Cafe Rio Black Beans are easy to make right at home — they are cooked with cumin, garlic, cilantro and tomato sauce for the ultimate flavor-packed recipe. Serve these in a burrito, quesadilla, taco, or on a salad to add extra flavor and protein. 

We love to use these Cafe Rio beans along with my other copycat Cafe Rio recipes like my Cafe Rio sweet pork, cilantro lime rice, and Cafe Rio cilantro lime dressing to make our own restaurant-style Mexican dish right at home. My kiddos go crazy for these! 

Cafe Rio Black Beans in a gray skillet.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Easy copycat Cafe Rio black beans. These black beans are so easy to make. It takes a total time of 20 minutes, from start to finish, to make this black beans recipe and the finished product tastes just like what you would get at the restaurant. 
  • Uses canned black beans. This recipe is easy because we use canned black beans that are already cooked. We are just adding some flavor and saucy-ness to the dish.
  • Yummy black beans. It’s amazing how adding a few select spices and some fresh cilantro will amp up anything! 
  • Easy to make for a crowd. Since we use canned black beans, this recipe is super easy to to scale up to feed a big crowd for a party, wedding, family reunions or celebration of any kind! 

Ingredient Notes

Cafe Rio Black Beans ingredients on a white marble background: black beans, tomato sauce, cilantro, seasonings, water, olive oil.
  • Black Beans: You’ll need 2 cans of black beans. Drain and rinse 1 can of black beans but leave another can of black beans undrained.
  • Minced Garlic: This will add a nice garlicky flavor to the Cafe Rio black beans. 
  • Cumin: Adding a bit of cumin makes for a delicious depth of flavor and really adds some of that Mexican flavor flair. 
  • Tomato Sauce: To get the best black beans, you really do need a saucy element. The tomato sauce is a great addition and adds a nice tomato flavor. 
  • Cilantro: Use fresh cilantro for best results in this copycat recipe. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Cook the garlic and cumin. To a nonstick skillet over medium heat add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 minced garlic clove. Cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes). 
  2. Add the black beans and cook. Add 2 cans of black beans (1 can drained and rinsed, one can undrained). Mix to combine and cook for 5 minutes.
Canned black beans cooked in a gray skillet.
  1. Add the tomato sauce, water, and cilantro. Add 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water. Mix to combine. Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm. Enjoy! 

Recipe Tips

These Cafe Rio black beans are the perfect side dish or use them to make burritos, tacos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, or salads with! And you can even put some on fried eggs in the morning for a delicious protein-packed, Mexican-inspired breakfast. 

Be sure to drain and rinse one can of the black beans, but leave the other can untouched. We want some of that liquid from the other can to help give a creamy texture to the black beans. 

I like using the jars of minced garlic to make prep so easy! No more garlic fingers and everything is already minced and ready to go.

If you want to use dry beans instead of canned beans, see my FAQs section below for instructions! 

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Make the Cafe Rio black beans ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. 

To freeze, let cool completely, then store in a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 2 months. Remove and let thaw, then warm and serve. 

Recipe FAQs

Can I use dry beans instead of canned?

Yes you can. I would recommend following my Slow Cooker Refried Beans recipe (but using black beans instead of pinto beans). Then, once the beans are cooked, instead of removing them from the slow cooker to mash, remove them from the slow cooker and transfer to the skillet and continue with this Cafe Rio black beans recipe as written. You may want to add some of the bean juice from the slow cooker to the skillet to provide some of that liquid you would get from having 1 can of black beans undrained. 

What if I don’t have tomato sauce?

If you don’t have tomato sauce, blend up a can of diced tomatoes until smooth. 

What to serve with black beans? 

Make a Cafe Rio sweet pork burrito or salad with these homemade cafe rio black beans and some Cafe Rio sweet pork, cilantro lime rice, and Cafe Rio cilantro lime dressing. It is the ultimate combo! We love making my Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas with these black beans as well. 

A wooden spoon in a skillet filled with Cafe Rio Black Beans.

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4.91 from 11 votes

Cafe Rio Black Beans

Flavorful Cafe Rio style black beans… they taste just like the ones you order from the restaurant!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 2 15 oz cans black beans - drain and rinse 1 can, don't drain the other
  • 1 garlic clove - minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cilantro - chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the olive oil, garlic, and cumin for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add the black beans. Cook for about 5 minutes or until some of the liquid from the beans has evaporated/been absorbed.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Season to taste.
  • Stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve warm!


Calories: 124kcal (6%)Carbohydrates: 1gProtein: 2g (4%)Fat: 4g (6%)Saturated Fat: 1g (5%)Sodium: 169mg (7%)Potassium: 55mg (2%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 100IU (2%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 4mgIron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
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