Refried beans are an iconic dish of Northern Mexico. It’s one of the best things to go with tortilla chips. So, what are refried beans made of?
Refried beans contain cooked and mashed pinto beans. The beans are boiled, fried, or baked with onion, garlic, vegetable oil, butter or lard, salt, spices, and seasonings. They’re then mashed into a paste. The traditional recipe uses pinto beans, but black, Peruano, and red kidney beans may also be used.
Let’s now take a closer look at the main ingredients in refried beans.
Main Ingredients In Refried Beans
Apart from Northern Mexico, refried beans are also an integral part of Tex-Mex and Latin American cuisines.
They’re usually served as a side for tacos or used as a burrito or tortilla filling.
They also work as a dip for nachos and tortilla chips.
The rich and indulgent nature of refried beans makes them very popular as comfort food.
Traditional Mexican refried beans recipes use pinto beans.
However, other types of beans will also work in this recipe.
You can use black beans, Peruano beans, or red kidney beans for the same recipe.
However, the taste and texture of the dish will slightly vary when you use these beans instead of pinto beans.
Most refried beans are smooth, rich, and creamy, which makes them work as a dip or spread.
However, the texture is a matter of personal preference, and you can adjust it when you cook refried beans at home.
In some recipes, it can be a combination of mashed and pureed beans. These are coarser in texture.
While beans are the main ingredient for this dish, the recipe also uses various other items.
Traditional Mexican refried beans use lard for the base because it enhances the flavor.
However, other fats like butter, vegetable oil, or bacon drippings can also be used instead of lard.
Refried beans will always have onion and garlic.
In addition to it, spices and herbs like cumin, black pepper, and oregano may also be used as seasonings.
If the beans end up being too thick, you can adjust the consistency by using the liquid used for boiling the beans, or vegetable or chicken stock.
In traditional recipes, epazote is used to add flavor.
This ingredient also helps to reduce bloating and gas problems commonly linked to the consumption of beans and lentils.
How Are Refried Beans Made?
The recipe for refried beans is not too complex. It involves the following steps.
- The process of making refried beans begins by soaking the beans overnight. This gives enough time for the beans to absorb water and grow big.
- The soaked beans are then cooked and stewed in water till soft. Spices and aromatics are also added to the liquid at this stage. After cooking the beans, the excess liquid is drained away.
- The next step is to convert the beans into a paste. This can be done with a potato masher, or you can press the beans through a mesh sieve to remove the skin and leave the pulpy part behind.
- Depending on the consistency of the beans, you can use liquids like chicken broth or vegetable stock to reduce the thickness.
- Once the paste achieves the desired consistency, the rest of the ingredients like onion and garlic in lard, butter, oil, or any fat are added. Different seasoning agents are also added to the beans at this stage. The oil or fat you choose will affect the flavor of the beans. Neutral-tasting oils like olive oil and vegetable oil will allow the flavor of the beans to shine through. Butter adds a creamy flavor, while lard and bacon fat produce a meaty flavor.
- Once the bean paste is cooked and blended with the spices, it’s ready to serve and enjoy.
How Did Refried Beans Get Their Name?
The term “refried” is often misleading because it makes us believe that the beans are deep-fried or cooked in oil.
However, this is not the case.
The “re” in refried beans is adopted from Spanish, where the term suggests that the beans are “well-fried,” not twice-fried.
Refried beans are cooked twice. The soaked beans are first cooked to make them soft.
They’re then re-cooked or fried with oil and seasonings. Hence the usage of the term “refried.”
Are Refried Beans Good?
Refried beans have been a staple in Mexican cuisine for generations.
It’s an inevitable part of the food of this region and is consumed as a good source of nutrition.
However, are they good?
It depends on how you prepare refried beans.
The nutrient content of the dish depends on the type of beans used, the cooking method, the amount of fat used for frying, and the added flavors.
In general, beans are a storehouse of protein, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
They’re rich in iron, magnesium, and fiber.
However, their nutritional benefits are affected by the other ingredients in the recipe.
Most refried bean recipes use lard, a calorie-dense fat.
Lard is rich in saturated fat, and consuming it in large quantities can have adverse effects.
Refried beans can also be made using oils and other types of fats.
Using olive oil or sunflower oil reduces the saturated fat content of the overall dish and can turn out to be a good option.
If we compare homemade refried beans to store-bought refried beans, the homemade variety is usually good.
Packaged beans will usually have ingredients like nitrates, nitrites, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and artificial flavoring agents.
These may be added for aesthetic purposes as well as to increase the shelf-life of the product.
However, they may trigger side effects.
When preparing refried beans at home, you have complete control over the ingredients that go into the recipe.
You can also control the fat and oil content, which makes it a much better option.
How To Use Refried Beans?
Refried beans are a very versatile pantry ingredient.
You can use them in a variety of ways and even eat them on their own.
You can serve them hot, cold, or at room temperature. They work well as a quick appetizer or snack.
You can also add them to salads, side dishes, and much more.
They can be the star of the show or be used as a dip, side-dish, filling, or garnish.
The easiest way to serve them is as a side for a main meat or vegetable dish, like steak or chicken.
You can also have them as a side with plain rice or Mexican rice.
Another way to use them is in fillings for burritos and tacos. Smooth refried beans will work as a dip for nachos.
Canned refried beans will last for a long time when unopened.
However, you must refrigerate them after opening the can and use them within three to five days.
Homemade refried beans will usually hold up for three to five days when you store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.