Refried Beans

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.

Many recipes call for soaking the beans overnight and discarding the soaking liquid. We don't. There is no need to pre-soak the beans. Here's a great explanation why by Russ Parsons from the LA Times.

  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 6 cups of refried beans.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups of dry pinto beans (about 1 lb or 450gm)
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) pork lard, bacon fat, or extra virgin olive oil (for vegetarian option)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Cheddar cheese (optional)

Method

1 Rinse beans: Rinse the beans in water and remove any small stones, pieces of dirt, or bad beans.

2 Cook the beans on the stove top or in the pressure cooker:

Stove Top Method - Put beans into a pot and cover 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 or larger pressure cooker with a 15 lb weight. Fill the pressure cooker with water up to the line that indicates the capacity for the pot (about two thirds of the way). Cook for 30 to 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 How to Make Fast No Soak Beans in a Pressure Cooker.)

Either method - Strain the beans from the cooking water.

3 Sauté onions in fat: Add the onions and lard/fat/oil to a wide, sturdy frying pan (not a flimsy nonstick) on medium high heat. Cook onions until translucent. (Note the onions are optional, you can skip them if you want.)

4 Add beans, mash them in pan: 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.

mash cooked pinto beans for refried beans mash cooked beans with onions and fat to make the best refried beans

5 Add water, salt, cheese: 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.