How to Cook With Fermented Black Beans

Spicy Beans Are Cantonese Staple

Assorted preserved vegetables and fermented black beans used commonly in Szechwan cuisine sold in local farmers market, Chengdu, Szechwan Province, China
TAO Images Limited/TAO Images/Getty Images

You might think you know what fermented black beans are, especially if you eat a lot of Mexican food, but you might be surprised. These are not the black beans you'll find in Mexican cooking. Fermented black beans, which are also called salted or dried black beans, are made from soybeans that have been dried and fermented with salt; other spices such as chilies and/or wine and possibly ginger might be added.

Cantonese Connection

Because of their strong flavor, fermented black beans are frequently paired with other strong seasonings, such as garlic and chilies. They make a frequent appearance in Cantonese cooking; you’ll find them in dishes such as shrimp with lobster sauce. Fermented black beans are normally rinsed before being used in cooking; if this is not done, they will make the dish taste too salty. You’ll often find recipes calling for the beans to be mashed with garlic.

Where to Buy Fermented Black Beans

Fermented black beans are sold in plastic bags in Asian markets. At home, remove the beans from the package and store in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. The beans will last for several months. You can also find fermented black beans sold in jars. These can be used instead if necessary, but they don't have as much flavor.

If you don’t live near an Asian market, premade black bean sauce is often available in the international or ethnic section of many supermarkets.

You can also buy both fermented black beans and premade black bean sauce at several online stores specializing in Asian ingredients. Lee Kum Kee is a good brand to look for.  For more information on this topic, check out How to Store Chinese Sauces and Seasonings.

Other Names

Fermented black beans are also called Chinese black beans, dried black beans, salted black beans, dul see, and tausi.

How to Use Fermented Black Beans

Here are a few recipes that call for fermented black beans or premade black bean sauce.