Latin Twist: Costa Rican Black Bean Dip


black bean dipI didn’t grow up with black beans. What I remember most, actually, are the Boston baked beans my mother made. Lima beans were also visitors to our table, though I wasn’t a huge fan. Well my friends, in my old age (!), I’ve become quite fond of many varieties of beans! Black beans may be my favorite, and so I’m sharing with you one of my preferred creations: Costa Rican Black Bean Dip. Not long ago, I “rediscovered” my Costa Rican Black Bean Dip, which I also learned thanks to the Gutiérrez-Vargas family! I’ve got it in Mambo Mixers, but changed it up a bit.

Let’s talk canned versus dried beans for a moment. I confess that in a pinch, I’ve reached for the canned stuff. Trader Joe’s has canned black beans which are, in an “emergency” okay. What I prefer to do is get myself a pound (or a kilo) and let them simmer for hours. One taste of that luscious earthy flavor, with broth flavorful enough to sip on its own, inspires me to declare, “wow, THIS is the stuff!”

And back to the dip: the nice thing about Costa Rican Black Bean Dip is that it’s super simple (so if you do have “sudden” guests, this is one you can pull together in a pinch!) and it’s a great condiment. For example, you can use it as a tortilla spread before adding fresh tomatoes and cheeseor whatever you’d like! Ah, this is great under pieces of grilled chicken. Hmmmm, I’m going to try that in one of my Cuban sandwich variations. You see? Once you start building, the sky’s the limit…

So back to this one, here’s my recipe which, as always, can vary depend on what you’ve got on hand and what you like! 

Latin Twist: Costa Rican Black Bean Dip

Yield: About 2 and 1/2 cups

This recipe has evolved slightly since I first wrote about it in Mambo Mixers--and I encourage you to find your own ways of "reinterpreting" it!


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh or roasted jalapeño (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (or to taste)
  • 2 cups black beans, undrained and puréed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan.
  2. Sauté the onion, pepper, garlic, jalapeño, and salt for about 5 minutes or until the onion has softened.
  3. Cook over a low flame, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly and transfer to a serving bowl.
  5. Top with fresh cilantro just before serving. (You can also, as I wrote in Mambo Mixers, add queso fresco on top.)


About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

Leave A Reply