Sweet and creamy, this sweet cream of beans or habichuelas con dulce is the most popular dessert in the Dominican Republic during Easter (Semana Santa), Holy Week, Lent (Cuaresma). Made with red beans and coconut milk, it's truly delicious!
What is Habichuelas Con Dulce?
Habichuelas con dulce (sweet beans) is a popular Dominican dessert made most often during Easter, Holy Week, or Lent.
Dominican sweet beans are usually made in very large quantities and shared among relatives and friends. I've seen people that make enough of this stuff to feed their neighborhoods, and they usually do share it with the entire neighborhood!
I grew up watching my grandmother, my mother and my aunts make this dessert every year.
When I moved to New York and came to live with my mom, I was surprised at how my mom would still make this dessert during Lent just for the two of us. She would still make a little extra to bring to her coworkers. Way to keep traditions alive even in a foreign country!
Many Dominican restaurants around New York City also make the delicious dessert and sell it warm in small foam coffee cups. I have seen quite a number of people take early breaks from work just so that they can go and get their hands on one of those small cups before it runs out.
- Red Beans - I personally like to use Dominican red beans because it most closely resembles the habichuelas con dulce my grandmother made, but you can use regular red beans or Pinto beans for this recipe.
- Coconut Milk - To make this a vegan recipe, you can substitute for a vegan coconut milk brand
- Evaporated Milk - This can also be substituted for a vegan alternative or make your own evaporated milk by putting a plant-based milk to simmer on a saucepan for 30-40 minutes and then straining it once done.
- Sugar - Feel free to substitute with a sweetener of choice
- Raisins - Raisins can be left out if you’re not a fan, but it adds sweetness and flavor to this dish.
- Batata (Caribbean Sweet Potatoes) - The sweet potatoes are part of the reason this dessert is so creamy in texture. Although this ingredient can be removed if for any reason you choose to substitute, such as heartburn concerns.
- Cinnamon and Cloves - These spices give the dessert a warm, rich taste on top of the other ingredients. Make sure to use both instead of one over the other. You can add a sprinkle of grated nutmeg as well.
- Vanilla extract - For added flavor!
- Ginger - Just enough to add a slight hint of spice. A little bit goes a long way.
- Salt - You need to add a bit of salt to balance the flavors in this dessert. Of course, not enough to make it a savory dish.
- Dominican milk cookies (Galletas de leche) - This is a popular snack that Dominicans often enjoy with the dessert. You can also opt for toasted casabe (cassava bread).
How to make habichuelas con dulce
Soak dry beans in water overnight. The next day discard water in beans. Boil the beans in a large pot with plenty of water, adding water as needed until they are tender.
Blend together the beans and water. If necessary, add more water. Pass the mixture through a strainer into a large bowl and set aside.
Combine the beans, the coconut milk, and the evaporated milk in a large pot over medium heat.
When it breaks a boil, stir in the salt, sugar, raisins, sweet potatoes, cinnamon sticks, clove, and vanilla.
Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45-50 minutes, or until the liquid reduces to desired thickness and the sweet potato is tender. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Place it in the refrigerator until it is cold and add the milk cookies, or galletas de leche when ready to eat. This can also be enjoyed with toasted casabe (cassava bread) instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you eat it hot or cold?
Habichuelas con dulce can be eaten warm or cold. Some people prefer it cold, but I like it both ways. It doubles as a great warming dessert for those of us in colder climates, or as a great way to cool off in the sunshine!
What type of beans should I use for Habichuelas Con Dulce?
I highly recommend that you use dried red or pinto beans for this recipe. It takes longer as you need to factor in the soaking time, but you can do this overnight, so it's really not much more effort.
Can you use canned beans?
If you are in a pinch, you can use canned beans, but be sure to drain and rinse them well to get rid of any salty or metallic tastes.
How to store habichuelas con dulce?
Habichuelas con dulce should be stored in an airtight container and placed in a refrigerator for as long as 24 hours. The next day is usually when it tastes best, although try not to go over 24 hours to avoid gastric distress the longer it is stored.
How long does it keep?
These Dominican sweet beans are a great make-ahead dessert, perfect if you are planning to serve them as part of a big feast. It will keep well, covered in the fridge, for around 3 days.
Can you freeze habichuelas con dulce?
Habichuelas con dulce can absolutely be frozen but not as a way to store it, but rather if you plan on eating it that way. You can turn habichuelas con dulce to your liking and make it an habichuelas con dulce ice cream, a frozen popsicle, or even gelato.
Where did Habichuelas con dulce come from?
There are many stories that come up about the origin of the famous habichuelas con dulce that is often enjoyed during Easter. In fact, it may be best to ask those in your family, especially if you’re Dominican to see what they say. After all, this recipe takes a while to make, enough to start up a long conversation and learn about your culture.
However, there are some historical facts that show that the dessert is not unique to the Dominican Republic, although there’s no clear distinction of its origin.
Some sources show that the dessert derived from a Turkish dish called Aşure or Ashure, also known as “Noah’s Pudding.” Wikipedia shows that if that’s the case, Ashure traveled to the Dominican Republic in the late 19th or early 20th century along with other classic dishes like Taboulleh and Kibbeh brought over by immigrants from the former Ottoman Empire and adapted along the way. It is also associated with a religious period of fasting.
Another theory argues that habichuela con dulce was created by the African slaves that were imported to the Dominican Republic, holding similarities to a similar dish created by Afro-Peruvians that is known as, frejol colado. The dish consists of black bean, milk, sugar, or panela and culinary historians have argued that habichuela con dulce might be frejol colado's long-lost cousin.
The long list of theories continues to go on, which you can find more about through further research if interested. But do not forget to ask your family members as well!
Recipe Notes and Tips
- This is not a keto or LCHF friendly dish, even without sugar.
- Once the sweet beans are chilled it becomes a lot thicker. Keep that in mind when letting it reduce while cooking.
- We use coconut milk and evaporated milk in this recipe, but you can use any other plant-based milk or dairy.
More Dessert Recipes
- Chocolate Molten Lava Cake
- Coffee and Caramel Bread Pudding
- Grilled Pineapple Ice Cream Sundaes
- Chai Rice Pudding
- Dulce de Batata Pudding (Dominican Sweet Potato Pudding)
Habichuelas con Dulce (Dominican Sweet Beans)
- 4 cups red or pinto beans
- 7 cups water in which the beans had boiled in
- 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
- 2 cans (24 ounces) evaporated milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 pound batata, cubed
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and cut in one piece
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 whole cloves
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 packs (6 ounces) small milk round crackers
- Soak dry beans in water overnight. The next day discard water in beans. Boil the beans in a large pot with plenty of water, adding water as needed, for about 2 hours, or until tender.
- Blend together beans and water for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. If necessary, add more water. Pass the mixture through a strainer into a large bowl and set aside.
- Combine the beans, the coconut milk, and the evaporated milk in a large pot over medium heat.
- When it breaks a boil, stir in the salt, sugar, sweet potatoes, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, clove, and raisins.
- Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45-50 minutes, or until the liquid reduces to desired thickness and the sweet potato is tender. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Serve warm or cold, add crackers when ready to eat. If eating cold, place it in the refrigerator after cooling until it is cold.
*This post was originally posted in April 2012. It was updated in March 2022 with new photos, video and more recipe details.