Most people, I figured out, had never tried great, homemade refried beans. The stuff that comes out of cans? It looks like brown paste and tastes like it too. What they serve at “Mexican” restaurants out here? Ah dios mio. Half the dishes don’t come with any beans at all and when they do, they are as enjoyable as cardboard.
That’s when I knew that I had to learn to make them at home. But as much as I tried, I couldn’t get them just right. They ended up too dry at the end, missing that sublime creaminess. Or they would just end up too desabridos, which sort of means “missing flavor”. So I took my most recent trip home as a chance to master this simple food.
I’ve mentioned before what a great cook my mom is. She is also a very healthy cook. She was a Mexican cook ahead of her times, lowering the amount of saturated fat, salt and sugar in her cooking. Some purists will argue that authentic refried beans must be made with lard or bacon grease. Well, I grew up in a Mexican family and, for me, refried beans have always been made with vegetable oil. And just a bit of oil, at that.
For this recipe, you first need to make a pot of the basic beans from my last post.
I usually make a pot of beans one night and then make refried beans the next night, to break up the long cooking time. But you can also do it in one day. You will use half of the beans you made (I’m going to assume you want the rest of the beans for other recipes). Reserve the cooking liquid! This is super important. You need the liquid the beans cooked in! You need to save at least 3 cups of the cooking liquid.
Tonight, I will serve these beans alongside chile rellenos. During the week, I’ll eat them with an egg for a high protein breakfast that will stick with me until lunch. Then, I’ll stuff whole wheat tortillas with refried beans and a bit of cheese for healthy lunches that I’ll freeze. You can also make tacos, quesadillas, tortas, gorditas and dips. Also, check out these delicious Mexican favorites that use lots of refried beans:
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups beans along with 3 cups of the cooking liquid (from my basic bean recipe)
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil (olive, safflower or canola oil)
- 1/4 small onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, minced (You can also substitute a 1/2 teaspoon chili powder for a milder flavor)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
1. Heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and jalapeño and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Turn off the heat and let it cool.
2. Add the beans and their liquid. Bring the beans to a boil, uncovered.
3. Lower the heat until they are simmering. Using a masher like a potato masher, mash the beans until nearly all the beans have been broken up.
4. Continue simmering the beans, uncovered, over medium-low heat for ten minutes. Stir occasionally as the beans thicken.
5. Turn off the heat and let the beans cool. They will probably still seem too soupy. Be patient, they will thicken as they cool.
Yields: 4 cups
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Calories 143, Carbs 23g, Fat 2g, Protein 9g