How To Cook Sugar Beans Curry


Sugar bean curry was the epitome of a meatless Monday dinner in my childhood home. Made with barlotti beans, this protein-packed legume is first, boiled then simmered in a broth of fragrant spices cinnamon, cardamom and Durban masala. A generous portion of onion, ginger and garlic accounts for the lush gravy in this curry. This dish sometimes contains potatoes. While family recipes vary, Amma‘s Durban style bean curry often included dry fish. Her typical method for expanding the quantity of a meat curry was to add beans. Sugar beans are also an essential component for making lamb trotters curry. For a Durban style chilli con carne, add mincemeat. Sugar bean curry is best served with soft roti.

 This post features a few tips on how to cook barlotti beans, how to reduce bloat from beans and the sugar bean recipe in a printable recipe card. To read simply scroll or jump to the recipe.

How to Boil Sugar Beans

Some readers have also requested a recipe for boiling sugar beans- many of you find it tricky boiling beans, either it gets burnt or overcooked. The secret to perfectly boiled sugar beans is that it has to be soaked overnight. Apart from reducing cooking time it also prevents the skin of the beans from peeling off when boiled.

In the case of sugar beans a watched pot boils best, either cook the beans on low heat or keep a watchful eye so that it does not burn. You can also add a teaspoon of cooking oil to keep the beans from sticking while it boils.

1.Start by sifting through the beans to remove stones or chipped pieces. Wash with cold water then soak overnight.

how to prepare barlotti beans
© 2011 l

2. The next day-add the sugar beans to a pot half filled with water. Boil on medium heat.

3. Once the water evaporates add more water keep it from burning.
4. Cook for the sugar beans for a maximum of 2 hours. 

5. Remove from heat and rinse thoroughly before cooking the curry.

TIP: Some beans may cook quicker than others; you can test if the beans are ready by pressing one or two with your fingers. If it is ‘half cooked’ (semi soft) then remove from stove. Amma used to say that the beans should be half cooked, this way they can fully cook together with the potatoes in the curry.

 Why Do Beans Give Us Gas?

Beans and other legumes, as well as broccoli and cabbage, are often associated as gas inducing foods. The main reason for this is that they contain a high dose of  raffinose, a complex form of sugar which is not easily digestible. Beans are also in fibre, which when consumed in large quantities can cause bloating and gassiness. You cannot eliminate the raffinose but you can prepare beans to reduce the bloat.

How to reduce Gas from Beans

My favoured method is to soak beans then rinse until the water runs clear or remove as much of the foaminess as possible. Some sources recommend ajwain or epazote to decrease gas production.

reduce gas in beans


How to Cook Sugar Beans Curry

Ingredients for  Sugar Beans and Potato Curry

  •  onions
  •  tomatoes
  •  ground ginger and garlic
  • curry leaves
  •  cinnamon powder or cinnamon sticks
  • cardamom pods or powder
  • Durban masala  (combine with fresh chillies for a more pungent curry)
  • vegetable or olive oil
  • pre boiled barlotti beans
  • water
  •  potatoes

How to make Sugar Bean Curry Step by Step with Pictures

    1. Pre boil the barlotti beans according to instructions listed above.

    2. Prepare the onions and tomatoes. I prefer to slice onion fine or grind in spice grinder with ginger and garlic and a small piece of green chilli.My typical method for handling tomatoes are to remove the peel by soaking in hot water. Slice in half to remove seeds then grate. This results in the best gravy.

    best sugar bean curry

    3. Braise the onion, ginger garlic and spices for a minute or two until the spice separate from the oil. Add  grated tomatoes then potatoes, followed by water and the barlotti beans.

    suagr beans with potatoes

    6. Allow to cook on medium heat. When the water evaporates add more water depending on the consistency you would like. If you prefer more gravy then add more water.

    7. Once the potatoes have cooked  remove from stove. Serve with rice or roti.

    best bean curry recipe


    South African Sugar Bean Curry

    Sugar Beans Curry

    Sugar Beans Curry



    Prep time

    10 Min

    Cook time

    40 Min

    Inactive time

    -3 Min

    Total time

    47 Min

    South African sugar bean curry is made by simmering boiled barlotti beans in ginger garlic, tomatoes and fragrant spice. It perfect for mopping up with soft roti.


    • 2 onions
    • 2 tomatoes
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger and garlic
    • curry leaves
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder or 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder or 4 cardamom pods
    • 1 tablespoon Durban masala  ( if you prefer the curry to be more pungent add fresh green chilli)
    • Oil (use your discretion- you need enough to braise the onions and spices-I have used 2 tablespoons)
    • pre-boiled sugar beans 2 or 3 cups
    • 2 cups of water
    • 4 medium potatoes (cut into small pieces about 4 pieces per potato).


    1. 1. Heat a pan on the stove. Add the desired limit of oil.
    2. 2. Add two chopped onions. Make sure they are finely chopped, the onions help give the curry a thick gravy.
    3. 3. Allow onions to soften then the ginger and garlic and curry leaves.
    4. 4. Add the cinnamon and chilli powder.
    5. 5. Braise the spices and onions for 2-3 minutes then add chopped tomatoes and1 cup of water. Cover -allow simmering.
    6. Once the tomatoes form a chutneylike texture- then add the potatoes.Allow to cook for 10 minutes.
    7. 6. Add the boiled beans (and the water from the beans) into the curry mixture. Stir then cover. Allow cooking for 20 minutes. When the water evaporates add more water depending on the consistency you would like. If you prefer more gravy then add more water.
    8. 7. Once the potatoes have cooked remove from stove. Serve with rice or roti.



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    Amma’s Sugar Beans Curry

    Apart from Sugar Beans with potatoes, Amma had a few variations to her Sugar Beans Curry recipe. She would sometimes add dried fish to the dish. She would sometimes cook Sugar beans curry with Madumbe’s, or with halved gem squash instead of potatoes.


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