Stewed Black Beans with Red Palm Oil

Stewed Black Beans with Red Palm Oil Stewed Black Beans with Red Palm Oil

A pot of beans simmering away on the stove almost always takes me back to years past when we’d spend our Sundays in the kitchen making soups and stews to last us the week, and although the memories aren’t pleasant, I can’t make beans with red palm oil without thinking back on those uncertain teen years.

It’s true, you know… time softens bad memories and sometimes even lends you a different perspective.

So this stewed black beans is done a little differently now; it’s simpler, easier and unburdened by meat, kind of like my life now.

The original recipe is from the August 2012 issue of Bon Apetit, with borlotti beans, sage and olive oil, which I tried a couple of months ago.

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I used black beans this time; it’s rich in protein, dietary fibre and antioxidants, but I love it for its hearty, rich, almost creamy texture.
Red palm oil is earthy, with flavours that remind me of traditional West African cooking.

I won’t get into the politics of red palm oil except to say that for centuries several cultures have been using it for culinary, medicinal and religious purposes.

And then there are the spices in this stew… mustard seeds, cumin, harissa, ginger and thyme – piquant and fragrant, that helps meld the black beans and red palm oil together in a delightful way that absolutely works.

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Stewed Black Beans with Red Palm Oil


  • 3/4 cup (or more) virgin red palm oil (preferably from West Africa)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon harissa (I used harrisa powder, paste is probably better)
  • 1lb (2 cups) dried black beans, rinsed (soaked overnight – optional)
  • 3 – 4 bay leaves
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 4 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon crushed ginger
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 – 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Heat the red palm oil in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat
  2. When oil is hot, add onions, mustard seeds, cumin and harissa, sauté for about five minutes
  3. Add beans, bay leaves, garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste, ginger, red pepper flakes and dried thyme
  4. Pour enough vegetable stock (or water) to cover the beans by 1” (about 3 cups)
  5. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered
  6. Add a teaspoon of salt about 30 minutes into the beans simmering
  7. Add vegetable stock or water by 1/4-cupfuls as needed to keep beans submerged, until tender (about 45mins to 1hr)
  8. Skim any foam from the surface and season with (more) salt and freshly ground pepper, if desired
  9. Remove bay leaves (if it doesn’t dissolve during cooking), serve warm and enjoy!


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  • Reply Elsa

    Thanks Amy! 🙂

    25 July, 2013 at 3:08 pm
  • Reply Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry

    Reminds me of home – I can just taste this. Although we would use black eyes beans instead. I have never ever used ginger with palm oil. Something to try.

    30 July, 2013 at 2:40 pm
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