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Refried Black Beans are the unsung hero of countless Mexican dishes. They may seem simple, but when prepared right, they offer an incredible depth of flavor. As they simmer and mingle with aromatic spices like cumin and smoked paprika, their texture turns rich and creamy, offering a comforting warmth to any meal.
This dish isn't just a staple for burritos and tacos; it holds its own as a standout appetizer. Whether you're using it as a base for another creation or serving it solo, you'll appreciate the authentic taste and versatility of these beans.
Ingredients You Need to Make Refried Black Beans
- Black Beans: Either canned with liquid for convenience, or freshly cooked black beans with cooking liquid.
- Olive Oil: Ideally extra-virgin for the best flavor; alternatives are bacon fat or non-hydrogenated lard.
- White Onion: Look for a fresh, firm bulb with a smooth, shiny surface.
- Garlic: Choose plump cloves with tight skin.
- Ground Cumin: Look for a vibrant brown color and strong, earthy aroma to ensure freshness.
- Smoked Paprika: Ensure it's fresh for optimal aroma and taste.
- Crushed Red Pepper: Use more or less to suit your heat preference.
- Fresh Cilantro: Look for bright green leaves without any yellowing or wilting.
- Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
What exactly are "refried beans"?
Refried beans, a staple in many Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, are beans that have been cooked and mashed to a creamy consistency. Despite the name "refried," these beans are not fried twice.
They're typically first soaked and boiled, then mashed and fried, often in lard or oil, with spices and seasonings added for flavor. The result is a smooth and rich side dish that complements a variety of foods, from tacos and burritos to rice dishes and more. The term "refried" comes from the Spanish word "refritos", meaning "well-fried," and not "fried again" as it might suggest.
- Bean Choice: While canned black beans are convenient, using freshly cooked black beans (see instructions below) can elevate the dish's flavor and texture. If you have the time, it's worth the effort. (And if you love pinto beans, see this recipe for Homemade Refried Beans or Slow Cooker Pinto Beans.)
- Consistency: The beans will thicken as they cool. If you find them too thick after resting, you can add a bit of water or broth during reheating to achieve your desired consistency.
- Mashing: For smoother beans, use a food processor. If you prefer a chunkier texture, mash them in the pan with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.
- Oil Choice: While olive oil is commonly used, bacon fat or good quality lard can give your refried beans a richer, more traditional flavor.
How to Cook Dry Black Beans
Combine 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 quarts of water for 1 pound of dry black beans. After soaking the beans in this solution overnight, rinse them the next day. Then, place the beans in a slow cooker, adding water just enough to submerge them by an inch, and let them cook on a low setting until they soften. Cooking time for dried beans can vary significantly, usually between 3 to 6 hours, depending on how old the beans are.
If you prefer, they can be baked in an oven at 300˚F using an ovenproof pot with a snug lid. Check their softness often after the 3-hour mark. You'll get approximately 6 ½ cups of beans once cooked. Enjoy right away, refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
How to Store and Reheat
Store leftover refried beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, warm on the stovetop over medium-low heat, adding a splash of water or broth if needed. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Perfectly Paired With
- Carne Asada
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Carne Asada Nachos
- Shrimp Tacos
- Chorizo Tacos
- Chicken Tostadas
- Rice Cooker Mexican Rice or Mexican Cauliflower Rice
How to Make Refried Black Beans
In a pan over medium heat, warm olive oil. Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Mix in cumin, paprika, and red pepper. Add beans with their liquid; cook until they soften, roughly 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Process the beans for a smoother texture or mash in the pan. Top with onion and cilantro (optional); serve.
Refried Black Beans
- ¼ cup olive oil or bacon fat or non-hydrogenated lard
- ½ onion very finely chopped, plus more for garnish, optional
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- pinch crushed red pepper
- 2 cans cooked black beans with liquid (recipe note #1), or freshly cooked black beans with cooking liquid (recipe note #2)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- chopped cilantro for garnish, optional
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in cumin, smoked paprika and crushed red pepper. Add black beans along with some or all of the can liquid (recipe note #1). Cook and stir until beans are heated through and begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Transfer bean mixture to food processor and pulse until beans reach desired consistency and return to pan. Or mash beans in the pan with the back of a spoon or a potato masher to your desired consistency. Serve garnished with onion and cilantro if desired.
- I like my refried beans very creamy and use all of the can liquid. For a drier consistency, drain and reserve can liquid and add a little at a time to reach your desired consistency. Also note that the beans will thicken as they cool.
- To cook beans with the salt soak method: soak dry beans overnight in a ratio of 1 pound of dry beans to 6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of fine sea salt. The next day, give them a quick rinse and cover them by 1-inch in a slow cooker. Then cook on low until tender.
- Store leftover refried beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat in a skillet: cook and stir over medium-low heat adding water or broth a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. When hot, adjust seasoning and serve.