Pinto beans, prepared Mexican style, are such a staple in our house a week rarely goes by without my mother making up a batch. Although beans have a relatively long shelf life, the older they are the longer you’ll have to cook them to get them to soften. Find a source that supplies fresh beans. If you have some that have been sitting around for more than a year, they’ll be tough and not as good, you’ll need to cook them longer.
“Refried” is actually a misnomer. In this instance, refritos means “well fried”, not “refried”, though you can certainly reheat the beans as you go through a batch. Before frying them though you’ll need to cook them, in water, to soften them. There are basically two ways to initially cook the beans – with a pressure cooker and without. Since we make beans so often, we use a pressure cooker. It greatly cuts down on the cooking time. Here are directions for both methods.
We use bacon fat in this recipe, though you can easily use olive oil or lard. Although the recipe only calls for 2 Tbsp, we find that the flavor is greatly enhanced with the addition of a couple more tablespoons of bacon fat, just for flavor. You can also get some smokey flavor in the beans by adding a bit of chipotle powder, sauce, or chipotle Tabasco.
- 2 1/2 cups of dry pinto beans (about 1 lb or 450gm)
- 3 quarts of water
- 1/2 cup chopped onion (optional)
- 2 Tbsp (or more to taste) pork lard, bacon fat, or olive oil (for vegetarian option)
- 1/4 cup water
- Salt to taste
- Cheddar cheese (optional)
1 Rinse the beans in water and remove any small stones, pieces of dirt, or bad beans.
2 Cook the beans in water. Regular method Put beans into a pot and cover beans with at least 3 inches of water - about 3 quarts for 2 1/2 cups of dry beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours. The cooking time will vary depending on the batch of beans you have. The beans are done when they are soft and the skin is just beginning to break open. Pressure Cooker method Put beans into a 4 quart pressure cooker with a 15 lb weight. Fill up the pressure cooker with water, up to the line that indicates the capacity for the pot. Cook for 30-35 minutes - until the beans are soft and the skins are barely breaking open. Allow the pressure cooker to cool completely before opening. If there is resistance when attempting to open the cooker, do not open it, allow it to cool further. Follow the directions for your brand of pressure cooker. (See safety tips on using pressure cookers.)
Strain the beans from the cooking water.
3 Add the onions and lard/fat/oil to a wide, sturdy (not with a flimsy stick-free lining) frying pan on medium high heat. Cook onions until translucent. (Note the onions are optional, you can skip them if you want.) Add the strained beans and about a 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Using a potato masher, mash the beans in the pan, while you are cooking them, until they are a rough purée. Add more water if necessary to keep the fried beans from getting too dried out. Add salt to taste. Add a few slices of cheddar cheese, or some (1/2 cup) grated cheddar cheese if you want. When beans are heated through (and optional cheese melted) the beans are ready to serve.
Note that many recipes call for soaking the beans overnight and discarding the soaking liquid. We don't. We discard the cooking liquid and just add some water back into the frying pan when we are frying the beans.