Dried pinto beans are turned into homemade refried beans by cooking in a spicy broth before smashing them into creamy goodness.
Cooking refried beans is really easier than it looks, especially when everything is cooked in one pan. Refried beans are not actually fried or refried. The only oil used is to add some creaminess to the beans.
We don’t use canned beans in our refried beans recipe. We start with dried beans because we want to cook the flavors into the beans and control the saltiness ourselves.
Refried beans don’t require a ton of ingredients.
Dried pinto beans, onion, garlic, a little bit of oil, and some spices are all you need.
No Need to Soak
I don’t follow any conventional wisdom when it comes to soaking beans. I don’t do it with ham and beans so I don’t feel it needs to be done here either.
I don’t buy into the argument that beans that aren’t soaked are “less desirable.”
Refried beans takes a bit of simmering anyway, so what’s an extra hour? Besides, one extra hour of cooking time sure beats not being able to make refried beans because you forgot to soak beans last night. Ha!
If soaking beans is something that MUST be done, that’s fine, just reduce the initial cooking time by about an hour.
I suppose you could even use canned beans, but now you might as well cook someone else’s recipe. If I want something out of the can I’ll just buy refried beans in the can and save myself a whole lot of trouble.
Secret for Creamy Beans
A guy I meet in New Orleans gave me his secret for making creamy beans. He told me that the only way to get truly creamy beans is to use oil during the last hour or so of cooking. Now, we were talking about large lima beans, but now it’s something I do with most of my bean recipes.
The addition of oil is especially important when you aren’t using any kind of meat or other fat during the cooking process. When we make ham and beans we use ham hocks and those give lots of flavor but they also give some fat to the dish.
Fat is what makes things taste good because it helps spread the flavor over the taste buds.
We aren’t adding fat to a pan and cooking these beans a second time, so the oil needs to be added during the simmering process.
Adding oil ensures ceamy refried beans every time.
Not Actually Fried or Refried
Since refried beans aren’t actually fried in oil, this recipe only uses one pan. The beans will be started in a pan and finished off in the same pan.
Refried beans aren’t even fried once, let alone a second time. They are really well cooked beans that have been smashed into a paste that’s perfect for bean burritos. The term refried beans is just a direct, although bad, translation of Fijoles Refritos.
The beans are simply boiled in water for a minute or so and then simmered until they are tender. This takes 1 to 1 ½ hours depending on the age of the beans.
You may have to add some water as the pinto beans cooked. I normally have to add a couple of cups at least once during the initial cooking. You just want to make sure that the beans stay covered in water during this time so they don’t dried out or stick to the bottom of the pan.
If they need a little more time or water, it’s ok, just give them what they need!
Once the beans are tender, you don’t want to add any more water because you don’t want watery refried beans.
Just add the oil and seasonings and reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook just until most of the liquid is gone. You’ll know when they are almost done, some of the beans will start to burst open and they may even start to stick a bit to the bottom of the pan. It’s OK, this is what want to happen!
Reduce the heat to as low as it will go. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently to cook off as much of that water as possible.
Then remove from the heat and smash the rest of the beans with a potato masher, a whisk, or even a fork. Now they are ready!
- TIP – If you want to serve Ranch style beans rather than refried beans, add about 4 ounces of diced bacon or salt pork during the last half of cooking and remove the beans from the heat as soon as the beans are tender and there is some liquid left, not too much though or you will have pinto bean soup instead.
Place the refried beans into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They will start to lose their quality after a day or so. The will start to spoil by day 4. If you have had them this long, just throw them out.
To store your refried beans in the freezer, just put them into an airtight freezer container after they have cooled and stick them in the freezer.
Refried beans will have the best quality if they are used within 2 months. Throw them out if it has been longer than 3 months.
Place the beans into a microwave safe bowl and reheat at full power in 30 second increments, stopping and stirring between each interval.
The time it takes will depend on how many you are trying to reheat at once. A single serving size should be done in 60 to 90 seconds.
Add the refried beans to a small pan or skillet and add a little bit of water.
I use about 1 tablespoon of water per cup of leftover refried beans. Heat the beans over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through.
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One-Pot Mexican Refried Beans
- Pick through the beans and remove any rocks or bad beans. Bad beans are those that are shriveled, broken, or off in color.
- Place the beans into a colander and rinse, then place into a large pan.
- Add the onions and garlic to the pot.
- Add 8 cups of water and bring to a hard boil.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the beans start to get tender. Add water as necessary to keep the beans submerged in water. I usually have to have 2 to 3 cups during this part.
- Once the beans are mostly tender, add the remaining ingredients and reduce the heat to medium-low and slow simmer the beans, stirring frequently for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the beans and some of the beans start to break and stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently for another 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone.
- Remove the beans from the heat and mash with a potato masher