Congri (Cuban Rice and Black Beans)
Congri, or Cuban rice and black beans, is a satisfying vegan meal that’s packed with flavour and nutrition. It’s also budget-friendly—you might even have all of the ingredients in your pantry right now!
A lot of people are under the impression that a vegan diet is expensive. And sure, if you fill your grocery cart with all those pricey meat substitutes, it can be! But being vegan can also save you money on groceries. Dishes like Marinated Tofu, Jamaican Rice and Peas, and BBQ Chickpea Tacos are affordable, easy, and delicious. This Cuban congri is another example!
What Is Congri?
Congri is a traditional Cuban dish made with black beans and rice. (Not to be confused with congee, a Chinese porridge also made with rice.) It’s traditionally served as a side dish, but with both rice and beans, it’s a complete protein on its own, so you can totally make a meal out of it.
Congri is super easy—and surprisingly delicious given the simplicity of its ingredients. The key components are black beans and long-grain rice, which provide the protein and carbohydrates for a satisfying meal. Then onions, red bell peppers, garlic, cumin, and a bay leaf are all you need for lots of savoury flavour!
Notes on Ingredients
Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.
- Vegetable oil – You can also use canola, corn, or olive oil.
- White onion – Yellow onion will work too.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic is best, but you can substitute 4 teaspoons of garlic powder.
- Red bell pepper – Yellow or orange can be used for a similar flavour, or substitute a green bell pepper for a bit less sweetness.
- Ground cumin
- Canned black beans – Reserve the liquid, then rinse the beans. Alternatively, you can cook dried black beans and reserve the cooking liquid.
- Long-grain white rice
- Bean broth – AKA the liquid from the beans. If you accidentally discard it, you can blend 1/4 cup black beans in 2 cups of vegetable broth and use this instead.
- Bay leaf
What’s the Difference Between White Rice and Long Grain White Rice?
White rice is a type of rice that has been milled and polished, removing the outer husk and bran layers. Long-grain white rice is a specific type of white rice; it has an elongated kernel that makes it cook up fluffy, rather than sticky. Congri is best made with long grain white rice, although brown rice can be substituted if you’d like; just don’t use a a short grain white rice like sushi rice or arborio.
How to Make Congri
Making congri is simple—in fact, most of the cooking time is hands-off! Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Cook the aromatics. Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until they’re soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the next 4 ingredients. Stir the red bell peppers into the onion mixture and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they’re tender. Stir in the cumin and season with salt to taste, then add the beans and rice.
Add the liquid. Pour in the bean broth and add the bay leaf. Stir and season with more salt to taste, then raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.
Let it simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Cook the rice for 15 to 20 minutes (or the time indicated on the package), until all of the liquid is absorbed.
Fluff the rice and serve. Remove the pot from the heat, but leave the lid on. Let the congri rest for another 15 to 20 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.
Tips for Success
These additional tips and hints will help you make perfect vegan congri.
- Adjust the amount of liquid, if necessary. Check the rice package instructions for the correct amount of liquid. Most call for 2 1/4 cups.
- Use a non-stick pot. To keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of your pan, use a non-stick pot; if you don’t have one, a well-seasoned cast iron pot will work, too.
- Let it steam. Although it might be tempting to dig in the minute you remove the pot from the heat, it’s important you give the rice time to finish steaming in its residual heat. This will help it absorb excess moisture so it has a soft, fluffy texture instead of being water-logged.
The beauty of congri is its simplicity, but you can still give it a few tweaks to make it your own. Here’s some inspiration:
- Add more beans. Make your congri even more filling by adding an extra 1/2 cup of beans.
- Add extra protein. Vegan chorizo or another spicy plant-based sausage is a delicious addition to congri. Crumble it up and stir it in after you take the pot off the heat, but before you leave it to sit and steam.
- Make it spicy. Add 1/4-1/2 finely chopped jalapeño to the onions and bell peppers as they’re cooking to give your rice a spicy kick.
I love congri as a simple dinner, but if you want to serve it as a side, try pairing it with:
- Crispy Cauliflower Tacos with Chipotle Crema
- The Best Vegan Enchiladas
- Vegan Crunchwrap Supremes
- Jamaican Jerk Tofu
How to Store Leftovers
Store leftover congri in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat, simply add a splash of water or broth and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat until warmed through.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes, congri can be frozen for up to 3 months. Transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag; when you’re ready to reheat it, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then warm it up according to the instructions above.
Enjoy friends! If you make this congri, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!
Congri (Cuban Black Beans and Rice)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ⅔ cup diced white onion
- 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- ¾ medium red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed but the liquid should be reserved
- 1 cup long-grain white rice, uncooked
- 2 ¼ cups bean broth , In case you accidentally discarded it you can blend 1/4 cup black beans in 2 cups veggie broth and use this instead.
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt, to taste
- Cook the onions. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and stir. Let them cook for 5-6 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic, mix well, and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the peppers. Throw the red bell peppers into the pan and cook them for 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Stir in the cumin and season with salt to taste.
- Add the beans. Gently stir the beans into the mixture. Place the rice in the pot.
- Pour in the liquid. Add the bean broth and bay leaf. Stir once or twice to mix the ingredients in the pot. Season with more salt to taste. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Check your package instructions for the correct amount of liquid you should be adding depending on the type/brand you're using. Most kinds will work with 2 1/4 cups, but always check your package instructions to make sure.
- Let it simmer. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Cook the rice according to package instructions. It should be about 15-20 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed.
- Fluff the rice. Remove the pot from the heat. Leave the lid on and let the rice rest for another 15-20 minutes. Remove the lid and use a fork to gently fluff up the rice. Serve warm and enjoy.
Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.
This reminds me of a similar recipe I know for Malaysian rice, which incorporates curry and ginger flavours.
I can’t wait to try this Cuban version!!
I made this recipe last night. I am trying to do more plant protein vs. meat and it was delicious. I did find that in using beans with no salt, I did need to season mine up a bit after cooking. But it is filling and could be used as a side or main dish. I used it as a main dish. I’d recommend giving it a try.
I made this really delicious recipe and substituted the red bell pepper for a diced zucchini and a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies (the things I had readily available in the kitchen). Also, I added smoked paprika in addition to the cumin. It tastes really good and has the added kick that I wanted. Thank you for sharing this quick-fix and pantry go to meal. Can’t wait to replicate in the future!