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Hearty Black Bean and Plantain Stew with Pepita Pesto

Black beans, sweet plantains and veggies power this nourishing stew. Warm and smokey spices season it perfectly. Serve with fragrant rice and a dollop of pesto for a vegetarian feast.

February 11, 2023

Black Bean and Plantain Stew in a bowl with condiments

Vegetarian Black Bean and Plantain Stew

This recipe for Black Bean Stew is so filling that you only need one bowl, but I guarantee you will return for seconds. This sweet and savory plantain stew becomes a power bowl when served over rice with a spoonful of pepita pesto to finish the flavors. Adding rice also extends the servings, which has the bonus of leftovers for lunch. Who doesn’t love to have a delicious lunch the next day? 

Plantain ripening stages from green to yellow and yellow/black

How to Buy Plantains

Plantains are green when picked on the farm. As they ripen, they turn yellow and then yellow and black. 


For this recipe, I purchase plantains that look like the bottom row of the photograph. These are medium-ripe and slightly soft with a yellow and black peel. Peels with more black than yellow are sweeter and also suitable for this recipe. 


A very ripe plantain will be all black with no yellow remaining and is best for a dessert and too sweet for this recipe. If the grocery store has green and yellow fruit, they will ripen at home on the counter, similar to bananas. Plantains take longer than bananas to mature, however.

How to Prepare Plantains for Stew

Ripe plantains peel like a banana

Peel ripe plantains like a banana.

plantains sliced in half

Slice plantains in half lengthwise.

plantains diced into moon shapes

Slice the plantains into bite-size (1/2") half-moon-shaped pieces.

Pepita Pesto

This bright and mildly spicy sauce uses pepitas, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice. The foundation is a traditional Italian Pesto but with Latin ingredients. Pepitas are tender pumpkin seed that comes from a special variety with seeds that do not have the stiff white hull like traditional pumpkin seeds. You can purchase them raw or roasted. Pepitas are a good source of protein, healthy fats, iron, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. You can’t make too much of this sauce. Try it on Easy Elote Bowl – Mexican Street Corn.

Ingredients for pepita pesto

Pepita Pesto Recipe Steps

toasting raw pepitas in a skillet

If using raw pepitas, toast in a skillet.

Pepita Pesto ingredients in a food processor

Place ingredients in food processor,

Pepita Pesto in food processor

Chop until blended and smooth.

What are Aromatics?

A flavorful stew begins by cooking a combination of aromaticsvegetables, spices, and herbs in oil to create a concentration of flavors. Stews, chili,  curries, stir-fries, soups, and stocks typically start with aromatics to create a rich taste. The most famous use of aromatics is the French combination mirepoix; butter, onion, carrot, and celery.  It’s the basis for most French cooking. Italians call it a soffrito and Spanish refer to this cooking method as sofrito. Secret Ingredient Chili makes use of this method to make a delicious dish. Read more in How to Use Aromatics in MasterClass. 

How to Prepare Aromatics for Stew

First, chop the vegetables a medium size (½-inch to ¾ inch) and mince the garlic. Try to cut the vegetables roughly the same size so that your vegetables cook evenly and each spoonful gets a variety of flavors and textures. I don’t recommend a food processor because it can pulverize some vegetables and provide different sizes. It would be best if you had the extra surface area to release the flavors. Get out your cutting board and use your knife skills to let the vegetables shine in this recipe.

Secondly, heat the oil in a deep pan and add the vegetables and garlic. After the vegetables soften, add the salt and the aromatics will “sweat” and release their juices. 

Thirdly, add the dry spices and constantly stir for a few minutes to release the unique flavor properties of the spices and herbs. Keep your eye on it and reduce the heat if necessary so the mixture does not burn. It will become a thick paste. This process makes your home smell wonderful. You are now ready to add other ingredients to your stew. 

black bean plantain stew ingredients on a cutting board

Ingredients Notes and Substitution

  • Onion – yellow, red or white
  • Garlic – use fresh cloves 
  • Red pepper – can swap yellow, orange or green pepper
  • Cumin, chili powder, sweet smoked paprika, and hot smoked paprika – feel free to experiment with more or less of any of these spices. If you want more heat, add cayenne pepper.
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes add a smokey element but use regular diced tomatoes if unavailable
  • Vegetable broth – Keep the recipe vegetarian and use low salt.
  • Plantains if they are not available, use two small or one large sweet potato cut into bite-size pieces. Be sure to boil in broth until the pieces are cooked – about 20 minutes for sweet potatoes.
  • Black Beans – red, kidney or pinto beans will work, and use low salt. 
  • Kale adds a delicious savory flavor that works well with sweet plantains. If you are not a kale fan, try reducing the quantity.
  • Pepitas – pumpkin seeds are a common ingredient in Mexican cooking. Purchase raw or toasted. 
  • Jalapeno – removing the seeds and membrane keeps the heat down substantially. Peppers are not all equal; some are very hot, even to touch. Wear gloves while cutting and deseeding and wash your hands if the oil remains on them.
  • Cilantro for the pesto – no substitution – basil and parsley will not be the right flavor profile for this stew.
  • Fresh lime is best, but concentrate will work in a pinch
  • Optional Garnish – Queso Fresco is a mild Mexican cheese that crumbles like feta – omit if vegan.

Variations of Black Bean Plantain Stew

  • Vegan – use vegetable stock and omit the cheese as a garnish.
  • Paleo – omit the beans and cheese garnish.
  • Mediterranean – use brown rice – try The Best Brown Rice with an Instant Pot.
  • Low Carb – eliminate the rice and save 61 calories and 13 carbs.
  • Meat Lovers – add 8 – 12-oz diced smoked ham with the kale.
  • Grain Free – yes, plantains are grain free but are illegal on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Other Tips

What goes with this stew? You can keep it simple and offer tortilla chips and guacamole. It does not need a side dish. This rice recipe is a winner for this meal: The Best Basmati Rice Pilaf.

StorageGreat Leftovers will keep in a lidded container for five days in the refrigerator. 

Freezer Meal – store for up to 3 months.

Nutritional Benefits – the wholesome stew is high in fiber and contains vitamins and minerals – check out the nutritional panel below the recipe.

Kale Prep

Remove and compost kale stems.

Chopping kale into thin strips
Kale Prep

Chop washed kale into thin strips.

Black Bean and Plantain Stew in a bowl and condiments
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Black Bean and Plantain Stew in a bowl with condiments

Hearty Black Bean and Plantain Stew with Pepita Pesto

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 3 reviews
  • Author: Karen
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main course
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Latin
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Black beans, sweet plantains and veggies power this nourishing stew. Warm and smokey spices season it perfectly. Serve with fragrant rice and a dollop of pesto for a vegetarian feast. This recipe is inspired by Pinch of Yum’s Plantain and Pinto Stew with Aji Verde. I use different beans and sauce with pesto and build a sofrito from the aromatics.


Units Scale


  • 1.5 cups rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • two 14-oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
  • 2 plantains (medium ripe), peeled and sliced into half-moon shapes
  • two 14-oz cans black beans or 1 cup dried and pre-cooked*
  • 4 cups kale stemmed and shredded
  • 3oz queso fresco, crumbled – optional

Pepita Pesto

  • 1 cilantro bunch
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, membranes and seeds removed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/3 cup raw or toasted pepitas**
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt if pepitas are unsalted


  1. Make rice according to package directions.
  2. Saute the aromatics. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic and peppers, and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and cook for one more minute until soft. Turn the heat to medium, add the spices, and cook for two more minutes until combined and fragrant. Be careful not to burn.
  3. Make the Stew. Add the canned tomatoes and vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Add the plantains and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the black beans and kale and simmer for 5 minutes until the kale is soft and wilted.
  4. Blend the Pepita Pesto. Toast raw pepitas in a dry cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat until they pop and turn slightly brown – about 5 minutes. No need to toast pepitas if they are roasted. Add all pesto ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend until combined or blender.
  5. Serve. Place rice in bowls and cover with stew. Dollop with pesto on the top and serve with optional cheese.


* see Cooking Dried Legumes for Gut Friendly Meal Prep


** If pepitas are raw, they are generally unsalted. Add salt to the finished pesto;  if pepitas are toasted, do not toast them again, and do not add salt to the pesto.

Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes

Use the Pesto Twice in one Week

I like to make this stew with Easy Elote Bowl. You can use the Pepita Pesto Pesto in both recipes. You’ll find lots of ways to use this outstanding pesto!

Let me know your thoughts on this post!

6 responses to “Hearty Black Bean and Plantain Stew with Pepita Pesto”

  1. I made the mistake of making a similar recipe to this with under-ripe plantains a year ago and it didn’t do much for me. However since you posted this recipe we gave it another try in our house and having the correct ripeness of the plantains is a GAME CHANGER. It’s so good with the pepita pesto too. Yum!

  2. This stew is so easy,delicious and hearty. The perfect dish for the cold, windy week we are experiencing in Northern California. And the leftovers taste even better than the first serving!

  3. I made this several times over the last few weeks to test this recipe for the website. Nobody complained. If you think vegetarian food is dull, think again. It’s also so so fun to use new ingredients like plantains!!!

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Karen the Supper Sanity Home Chef

Welcome to Supper Sanity

Hello, I’m Karen, a very passionate meal planner. As a mother of three, I have been planning family menus for years. When I was diagnosed with a digestive condition, I found it necessary to follow an eating regime that eliminated many ingredients. That made meal planning a health necessity. I’ve learned a lot and want to share my resources to simplify meal planning, shop efficiently and cook affordable homemade meals. If you wish to try new recipes, plan healthier meals, and enjoy a great dinner with your friends and family, Supper Sanity can help.

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