Refried beans, or frijoles refritos, are a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine, a reliable accompaniment to everything from enchilada dinners to combo plates and a perfect companion to a side of rice. Some are nearly as smooth as a puree, others are hearty and chunky, and, of course, they come in a variety of flavors and types from one place to the next.
Refried black beans are thick and almost have a hue of purple to them—great when topped with a little queso fresco. Refried pintos are the more common version, some cooked with onions and garlic, some with chunks of fresh jalapeño, some topped with a healthy pile of melty cheese. Refried pintos and cheese wrapped up in a warm tortilla make the favorite kiddie breakfast taco (not just for kiddies, of course—they’re still one of my favorites today).
Refried beans, contrary to the sound of their name, are not twice-fried beans. They’re essentially just cooked beans of some variety, mashed and recooked, often in a bit of fat in a frying pan. They were traditionally made with lard in the Tex-Mex tradition, although health concerns in recent years prompted many restaurants to switch to other fats. You can still get them the old fashioned way at my dad’s restaurant El Real Vintage Tex Mex in Houston, which uses house-rendered lard from locally raised heritage pigs.
Refrying is super easy. You certainly don’t have to use lard, and it’s not relegated to just making frijoles refritos. The first time I made lentil dahl, I noticed that it’s really just the Indian iteration of refried beans, cooked in ghee with onions and spices. Refrying is also the method we’ll use tomorrow for making Tri-Bean Dip.
Ready to try? Here’s how you refry:
Step 1: For each cup of beans, heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil, lard, bacon fat, or other fat of choice in a cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat.
Step 2: If you’d like to add onions, garlic, or peppers, chop and cook in the fat until softened. Add desires spice(s).
Step 3: Drain cooked beans, reserving the liquid, and add to the hot pan. Use a potato masher or fork to smash the beans as you cook them, adding liquid as needed to achieve the consistency you like. Save leftover liquid as a broth for soups or to make more beans.
That’s it! Try thinking outside the box and refrying other legumes to breathe new life into leftovers or a big pot. Check back tomorrow to try our refried bean dip, made from lentils, mung beans, and adzuki beans