Refried beans is a dish of cooked and mashed beans and is a traditional staple of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, although each cuisine has a different approach when making the dish. Refried beans are also popular in many other Latin American countries.
The name is a direct calque of Spanish frijoles refritos, refritos meaning “well-fried”, and not “fried again” as might be assumed from the use of re- in English. The prefix re- could be used as an intensifier in Latin, as evident in e.g. resplendent, a meaning that has been inherited by Spanish alongside the more common meaning indicating repetition.
In this dish, after being boiled and then mashed into a paste, the beans are sometimes then fried or baked, though usually neither, thus making the term “refried” even more misleading.
Ingredients and Preparation
In northern Mexico and in American Tex-Mex cuisine, refried beans are usually prepared with pinto beans, but many other varieties of bean are used in other parts of Mexico, such as black or red beans. The raw beans can be cooked when dry or soaked overnight, then stewed, drained of most of the remaining liquid, and converted into a paste with a masher (such as a potato masher), or pressed through a fine mesh sieve (to remove the skins). Some of the drained liquid, or chicken or vegetable stock, is added if the consistency is too dry. The paste is then baked or fried with lard or vegetable oil and seasoned to taste with salt and spices.
In a home meal, refried beans typically serve as the main food accompanied by smaller, more strongly flavoured dishes, but they may also be served as a side dish accompanying a larger meal, or rolled in a tortilla to form a bean burrito.
In the US, refried beans are most commonly made from pinto beans. They are served as a side dish with most Tex-Mex restaurant meals. They also have become very popular as a dip for corn tortilla chips. Refried beans are also a primary ingredient in many tostada, chimichanga, and pupusa recipes. In addition, they are a typical ingredient in layered dips, such as 7 layer dip or in nachos.
Refried Beans Recipe
- 1 cup dried black beans (soaked)
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ white onion
- 1 teaspoon epazote
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¾ cup canola oil (for frying)
- Sort through the beans and remove any stones. Rinse them well and cover with cold water. Soak the beans for up to 8 hours (or overnight).
- If you have forgotten to soak the beans in advance, bring them to a boil over high heat for about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and continue with the recipe.
- To cook the beans, first drain the soaking liquid. Rinse and place into a medium-sized pot. Mince the garlic and onion. Add these to the pot, along with the epazote. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are almost cooked through.
- Once the beans are almost done, add the salt. When tender, drain and reserve about one cup of the cooking liquid.
- Place the beans into a food processor. Add the reserved liquid, a few tablespoons at a time. Add just enough liquid to help blend the beans. They should still be a bit chunky.
- To fry the beans, heat a small, non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the beans and stir to heat through. (You can break up the beans even more with a potato masher, if you like.) Let the beans fry for a few minutes until the excess moisture evaporates.
- Set aside and keep warm.