I am sad to say that I don’t make the best refried beans in the world. I make some pretty good beans, but they are not the best. That honor, in my humble opinion, goes to the Salinas family in Phoenix, Arizona. They have been making those delectable frijoles at their unmarked but über popular restaurant, Rito’s, since 1983. As a matter of fact, every time I go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant, I want to taste the beans first. If they don’t get them right, I am skeptical about the rest of the meal. What can I say? I am passionate about refried beans.
The perfect beans, according to me, are not dry and crusty around the edges, and they definitely don’t taste like they came out of a can. I love them when they are moist, even a bit runny, and bursting with tastiness. What traditionally gave refried beans a ton of flavor was lard. When saturated fat became a no-no, many people replaced it with vegetable, corn oil or olive oil. My updated version uses coconut oil with delightful results. If you are worried about the fat in the recipe, don’t. The fat brings out the flavor and keeps us full long after we’re done eating.
This is a recipe for a simple pot of ‘refried’ beans. They really aren’t refried, but simmered to perfection. There are more complex bean recipes out there, but in my experience, making beans more complicated doesn’t necessarily make them taste better. What you should do, however, is make sure you have fresh beans. Check the date on the bag. If they are old, they will take longer to cook and never taste as fresh as they should. Use the whole bag of beans so you don’t get left with small amounts that are aging in your cupboard. Also, you must be patient with your beans. They take a long time to cook, and one of the secrets to a good refried bean is that they simmer until done. Make them when you have time, and keep them to warm up throughout the week.
1 lb. bag of fresh pinto beans
3 quarts of water
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup organic coconut oil
1 tbsp. Himalayan salt or sea salt
sprinkle of cinnamon
2 or 3 organic corn tortillas
1. Open the bag of beans and sort through them to remove any broken beans, rocks or other debris. Once you’ve done this, place the beans in a large pot.
2. Add three quarts of water to the pot. Place it on the stove top over medium-low heat.
3. Let the beans cook, stirring occasionally. Turn the fire down if the beans begin to boil too rapidly. Add more water if the water level gets too low before the beans soften and turn a nice pinkish-brown. It make take an hour and a half or longer for your beans to cook to this point. Just keep checking.
4. When the beans are tender and brownish in color, turn the fire down to low. Add the diced onion, garlic cloves and salt.
5. In a skillet, melt 1/4 cup of coconut oil over medium heat. Tear the corn tortillas into strips or cut into chips and fry them until they just turn golden. Sprinkle cinnamon over them and mix them around. Remove the tortilla pieces from the skillet to drain them, being careful to preserve as much oil as possible.
6. Pour the oil from the skillet into the bean pot. Let the beans simmer for about an hour and a half, or until the liquid has begun to thicken. Make sure to stir the pot occasionally so that the beans don’t stick.
7. When the liquid has thickened, it is time to mash the beans. Turn off the fire. Use a bean masher and press and swirl it around the pot until there are few whole beans visible, and your garlic is nowhere to be seen. As your beans begin to cool, a film will form across the top. That means you’ve made a good pot of beans.
8. You can do anything you want with those tortilla chips you made. The process was used just to flavor the oil. If you skip that step, your beans will not be as flavorful.
9. Enjoy your beans garnished as you desire. Add a little salsa, a few sprinkles of fresh cheese or some green onions and cilantro.
Note: There is an herb called epazote that some people like to add to their beans. If you can find it fresh or dried, feel free to add a bit. You can cook the beans in the crock pot, but only to the point of being tender. You will have to transfer them to the stove to simmer them with the other ingredients.
As always, you can get very creative with your bean recipe by adding jalapeños or chipotles in adobo sauce, or other herbs and spices.