Classic refried beans. Deliciously good for body and soul.
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Optional: ½ medium yellow onion and/or 1 garlic clove, diced small. (If you are using our frijoles de la olla recipe, you may not need to add anything here – we usually don’t)
1 recipe (5-6 cups) frijoles de la olla with their broth (also include any discernable pieces of onion that may remain)
(You may substitute canned pinto beans with their broth, but be careful to read the label! Ingredients should be similar to our recipe for frijoles de la olla: beans, water, onion and oil, and maybe salt. Less is more for an authentic Mexican flavor.)
A pinch or two of salt, if needed
1. Warm a medium-large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.
No Spicy-Dorito-Ranch-Lime-Madness, Please!
The key to delicious Mexican-style beans is simplicity.
As with frijoles de la olla, true Mexican-style refried beans are very simple. The more "extra" flavors there are (such as very spicy chiles, lime, cumin, or whatever-they-put-in-Doritos!), the farther the taste will veer away from traditional refried beans.
The Mexican approach is to keep the beans deliciously simple, and save the more complicated flavors for the other toppings or dishes that are served alongside.
2. If you are using canned beans, they may benefit from sauteed onion and/or garlic. Add the onions and/or garlic to the pan and saute them briefly until soft but not brown, being careful not to burn the garlic.
3. Carefully pour the beans into the pan, along with their broth (if all the beans don’t fit, you can start with half the beans, then add more as they cook down). While the beans simmer, use a potato masher to mash the beans into a soupy puree. Keep simmering and mashing and stirring the beans for about 8-10 minutes. Do not cover the beans. As the water vapor escapes as steam, the beans will gradually thicken.
4. Refried beans are ready when the puree becomes thick and begins to dry out a bit around the edges (however, we keep them just a bit soupier if we are using them for tostadas or as a dip with chips). You will see few or no bubbles at this point, but will hear them sizzling.
5. Turn the heat to low and taste them. If you started with unsalted canned beans, they will need a pinch or two of salt. Stir it in and put the lid on askew for at least 5 minutes to let the flavors mingle. (If you started with frijoles de la olla or salted canned beans, they may not need a thing.) If they taste too salty (unlikely but possible), stir in some water and continue to simmer until they seem ready again. When they taste so good you just want to keep eating them, you are done!
6. Your Frijoles Refritos are done! Smear on tostadas or serve as a side dish with any Mexican meal (or for an American snack, serve as a dip with tortilla chips).
So ...Why "refried"?
In the 1980s, Americans were told that fat was the enemy and refried beans suddenly sounded like junk food. But it's not! The Mexican-Spanish word refritos (which the word "refried" comes from) just means thoroughly sauteed. As you can see from our recipe, they are not "fried" at all!
Refried beans are highly nutritious, with all the protein, fiber and other nutrients of whole beans. Virtuous and delicious!