Black beans and rice is a dish every good Brazilian needs to know how to make before leaving home. You can’t think of Brazilian food and not think of black beans and rice, or feijão com arroz, as it is called in Portuguese. Growing up, I knew people who would eat it every day, usually for lunch, even if it was just as a side to accompany another dish.
I first made it for Steve even before we were married. My future mother-in-law was very excited about my Brazilian heritage, and she asked me if I would be willing to cook a traditional Brazilian meal. Of course, I said I’d be happy to cook a traditional meal. And of course, that meal had to be black beans and rice. There could be nothing more traditional. And I paired it with some pasteis, even though in Brazil feijão com arroz is usually served with collard greens. I really, really wanted to impress Steve’s family, so I went all out.
The meal was a success. The next time I made black beans and rice for Steve, I served it with the collard greens and he was hooked. When our boys came along, it was such a part of their mom’s culinary repertoire that to this day, Brazilian black beans and rice with collard greens represents mama’s comfort food like nothing else. My guys can flat put away some food when this is what hits the table.
Brazilian rice is not plain white rice. It is seasoned in typical Portuguese fashion with olive oil, garlic and onion. I won’t cover the steps to make it in this post, but I will include the recipe below.
let’s look at how to make Brazilian black beans and rice
The black bean stew is simple, with very few ingredients. As a matter of fact, when eaten as an everyday meal, it frequently does not include the sausage. But we like it with the sausage, so I always include it.
Linguiça is a Portuguese sausage that I have been able to find in the local Asian supermarkets. But for years I made this dish with polska kielbasa because I could not find linguiça. It is just as delicious with the polska kielbasa, so don’t worry about using it as a substitute
The bay leaves are a must, however. It would not taste like Brazilian black beans and rice without bay or laurel leaves. In Brazil we use laurel leaves, but I discovered that bay leaves are much easier to find in American supermarkets, so I use them instead.
Start by washing your black beans and picking out any debris that may have gotten packed with the beans.
There is no need to soak the beans overnight, unless you are not using a pressure cooker. Without a pressure cooker, this recipe takes much longer to make in order to properly tenderize the beans and thicken the stew. So, I really recommend making it in a pressure cooker.
Cut the bacon into 1/2″ pieces and cook until caramelized. Add the onion and garlic.
Cook the bacon, onion, and garlic until the onion is softened.
Then add the beans, the bay leaves, and water to cover the beans. I don’t add any salt because the bacon and sausage usually do a good job of salting the stew. When I use polska kielbasa, I add no other salt. Polska kielbasas are usually salty enough on their own to season the entire stew. Linguiça is a little less salty, so I taste the stew at the end and adjust the salt at that time.
Cook on medium-high heat until the water starts to boil. Then seal the pressure cooker and reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Cook for 30 minutes after the pan achieves pressure and starts to hiss. While the pressure cooker is working, make your rice.
After 30 minutes, release the pressure and open the pressure cooker. Make sure most of the liquid is absorbed, the beans are tender and broken, and the stew is somewhat thickened. If too much liquid has been absorbed, add a little more water at this point.
Add the sliced sausage and cook on medium-low for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. In those 10 minutes, the stew sauce may thicken even more and the sausage will be heated through and will have released some of its salt. At this time, test for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Your black bean stew is ready, so it is time to get the rice!
Create a base of rice and ladle the black bean stew over it. Garnish with cilantro, and if you like, serve with orange slices. Orange slices are a common complement to Brazilian black beans and rice.
If you have never had this dish before, it is hard to describe the unique flavors that combine to make this so delicious. But once you do taste it, it will become a meal you’ll want to repeat, because there is nothing like it. Hearty, full-flavored, thick and velvety. It tastes like home.
I know you’ll love it too!
- FOR THE BEAN STEW
- 1 pound dry black beans
- 5 slices bacon, sliced ½" thick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- 6 cups water
- 1 pound linguiça (Portuguese sausage) or polska kielbasa, sliced ½" thick
- FOR THE BRAZILIAN RICE
- ½ cup onions, finely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ cups basmati rice
- 3 cups water
- Wash the back beans in a strainer.
- Remove any foreign debris that may have been packed with the beans.
- Cook the bacon over medium heat until it is lightly caramelized and enough fat has been rendered to sauté the onions and garlic.
- Add the garlic and onion, cooking until slightly softened.
- Add the beans, the bay leaves, and the water.
- Bring to a boil, then seal the pressure cooker and reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Cook for 30 minutes after the pan has achieved pressure.
- Meanwhile, make the rice by sautéing the onion and garlic in olive oil until aromatic.
- Add the rice and toss to mix well.
- Add the water and salt to taste.
- Bring the rice mixture to a boil, then cover.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until all the water is absorbed, the rice is tender, and the grains are fluffy and loose.
- After the beans have cooked for 30 minutes, release the pressure, open the pressure cooker, and add the sliced sausage.
- Cook on medium heat uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust salt if needed.
- Serve over rice.