I was having a hard time with this post because I was trying to show how sexy and important this cornerstone of Mexican food is while reconciling how easy (although time consuming) it is to prepare them. Plus it took me 10+ years to finally conjure a recipe that fit my requirements, embarrassing. Part of the long journey is due to their very name, REFRIED beans. Well guess what? Not only are they not RE-Fried, they aren’t even fried one time, so deceitful, you little legumes.
So for the requirements: Taste and Texture
Taste: I want them to have a nice flavor that is not overwhelmed or overcrowded with other elements (I made the mistake of adding onions, celery, garlic, and even carrots which makes for some nutritious eats but detracts from the goal at hand.) What reigns supreme here, is simplicity. Pinto bean flavor with a hint of garlic and salt and oil to bring it all together.
Texture: This is actually the more important element. These guys should be so creamy, you won’t even need cheese in your burritos. I thought the more oil administered, the creamier, right? Not so. In fact you can leave out the oil completely if inclined to do so. What I’ve found is the combination of a low boil + enough bean boil liquid + immersion blender = Creamy Overload. So, Let’s do dis!
Epic Refried Beans
1 lb pinto beans
1 tsp garlic powder
up to 1/4 c vegetable oil (optional)
salt to taste (I use kosher salt so if using table salt use less to start off with)
1) Cover beans by 1-2 inches water and soak overnight 6-8 hours.
2) Drain beans and cover with an inch of fresh water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a nice simmer. Nice simmer means a low boil which also means you have bubbles rising to the top but you don’t need to add water every 5 minutes. The initial boil will probably create some frothiness; skim that off the top.
3) Keep at a low boil for an hour, adding water to keep the level at an inch or more above the bean level. At this time add about 2 TBS salt.
4) Keep cooking for 1/2 hour more. At this point taste a bean to see if they need more salt and if the beans are done => done meaning that the bean is cooked through and you have brought out its own creamy nature. Add more salt if needed. If the beans are cooked through and the pot still has enough liquid to be classified as juicy then move on to the next step. If not, cook longer, adding more salt and water as is necessary, checking at 10 minute intervals. I usually add about a 1/4 c salt when it’s all said and done but I do it gradually so I don’t have a salty mess. (I know a quarter cup sounds excessive but it is a pot of beans not something that will be consumed in one sitting. Plus, you have control and can add zero salt if you want. Look at you being in charge of your own kingdom.)
5) Fun Part: Turn off beans and let them cool slightly (say 5 minutes) add the garlic powder and oil 2-4 TBS (if using) and bust out your immersion blender and watch the magic unfold. (If you don’t have an immersion blender then go out and get one. Seriously this tool is super handy and relatively inexpensive. I use it all the time. It cuts down on the danger element of pureeing, especially with soups=> no more blender burns. BUT you can also use a potato masher to transform the frijoles. Pros: caloric burn would equal caloric intake of said beans Cons: takes a much longer time to take beans to next level AND beans not quite as creamy)
Ahhh… Perfection, finally It only took a dozen years or so but it was worth it.