How to Make Refried Beans

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Refried beans are a staple in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, loved for their creamy texture, rich flavor, and versatility. Contrary to what the name suggests, refried beans aren't fried twice. Instead, the name comes from the Spanish term "refritos," which means "well-fried." These beans are typically made by cooking and mashing pinto or black beans with onions, garlic, and spices. They can be served as a side dish, used as a filling for burritos, tacos, or enchiladas, or even enjoyed on their own with tortilla chips.

Ingredients for Refried Beans:

  1. Beans:

    • 2 cups of dried pinto or black beans
    • 6 cups of water for soaking
    • Additional 6 cups of water for cooking
  2. Aromatics:

    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  3. Spices and Seasonings:

    • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
    • Salt to taste
  4. Fat:

    • 3 tablespoons of lard, bacon fat, or vegetable oil
  5. Optional Add-ins:

    • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, chopped (for heat)
    • Fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
    • Cheese (like queso fresco or cheddar), for topping

Steps to Make Refried Beans:

  1. Soaking the Beans:

    • Rinse the dried beans under cold water to remove any dirt or debris.
    • Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 6 cups of water. Allow them to soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. This helps to reduce cooking time and makes the beans easier to digest.
  2. Cooking the Beans:

    • After soaking, drain and rinse the beans.
    • In a large pot, add the beans and 6 cups of fresh water.
    • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the beans are tender.
    • Drain the beans, reserving some of the cooking liquid.
  3. Preparing the Aromatics:

    • While the beans are cooking, heat the lard, bacon fat, or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
    • Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
    • Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Mashing the Beans:

    • Add the cooked beans to the skillet with the aromatics.
    • Using a potato masher or the back of a spoon, mash the beans until they reach your desired consistency. If the mixture seems too dry, add some of the reserved cooking liquid to achieve a creamy texture.
  5. Seasoning the Beans:

    • Stir in the ground cumin, chili powder, and salt to taste.
    • If using a pepper for heat, add it at this stage.
    • Continue to cook the beans, stirring frequently, for another 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
  6. Final Touches and Serving:

    • Once the beans are cooked to your liking, remove the skillet from heat.
    • Garnish with fresh cilantro and cheese, if desired.
    • Serve the refried beans hot as a side dish or use them as a filling for your favorite Mexican dishes like burritos, tacos, or enchiladas.

Tips and Variations:

  • Canned Beans: If you're short on time, you can use canned pinto or black beans instead of dried beans. Just make sure to drain and rinse them before using.

  • Vegetarian/Vegan Option: Replace lard or bacon fat with vegetable oil to make the refried beans vegetarian or vegan-friendly.

  • Spicy Variation: For an extra kick, add more chili powder or use hotter peppers like habanero instead of jalapeño or serrano.

  • Creamy Texture: For a smoother texture, you can blend the cooked beans in a food processor or blender before adding them to the skillet.

Refried beans are a versatile and flavorful dish that can elevate any meal with their rich and creamy texture. Whether you prefer them as a side dish or as a filling in your favorite Mexican dishes, making refried beans at home allows you to customize the flavors to your liking. With these simple steps and tips, you'll be able to enjoy delicious homemade refried beans in no time!