Puerto Rican-Style Beans

published Jun 11, 2024
Puerto Rican-Style Beans Recipe

Canned beans get a flavorful boost from pantry-friendly ingredients and a quick homemade sofrito.

Serves4 to 6

MakesMakes 5 1/2 cups

Prep15 minutes

Cook30 minutes

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Overhead photo of Puerto Rican beans in a Dutch oven with a spoon scooping some out.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Growing up, there were a lot of rice and beans eaten in my house. Like, a lot. I grew up in a single parent household, and nobody had time to soak dried beans. Our beans always came from a can. Now, no shade to dried beans. I love the texture of beans that have been soaked or brined overnight and then cooked low and slow for hours to really infuse them with flavor. However, that kind of slow, luxurious cooking is for the weekend when there’s more time available for letting things develop layers of deep flavor over a period of hours. These beans are for the rest of the week.

This is my quick weeknight take on Puerto Rican-style stewed beans or habichuelas guisadas. My goals are maximum flavor in minimum time. This hearty stew is often made with dried red beans and has a thick, flavorful tomato base with a big hit of flavor coming from ingredients like sofrito, sazón, and green olives. Canned beans get a bad rap. Sure, you haven’t technically cooked them yourself, and you could make the argument that their texture is inferior, but I think they’re delicious and convenient. Here, they help transform a dish that usually stews for an hour or more into one that’s done in just over half an hour, without sacrificing any of the flavor.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Why You’ll Love It

  • Canned beans make it delightfully quick and easy. You can prep these beans in under 15 minutes and then leave them to simmer while you prepare the rest of your meal. They’re the perfect weeknight side.
  • Sofrito adds big, fresh flavor. Sofrito is a finely chopped mixture of fresh, aromatic ingredients. It brings a big hit of flavor and much-needed freshness to canned beans. Cooking the sofrito in the saucepan before adding the beans means you get the full flavor from the bloomed spices without having to simmer the beans for hours.
  • It’s pantry-friendly. This recipe relies on mostly pantry-friendly ingredients, like green olives and sazón seasoning to bring big flavors to the beans while a quick sofrito adds freshness.

Key Ingredients in Puerto Rican-Style Beans

  • Canned beans. Puerto Rican-style beans are often made with red beans, but feel free to use kidney beans, pink beans, or black beans here.
  • Onions and garlic. These aromatics are the backbone of a quick sofrito.
  • Fresh cilantro. Cilantro adds freshness and herby flavor to the sofrito.
  • Olives. Manzanilla olives are Spanish green olives that have been cured in brine. Look for olives stuffed with pimento peppers. If using sliced olives, you can skip roughly chopping them in step 1.
  • Potato. You can use russet, Yukon, or red potatoes here.
  • Sazón seasoning. Sazón is a spice blend that’s a key ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking. You can use a store-bought version or blend your own at home.
  • Tomato sauce. Tomato sauce adds body and umami to the beans.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Make Puerto Rican-Style Beans 

  1. Make the sofrito. Finely chop onion, garlic, and cilantro to make a quick, flavorful paste.
  2. Cook the aromatics. Sauté the sofrito in a large saucepan until fragrant.
  3. Simmer.  Add the beans, tomato sauce, potato, spices, and olives to the pot and let everything simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Helpful Swaps 

  • You can swap canned red beans for pink, kidney, or black beans.
  • You can make the sofrito in a food processor instead of chopping by hand or substitute a store-bought version. If using sofrito that has been frozen, thaw to room temperature before cooking.
  • If you want to make this even speedier, you can omit the potato, which will shorten the cooking time in step 4 to about 10 minutes.

What to Serve with Puerto Rican-Style Beans

These beans are perfect for serving over white or brown rice as a hearty side or vegetarian main. Serve next to chicken thighs, pan-seared steak, or pork chops.

Puerto Rican-Style Beans Recipe

Canned beans get a flavorful boost from pantry-friendly ingredients and a quick homemade sofrito.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Makes Makes 5 1/2 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium russet or Yukon Gold potato (about 10 ounces)

  • 12

    green manzanilla olives with pimentos

  • 1

    small yellow onion

  • 1/2

    medium bunch fresh cilantro

  • 2

    cloves garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 2

    (about 15-ounce) cans red, kidney, or pink beans (do not drain)

  • 1

    (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1 cup


  • 1 tablespoon

    sazón seasoning

  • Kosher salt


  1. Peel and dice 1 medium potato (about 1 3/4 cups). Coarsely chop 12 green manzanilla olives with pimentos.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Finely chop 1 small yellow onion (about 1 cup). Pick the leaves from 1/2 medium bunch fresh cilantro until you have 1/2 cup, then finely chop. Finely chop 2 garlic cloves.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

  4. Add the potato, olives, 2 (about 15-ounce) cans beans and their liquid, 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, 1 cup water, and 1 tablespoon sazón seasoning. Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potato is tender and the sauce is thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed.

Recipe Notes

Ingredient/Equipment Variations: You can finely chop the onion, cilantro, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.

Make ahead: You can cook the sofrito (onion, cilantro, and garlic) up to 1 week ahead and refrigerate in an airtight container, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.