Refried beans

Last night, I was on the el, starving and trying to figure out what to have for dinner after a long day. I wanted Thai food. But that would have delayed getting home and required additional time outside, in the cold, as I would have had to get out at a different stop.  And it would have required spending money unnecessarily, which I’m trying not to do.

So, no Thai. What, though? A burrito from the awesome little Mexican/Korean place around the corner? No. Same problems. Yet this sparked a thought–I had a container of cooked pinto beans in the fridge from my freezer reorganization/voyage of discovery a few days ago. Yay! This meant I could come home and have dinner within 15 minutes. Which I did. Bean burritos. (Or maybe they’re actually soft tacos? I’m not sure. No matter what you call them, though, they’re delicious. And fast.)

This recipe is based on one I found several years ago, on Stephanie O’Dea’s blog, A Year of Slow Cooking, when I got really into my crock pot/slow cooker. If you  don’t know this blog already, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s great. As the title suggests, the blog originated from a plan to use the slow cooker every day, for a year. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of great information and many, many good recipes.

Here’s the link to Stephanie’s refried beans recipe (, which you may prefer to mine. I’ve adapted my version because I found the original a bit heavy on onion and cumin and lacking in heat. Here’s the recipe.

1 lb. dried pinto beans
1 onion, skin removed, halved, core intact
10 cloves garlic
1 t. cumin
dried chilies to taste (I generally use about 7)
thumb-sized piece of kombu

1. Pick through the beans to remove any that are broken or discolored, as well as any pebbles or other debris. Rinse and place in the insert of your slow cooker. Add cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Then add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.

2. When the beans are done, remove the onion and kombu. I usually leave the garlic, which will have become sweet and mild after the long cooking. It’s also fine to have a few stray pieces of onion. I also leave the chilies, but if you’re nervous about the heat, take those out as well. Now add salt. I think you probably want to end up with about a tablespoon, but it’s best to go slow.  I have a tendency to go overboard. Yet this does require quite a bit of salt.

3. If you have time, allow the beans to cool in the salted cooking liquid, as that will permit the salt to penetrate the center of the beans. Once they’re cool, I generally divide most of the beans into containers for the freezer, making sure the beans are fully immersed in liquid.

4. When you’re ready to eat, transfer the cooked beans to a bowl. Depending on appetites, use about one cup of beans, with some cooking liquid, per person. Mash the beans with a potato masher or, for a very smooth consistency, you can use an immersion blender. Although at this point they are not actually refried, this is where I generally stop cooking. But if you like, heat 1-2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a skillet and saute the beans for a few minutes, stirring, until glossy.

Serve with warm tortillas, grated cheese (I like pepperjack), sliced avocado, salsa, chopped cilantro, and anything else you like. Such as Greek yogurt. Which, let’s face it, makes everything better.


One comment on “Refried beans

  1. […] looked in the fridge, the most tempting option was the refried beans leftover from the other night (, when I made burritos. But I wasn’t in the mood for burritos again so soon. And refried […]

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