Frijoles Negros con Calabaza Dulce (Black Beans with Pumpkin)


By Lucinda Hutson for a Day of the Dead celebration

Here, I’ve used pumpkin—a favorite Day of the Dead ingredient traditionally used for desserts—in a savory way. Sweet potatoes can be used instead and will give the same effect—the orange color of either mixed with the black beans really reflects the colors of the season.


Frijoles Negros con Calabaza Dulce (Black Beans with Pumpkin)


For 10 Person(s)


  • For the beans:
  • 1 pounds dried black beans
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 or more dried red piquant chilies
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground allspice
  • For the pumpkin (or sweet potato)
  • 1 small pumpkin, baked and cut into pieces OR 3–4 peeled sweet potatoes, cut into large bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into large bite-size chunks
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Generous dusting of cinnamon, cayenne and salt
  • Olive oil to lightly coat
  • 2 tablespoons grated piloncillo (Mexican brown cone sugar available at most grocery stores) or brown sugar

Frijoles Negros con Calabaza Dulce (Black Beans with Pumpkin) Directions

  1. Prepare 1 pound of dried black beans according to the package instructions, but be careful not to add too much liquid. I like to use a Mexican dark beer as part of the cooking liquid.
  2. While the beans cook, flavor them with 2 fresh bay leaves, 1 quartered onion, 4 or more dried red piquant chilies, 1 stick of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon freshly ground allspice.
  3. While the beans cook, roast the pumpkin (or sweet potatoes).
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  5. Toss together all the ingredients above (except the piloncillo) and place in a single layer on a roasting pan.
  6. Roast, tossing once, until lightly caramelized—about 35 to 40 minutes.
  7. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, gently toss in the piloncillo or brown sugar. Do not overcook. Set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, simmer the beans until they are thick and inky. Toward the end of their cooking time, add about ¼ cup mezcal or tequila (optional) and 2 (or more) tablespoons of grated piloncillo.
  9. Add the sugar slowly to determine how sweet you want it.
  10. If desired, add ground chili powder for a kick and a good balance of sweet and spicy.
  11. Just before serving, add some of the roasted pumpkin or sweet potatoes and simmer about 10 additional minutes, but reserve plenty of the pumpkin or sweet potatoes for serving.
  12. To serve: Add a generous portion of beans to individual mugs or warmed bowls and top with a big spoonful of the roasted pumpkin or sweet potatoes.
  13. Garnish each with chopped green onions, roasted and salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sprigs of cilantro. Or make tostadas by layering purchased or homemade tostadas with thick black beans and topping with the roasted pumpkin. Garnish festively.

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