What are Turtle Beans?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as black-seeded beans or simply black beans, turtle beans are beans that are distinguished by their black skin over a light tan or cream flesh. Turtle beans tend to be somewhat smaller than other types of beans, and offer a slightly sweet taste to any recipe that calls for the inclusion of the beans. Native to South America, the beans are now grown in several parts of Mexico and the Caribbean, and are often included in many different Mexican and Latin American recipes.

Turtle beans are often included in Mexican recipes.
Turtle beans are often included in Mexican recipes.

There is some difference of opinion as to what constitutes true turtle beans. Some feel that any type of bean with a black skin can rightfully be referred to as a turtle bean. Others hold that there are several varieties of black beans, with turtle beans being somewhat smaller and a little sweeter than the rest. A different school of thought holds that only black beans that are dried and stored for later use truly qualify as some type of turtle bean, while others believe that as long as the bean has a black skin and a light colored meat, it does not matter if the beans are fresh, canned, or dried.

First cultivated in South America, turtle -- or black -- beans are strongly associated with Latin American cuisine.
First cultivated in South America, turtle -- or black -- beans are strongly associated with Latin American cuisine.

The beans tend to retain the most flavor when prepared fresh or when dried beans are used. When using the dried type, many country cooks recommend placing the beans into a large bowl and covering the beans completely with water. The beans should be allowed to soak overnight for the best results in terms of consistency.

Before cooking the turtle beans, they should be thoroughly drained, and rinsed in a colander. Once the beans are ready for cooking, they should be placed into a pot. There are a number of different ways to season the beans, including the use of a small amount of salt and a little bit of olive oil. For people who prefer the taste of meat in their beans, adding a small amount of ham is usually enough to provide the ideal amount of seasoning.

There are many different ways to serve the prepared beans. One approach is to serve the cooked turtle beans on a bed of fried or white rice. The beans can also be used in the preparation of homemade chili, or as one of the ingredients in making a sauce for various types of pasta. It is also possible to use the cooked beans in a variety of casseroles and soups, making it easy to make use of any cooked beans that may be leftover from previous meals.

Turtle beans may be used in chili.
Turtle beans may be used in chili.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

christym

@googie98: The name of this recipe is actually “black bean and corn salsa” so it sounds exactly like what you are looking for. Here are the ingredients: 1 ½ c. cooked black turtle beans, 1 ¼ c. fresh corn kernels, ¾ c. diced red onion, ¾ c. bell pepper, 2 minced jalapeno peppers, ½ c. balsamic vinegar, 1/3 c. olive oil, 1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.

googie98

I am looking for a recipe that has black beans and corn in it. It is like a salsa. You can did tortilla chips in it. Does anyone have a recipe like that?

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