I have nothing against food that comes in cans, especially when it comes to beans, but refried beans are something that I absolutely prefer making myself. Beyond just tasting "better", you can manipulate them to suit your specific palate as you adjust the seasonings, aromatics and - most importantly - the fat.
Photo: Herson Rodriguez (Unsplash)
If you're strapped for time, you can use a can of pinto beans, but the "refrying" step is something you should take the reins on. Refry your beans in lard, bacon grease, vegetable oil (for my veggie friends), duck fat (for me), or even butter. Heck, you want a hybrid fat situation? Fry those babies in bacon butter.
You're also free to mess around with seasonings and aromatics. Onion and garlic are a must, but I also like to add a bay leaf while they're sizzling, along with a healthy pinch of cumin and a sprig of oregano, though sometimes I omit those two if I'm after a purer, bean-forward flavour. To make your own, you will need:
- 2 cups cooked pinto beans (or one can)
- 1 tablespoon of your favourite oil, be that lard, bacon grease, chicken schmaltz, duck fat, vegetable oil or butter
- 1/4 of an onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 sprig of fresh oregano
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
- Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a sauce pan or Dutch oven until shimmering, and add onion, garlic, oregano, bay leaf and cumin. Season with salt. Cook until the garlic is browned the onions are soft, and you scan smell the aromatics.
Add the beans, season with salt, and cook until they are thoroughly heated and begin to fall apart a bit. Remove the bay leaf and oregano, and mash the beans to your desired consistency with either a potato masher or immersion blender. Taste and add more salt if needed.
If the beans are too thick, stir in a tablespoon of water. I like a smooth base texture with some chunky morsels strewn throughout, so I usually remove half the beans, obliterate those with my immersion blender, and roughly mash the rest with a wooden spoon before stirring it all back together.
Use your beans as the base for some excellent nachos, huevos rancheros, or just eat them with some high-quality tortillas.