Refried beans can turn a meal out of a quick quesadilla or bowl of brown rice with cheese and salsa. Slather them on a torta or toast and top them with cheese, or turn them into a dip or quick soup. The possibilities are endless. Cook a batch on Sunday to keep on hand for spicing up dishes all week.
Canned refried beans aren't much to speak of—usually little more than beans mashed up with sugar and lard or vegetable oil.
So, make your own.
Homemade refried beans take moments to prepare. Simply drain a can or two of beans and blend them to a paste with a grated garlic clove, a pinch of brown sugar, a glug of extra-virgin olive oil, and a tablespoon or two of lime juice or water to thin. If you’d like, add a pinch each of whole or ground cumin and coriander seeds. Scrape the paste into a hot nonstick skillet and fry for a few minutes to blend the flavors.
You can use pinto beans or black beans using this method. If you’re starting with dry beans, remember to soak them, and here’s a pro-tip we picked up from cookbook author Joan Nathan: If you tend to forget to soak beans the night before you’re ready to cook, try soaking them right away when you get home from the supermarket, and store them in the freezer. That way, they’ll be ready when you need them—all you need to do is warm them in salted simmering water.
Also note that if you’re using black beans, as in our Oaxacan refried black beans, they don’t need to be soaked beforehand. They soften readily when cooked without a soak.