Refried Beans, Not Refried

So-called refried beans are not fried twice nor even once, although many do the last step of mashing them in a hot skillet, which is kind of like frying. I guess. But it’s not necessary, especially with the availability of a food processor. I like the food-processor beans, which are creamy but still with a noticeable texture, to serve as a dip or spread, as well as a side dish, the basis of a burrito, or whatever you can think of. Even in the food processor, you can control the chunkiness to some extent by leaving out some mashed beans to stir in to the smoother processed beans.

You can make refried beans with just beans and salt, or elevate them with an endless number of additions. I would say you must use some fat—bacon fat or lard or oil—but everything else is negotiable:

  • garlic
  • onion
  • spices, like cumin, ancho, or chipotle powders
  • salsa
  • cheese
  • tomatoes

I’m just adding garlic, bacon fat, and lots of salt. We ate them as a side with chile relleno (not fried) burritos and mashed avocado. That’s two things that could have been fried, but were not.

Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: time-consuming
  • Print

Make the beans:

1/2 lb dried pinto beans

3 cups water

2 cloves garlic

  1. Rinse the beans well and sort to look for any small stones. Combine with the 3 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and turn off heat, allowing beans to soak for 1 hour.
  3. Return to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. During the last half hour, toss in the garlic cloves so they cook some before finishing the dish.

Make the refried beans:

1/2 lb cooked pinto beans

about 2 tablespoons bacon fat

2 teaspoons coarse salt—or to taste

1/4-1/2 cup bean liquor

  1. Drain the bean liquor into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the drained beans, salt, and bacon fat into a food processor.
  3. Process with 1/4 cup bean liquor, adding more to reach your desired consistency. I used 1/2 cup to reach a consistency like creamy mashed potatoes. They might dry out or thicken upon standing, so it’s a good idea to save the remaining bean liquor to stir in, if you need it. Or you could add it to other dishes.


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