The Dominican Republic is not only a tourist destination with paradisiacal beaches, it is also a culinary rendezvous for fans of good food . The island’s gastronomy is recognized worldwide for its rich variety of typical dishes and haute cuisine. Today we want to tell you about sweet beans, a dessert that every Dominican keeps in a special place in his or her heart.It does not matter which part of the country you visit, sweet beans are prepared throughout the national territory . However, the tradition consists of preparing them during Lent prior to Easter or to celebrate Easter Sunday. Below we will explain in detail what Dominican sweet beans are and how to prepare them at home.
What are sweet beans?
Sweet Beans are a creamy dessert made from milk, sugar, sweet potatoes, raisins and, of course, beans. The traditional recipe is prepared with red beans , but there are some variants with white beans and others that use broad beans. Although some aspects of the recipe may vary depending on the region, all Dominicans tend to accompany them with milk or casabe cookies.
As we anticipate, each Dominican home adds a special touch to its sweet beans. The most common is to season the preparation with cinnamon, nutmeg and aromatic cloves, but star anise, malagueta or vanilla are also used. As for milk, there are those who prefer to use coconut milk to replace cow’s milk or add both to achieve greater creaminess.Doesn’t that sound delicious? The yourdomincanguide team loves this traditional dish of Dominican cuisine. That is why now we want to share its origin and our special recipe to prepare sweet beans.
Origin of Dominican sweet beans
Sweet beans are a unique gastronomic heritage of the Dominican Republic that has been passed down from generation to generation since the colony. There are various versions about the origin of the recipe and today we want to tell you about the one from an expert. We are talking about Chef Dede , a professional chef who is more Dominican than mangu or sheet cake.
In an interview from 2022, the likeable Dede shared her research into the history of candy beans. Apparently, everything started at the end of the 18th century with Delalande, a French soldier who lived on the outskirts of Santo Domingo . There, he dedicated himself to the cultivation of legumes, mainly broad beans.
Among the friends of the French producer was another Spanish farmer who enjoyed the combination of beans with almond milk and sugar. This recipe is a European heritage that has been recorded since the 16th century. Apparently, Delalande was inspired by her to mix sugar beans with different dairy products and ended up creating the first sweet beans.
In 1820 a French explorer visited Delalande and not only tasted the saucer, but also officially documented it. He described it as a sweet dish with milk, vanilla and beans , which in the Dominican are popularly known as habichuelas. In addition, he specified that he tasted the dessert several days before Palm Sunday, that is, during Lent.
By 1840, habichuelas con dulce were a popular dish throughout the Dominican Republic . This is probably due to the fact that previously it was the mulatto blacks who were in charge of domestic chores and working the fields. Chef Dede tells us that the recipe spread by word of mouth and ended up conquering the entire country.Currently, beans with sweet are an essential dessert during the season of Santa and Lent . The recipe has small variations depending on who prepares it and the region where it is located. We encourage you to try it no matter where you are.
This exquisite traditional dessert is usually prepared in large quantities to share with family, neighbors and friends. Each Dominican has their own way of preparing it, so there are countless recipes. Now we are going to share our special recipe to prepare sweet beans and a couple of tips to enhance its flavor .
We are going to prepare a serving for 12 people, but you can adjust the amount of ingredients according to your needs:
- 2 pounds of red kidney beans
- 1 pound sweet potato
- 1 can of evaporated milk
- 2 pounds creamed sugar
- 2 liters of cow’s milk
- 1 cup coconut milk
- ½ cup raisins
- cinnamon stick
- nutmeg to taste
- Vanilla to taste
- Salt to taste
- milk cookies
- Wash the beans well in a pot and leave them with water from the night before preparation. In this way, you make sure to eliminate any impurities and hydrate the legumes so that they soften more easily. Some families add a pinch of baking soda to speed up the process, but it is not essential.
- The next day, strain the beans and put them to cook in a cauldron with plenty of water. You can add two cinnamon sticks to flavor the preparation.
- Let cook the beans until they soften. If you prefer, you can use a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking process.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and wash them and then chop them into not very large cubes. Put them to cook in a pot and add a pinch of salt to season. Once they soften, drain the water and let them cool.
- Once the beans are ready, blend them using a little of their own broth. Do not overdo it with the liquid because then the dairy will be added to the mixture and we do not want them to lose their creaminess.
- When you finish blending them, strain them and add the cow’s milk, evaporated milk and coconut milk.
- Pour the mixture into a cauldron and put it to cook over low heat. Add the sugar, salt, vanilla and nutmeg. We recommend adding the spices little by little to regulate the intensity of the flavor.
- Add the sweet potato and raisins. Stir the cream preferably using a wooden ladle.
- When the desired consistency is achieved, turn off the flame and serve hot or cold with its inseparable companions, the milk cookies. Some locals also accompany it with casabe, a crunchy toast made with cassava flour.
Where to buy Dominican sweet beans?
If you are visiting the Dominican Republic, you cannot miss the opportunity to try this delicious traditional dessert. At yourdominicanguide we have selected for you the 4 best places where you can buy sweet beans.
It is a restaurant with more than 38 years of experience serving traditional food of the highest quality. Live the Dominican culinary experience and feel at home while you try its varied menu that includes beans with sweet. Visit their instagram page, @buenprovecho_rd to find out their opening hours and make reservations.
Adrián Tropical is one of the most popular restaurants among locals and foreigners visiting Santo Domingo . It has 4 offices distributed in strategic points of the capital city. Its menu has a wide range of possibilities among which are Dominican sweet beans.Our recommendation is that you visit the Malecón branch located at Av. George Washington #1, facing the Caribbean Sea. Enjoy the Creole flavor of sweet beans while you delight in the architectural concept that evokes a cruise ship. Do not forget to visit their website to learn more about each restaurant and make reservations.
D’Alba beans with sweet
If you are in San Francisco de Macorís you can order the best sweet beans in the country at home . That’s right, @alba_habichuelas specializes in preparing this delicious dessert and has delivery to take it wherever you are. Be sure to visit their instagram page and place your order early as they tend to sell out quickly.
4 curiosities about Dominican sweet beans
Sweet beans are deeply rooted in the gastronomic culture of Dominicans. It is an emblematic recipe with endless variations and peculiarities. Here are 4 curiosities that you probably did not know about this recipe :
Why are they only eaten in Lent?
The recipe is a tradition that dates back to the end of the 16th century. At that time the beans were only grown in the season between February and March. Due to the abundance of beans, it became customary to prepare them in both savory and sweet recipes and share them with friends and family.
Coincidentally, Lent and Catholic Holy Week take place in that season, so it became a tradition. Since then, sweet beans are a dish that is not lacking on the tables of the Dominican Republic during Lent.
Although it is a relatively simple dish to prepare, its great popularity has inspired different chefs to reinterpret the original recipe . If you are interested in learning about some modern variations on the classic recipe, here is Chef Dede’s gourmet version of sweet beans . The video is a master class where he tells us part of the history of the dish, his family recipe and the deconstructed version.
The original recipe did not call for a blender. The beans were cooked and then crushed to thicken and give the preparation a creamy texture. The use of blenders or food processors is a modern addition to facilitate the work . However, in some areas of the country they prefer to continue doing it in a traditional way.
Sweet potato does not oxidize
Oxidation is a natural process that occurs when cutting some fruits and vegetables. Surely it has already happened to you that you cut an apple in half and after a few minutes the pulp begins to darken. To prevent this from happening to the sweet potato after cooking it, it is advisable to let it rest in a container with water.
In this way, the enzymes in the cut sweet potato will not come into contact with the oxygen in the air and will maintain their normal color.Go ahead and prepare your own version of Dominican sweet beans! If you still have doubts, here is a video tutorial Cooking with Yolanda on how to make sweet beans . Do not forget to share with us your experiences with the dish in the comments section.