says

      Kiersten, these beans are SO GOOD! You have to try them! I’m hoping that all 9 months aren’t brutal and I’ll be able to pop in from time to time, but I’m glad that you understand how bonkers it can be 🙂

  4. Jess says

    These look incredible! I so want to give them a go, and I’ve recently got a pressure cooker which I think could be great for cutting down the cooking time too – must try it out.

    Good luck with your studying along with everything else and don’t let yourself feel guilty if you can’t fit everything in – that’s just the way life is sometimes!

    • themuffinmyth says

      Ooooh, a pressure cooker! I’ve never played around with one, so I have no idea how that would work. I imagine you could cook the beans (with all of the add ins) until tender, and then switch to a pot without a lid for the thickening / reducing phase. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Jess says

        That’s what I was thinking – you can just take the lid off the cooker so no need to swap pots 😉 I’ll let you know how it goes (once I figure out how to get hold of dried black beans!)

  5. kellie@foodtoglow says

    Thanks for the slow cooker tip! I use the same ingredients but much shorter cooking time, so if you say it’s the key, I’ll do it! And us loyal readers just want you to have a balanced life. If it means dipping in and out of blogging, so be it. Know that I’ll be here waiting for your delicious recipes and incisive information and links. All best, for EVERYTHING

    • themuffinmyth says

      Yeah, you’ve really got to cook it down. These take a while, but they’re well worth the time. I’ll be dipping in and out a bit, but am making a real effort to carve out time for this place. See you soon!

  6. andmorefood says

    oh my – this looks like such a comforting bowl of food. and anything with smitten kitchen always comes out great for me.

    good luck with the juggling – it gets tough sometimes, but nothing feels as accomplishing when everything works out!

  7. Leanne says

    These and the cauliflower pesto are my two favorite things in the SK cookbook– aren’t they to DIE for??! Every time I think of them, I think, ‘It’s been too long since I’ve made those,’ and then I make them again. Yum! (Also: we have the same Dutch oven.)

    And friend, you know life comes first. You know I/we love seeing you around these parts, but you’ve got to live, too. You’ll rock that thesis defense and when you do, we’ll be here to hear all about it!

    • themuffinmyth says

      I haven’t tried the cauliflower pesto, but now it’s on my radar! I love that Dutch oven, it’s probably one of my favourite and most used kitchen pieces (well, as is all of my Le Creuset). Thanks for the kind words, as always! I’ll be in and out, but I’d rather be here!


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