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How Do You Make Mexican Restaurant Refried Beans?

  • d

i have no problem making Mexican food at home - but i have never been able to get refried beans to taste "right" - like a restaurant. i'm from Los Angeles - so my favorite refried beans are made from pinto beans. they are a very smooth/fluid consistency with no whole beans. i can't really describe the taste. does anyone know what i'm talking about and how to make these at home?

oh - and canned beans are NOT what i'm looking for.

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      1. re: GG Mora

        ok - but what do you do with the lard? what's the ratio of lard:bean? is there a good brand of lard?

        1. re: dtud

          You make good lard yourself from pork fat.

          1. re: dtud

            Yes, you can render your own lard (which I will be doing next week...a local farm is offing its first pig om Tuesday and I have dibs on the fat!). Barring that, you can get sometimes get good lard from a butcher or from a grocery in a neighborhood with a Mexican or Latino population. Barring that, you can buy the sanitized lard (Sno-Cap or some such) from a chain grocery, and then throw it in a roasting pan with some very fatty country-style ribs and cook low and slow until the fat is rendered.

            Using a couple of tablespoons of lard, sauté some chopped white onion and garlic until soft, then cook about 4 cups of cooked beans, adding a little at a time along with some of the cooking liquid; mash the baens as you go along.

            The best refried beans are like a soft pudding.

            1. re: GG Mora

              I make mine much the same way: lard, black beans and liquid, plus some epazote for flavor. Sometimes I use pinto beans, but I love the black. I like to make them right before serving.
              www. littlecomptonmornings. blogspot.com

        2. re: babette feasts

          I use bacon grease. Always looking for excuses to cook up some bacon to snack on...

          (Bacon grease + onions + garlic + cooked pintos + water) + (cook down the water a bit) + (potato masher) = (my refried beans)

          1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

            That's nearly exactly what I do, but I add a sliced jalapeno.

            I was taught a trick: always just keep the beans covered with water throughout the cook. Keep a kettle of water at a near boil and continually top off the beans throughout the cook until they can absorb no more water, and then they're basically ready for mashing.

            1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

              Lard is best, but a little bacon fat gilds the lily beautifully

          2. I cook the beans (bring water to boil, add beans and 1 tsp salt/lb of beans, and bake at 250 till done, about 2.5 hours) As the beans approach being done, I saute onions and a little garlic. Strain the beans reserving the liquid. Add the beans to the onions and mash somewhat. Thin out with reserved bean liquid. Add cumin and chili to taste. Adjust salt. Add some fresh, chopped coriander.

            1. For the smooth consistency, you need to mash them. There's a metal tool called a bean masher.

              For the flavor, you need good-quality fresh-rendered lard.

              1. Get your butcher to give you some pork fat trimmings. If there's a little meat attached, so much the better. Add that to the pot when you start cooking the beans. Discard before mashing the beans.

                1. I love refritos and make them all the time. If I have bacon at home, I'll cook and remove it from the pan, then saute onions, garlic, and chilies in the fat, add one or 2 cans of pinto beans, some chicken stock and simmer a bit. After that, I puree them in the blender and they come out super creamy. I usually add coriander and cumin to the sauteing veggies too. If I don't have bacon on hand, I'll use olive oil and the results are still very tasty.

                  1. Being Southern Mexican I perfer Frijoles Colados made with black beans to Refried Beans.

                    What I do is boil my beans with lots of onion, lard and epazote. Then, once they are done, purree them (Beans and Onions) in a blender with just a bit of juice to loosen it up. Then, I add to a skillet with heated olive oil and garlic and just wait for them to REALLY thicknen... it's Heaven...

                    My mother grew up Chicana, so she used pintos for refritos for ages. What she would do is boil her beans with just water and a bit of lard. Then, she would get little pieces of fatty pork belly and make 'chicharones' rendering all the fat and leaving little crispy bits of belly. Then she would add the cooked beans right into the mixture and mash with something that resembled a potato masher.

                    But over the last few years she's been dealing with Cholestorol problems, so she's stopped witht he Chicarones and switched from Pinto to Peruvian Beans. She uses olive oil as her 'refrito' medium and also adds garlic to the oil (From me!) and then adds the Preuvian Beans and mashes. The Peruvian Beans have this WONDERFUL creamy texture she likes and makes her not miss her Chicharones... :)


                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Dommy

                      Here in Michoacan, all my Mexican neighbors and me, too, use Peruano beans. So much more flavor and a creamy texture.
                      We get fresh lard from the butcher here. I have to take my own plastic container. I think I'm the only one to buy 1/4 kilo at a time.

                      1. re: Dommy

                        Interesting. I've never heard of "Peruvian beans". I worked with small bean farmers near the center of origin for beans (Cajamarca). Among them, they had 220 separate varieties at the time. What is the "Peruvian bean" like in terms of size, color (s), and shape?

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Peruanos go by several names. Canario=Maicabo=mayocoba=azufrado.
                          Smaller than a pinto, larger than a navy bean. The color dry is yellowish, sometimes pinkish. Cooks up very tender and pink. See www.foodsubs.com for a picture.

                          1. re: Pampatz

                            Thanks, Pampatz. I know that bean; and now I know what hit us. We did our research in Cajamarca, Peru, on farmers' maintenance and reliance on a large number (220) of traditional varieties (landraces) and on how to conserve them locally (en situ) more than 10 years ago. It was the Canario and its market/financial attractiveness to small farmers that led to the demise of most of the traditionals. It was a sad chapter in my life as a agricultural researcher.

                              1. re: Pampatz

                                all the big stores in Veracruz sell them.

                            1. re: Dommy

                              It all sounds fantastic, Dommy. I have eaten beans with epazote in them and love the taste it lends, but can never find epazote in the market. I just haven't looked hard enough considering I live in LA and there are many Mexican markets around.

                              What are Peruvian beans like?

                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                Epazote is actually not that easy to find at the markets. I usually get it from Herb ladies on the street or in a pinch used the Dried Penzeys (Don't use the dried in the markets).

                                Peruvian beans are WONDERFUL. Very creamy and they taste almost bacony. The only drawback is they tend to be a little more slippery than Pinto Beans, so they don't really do a good job as the 'glue' in a burrito... but otherwise, it's a great sub.


                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                  Epazote grows like a weed. I bought it once, decided it was disgusting, and never planted it again, but it came back up year after year for years. I don't think we have any left any more, but I'm not going to make any bets.

                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    Why was it disgusting? The smell of the plant is like turpentine, but when cooked, all that goes away and what's left is a wonderful flavor.

                                1. re: niki rothman

                                  Never leave home without it (manteca)!!!

                                2. "Taste like the restaurant" depends on which restaurant.

                                  Try one or two of the suggestions above, then next time you go to your favorite restaurant stop ... think ... and taste the beans. What are they really like? How do they compare with your most recent efforts?

                                  My own favorite: Boil pintos until soft (I never find a need to soak them before boiling) - reserve a little of the water. Drain, put into food processor with some of the water, cumin, garlic powder, salt, maybe some onion cooked separately, and to match my favorite restaurant just a bit of tomato (paste, sauce, fresh, whatever's around). Process until quite smooth, taste, adjust and serve. I never can tell enough difference, cooking them a second time with lard, to be worth the extra calories and fat.

                                  We should note that Hispanic 'hounds are used to several varieties of beans - at my local supermarket I can find Mexican brands of canned refried black beans, red beans, and several styles of refried pintos including "with cotija cheese" and "with chorizo".

                                  1. Just add a little lard to coat the pan / pot. As far as spices, salt to taste as well as onion and garlic. My mother use to say add what ever you like. She would serve the beans first as frijoles de la hoya, with cilantro and green onions/fresh pico de gallo sometimes she would add to the pot a large anahiem chile(Green) for taste.Refried would follow, thats when you would add the lard and perhaps a liittle monterey jack cheese. My favotite are the frijole chinos. Frijoles chinos are frijoles fritos refried one more time without the cheese. Add to the lard coat the pan and refry the refied beans again. They should come out litely toasty and spread like a crunchy peanut butter. Hope this helps Like my Mom would say, Y te Wacho! ( See Yah! )

                                    1. Given the style of beans you want....

                                      > Pinto Beans cooked with a whole onion to be discarded
                                      > Mash in a skillet with rendered lard & a few tortilla strips (many places in L.A. do this)
                                      > By no means should you add cumin, powdered chile... garlic is 50/50 particularly if it is roasted first

                                      That is how you get the refried's common in most L.A. restaurants

                                      1. Add a little Chorizo grease to your refried beans and potato tacos -- just the grease and only a small amount. Also, some Jack cheese helps in the beans. Add a little bacon grease to your chowder, scampi and fried rice. Pork fat really does rule.

                                        1. Makes 3 cups

                                          1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
                                          2 (15.5 ounces each) cans pinto beans , drained and rinsed
                                          1 tablespoon vegetable oil
                                          3 ounces salt pork , rind removed and diced very small
                                          1 small onion , chopped fine (about 3/4 cup)
                                          1 jalapeno chile , seeds and ribs removed, chile minced
                                          1 poblano chile , seeds and ribs removed, chile chopped fine (about 1/4 cup)
                                          1/4 teaspoon table salt
                                          3 small cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
                                          1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
                                          1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
                                          2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (optional)

                                          1. Process broth and all but 1 cup of beans in food processor until smooth, about 15 seconds, scraping sides of bowl with rubber spatula if necessary. Add remaining beans and process until slightly chunky, about ten 1-second pulses.

                                          2. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add salt pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat has rendered and pork is well browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer pork to small bowl with slotted spoon and set aside (you should have about 2 tablespoons of fat left in skillet.)

                                          3. Increase heat to medium-high; add onion, chiles, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans and stir until thoroughly combined. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and lime juice, if using, and serve.

                                          You said no canned pinto beans. Then, do what I do, and make your own pinto beans.

                                          1. My favorite recipe was in Saveur magazine a few years ago. I'll try to post it when I get a chance.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: TerriL

                                              reviving the thread... I attempted a variant of a recipe described above. The beans came out well, with few minor issues to sort out, but one big one - my refried beans came out gray. Any suggestions?

                                              I actually cooked them twice, once in a cast iron pan and once in a non-stick, with the same result each time.

                                              1. re: TerriL

                                                TerriL, I have been searching for this recipe for months. Do you still have it? I would be eternally grateful if you could scan and email it to me!!! My addy is cigarzfan@yahoo.com Thanks for any reply!

                                              2. In the past I used lard as it was traditional to some. My BFF taught me a healthier way that produces rich tasting, creamy, beans. This is so easy you wont believe it but give it a try!
                                                Rinse 16oz of dried pintos VERY well. I use a sieve and blast with sink sprayer. Place beans in crock pot with enough water to cover plus 2 inches. Add about 1Tbs sea salt. Cook on auto or low overnight or start them in the morning for dinner. To make refried beans place a 1Tbs vegi oil in large skillet and heat over med. Use a slotted spoon to add about 1 cup of beans. Use a potato or bean masher to smash beans. Add bean liquid as needed. Continue a cup at a time until you have as much as you need. Whole beans in liquid freeze great for next time. After beans are desired texture add shredded white cheese a handful and a time while stiring. You may salt more or add black pepper to make them taste how you like. Great for tostadas or wrap in good heated flour tortillias with extra cheese and whatever you like.
                                                16 oz dried pinto beans
                                                2-3cups white shredded cheese.This may be too cheesy for some taste so start with about a cup and try.
                                                Salt and pepper

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Tesss1

                                                  That amount of Cheese (assuming your talking Cheddar or similar) is just as much fat as adding lard. It is no "Healthier"

                                                  1. re: chefj

                                                    That is why I state to start with 1cup cheese. This is for a pound of dry beans. The larger amount is for more of a dip or filling. Some may like cheddar but not very authentic.

                                                    1. re: Tesss1

                                                      My statement is still true. Even with 1 cup of Jack Cheese (which is lower fat than Cheddar) You are still adding more Fat than if you used Lard. How is it "healthier" ?

                                                      1. re: chefj

                                                        Less fat does not always mean healthier. Lard is not healthier than real cheese. Also low fat options for many foods mean additives far less healthy than fat. For example low fat half and half is loaded with corn syrup. Better to eat what you like in moderation along with a healthy diet. Many people who focus on healthy eating will enjoy cheese.

                                                        1. re: Tesss1

                                                          I never said that lower fat was Healthier and that is a totally different argument.
                                                          You said it was a "healthier way".
                                                          So how is using Cheese healthier than the Lard?

                                                          1. re: chefj

                                                            Your post stating "You are still adding more Fat than if you used Lard, How is that "healthier"?" lead me to believe the fat content was the concern. The answer to "So how is Cheese healthier than Lard?" is simple and as follows.

                                                            1 Cup of Queso Fresco (authentic cheese used in re-fried beans) contains:
                                                            366 calories
                                                            24 grams of protein
                                                            81% calcium (RDA)
                                                            35% Vitamin B
                                                            Traces of magnesium

                                                            1/4 Cup of Lard (amount probably used in a pound of beans) contains:
                                                            462 calories
                                                            0 grams of protein
                                                            0% calcium
                                                            0% Vitamin B
                                                            Trace amounts of Vitamin D

                                                            1. re: Tesss1

                                                              If one really wanted to argue, queso fresco, if made from grain-fed cows, is almost entirely omega 6 fats

                                                              Lard, if rendered from pastured pigs, has a much higher omega 3 percentage.

                                                              At least in my kitchen, I have pastured leaf lard, and if i'm able to find queso fresco, it's certainly not going to be grassfed. To me, fat composition is much more important than minerals, protein, and calorie content.

                                                              1. re: LaureltQ

                                                                This all reminds me of the "French Paradox" discussions, where we can't figure out why all the French people live so long when they drink buckets of wine and spread duckfat on their bread, fry potatoes in goose fat, and eat foie gras.

                                                                There's a lot of variables out there, but many are clamoring that vegetable oils are really the problem (Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio). Lard has been around probably since the agricultural revolution, but got vilified in the last few decades. Now it is making a comeback since people are realizing some things. There are those who still go "eeww" when lard is mentioned, but will happily devour 6 slices of bacon. Anyhow, I just did a little searching - I hate to provide links, but I don't have time to summarize:

                                                                Why Lard?

                                                                How too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick.


                                                                What fats or oils are good for me (or not)?

                                                  2. re: Tesss1

                                                    2-3 cups of cheese adds more fat than the amount of lard I or my favorite local taqueria would use.

                                                  3. We love these: http://www.patismexicantable.com/2009...

                                                    Beans from the Pot recipe: http://www.patismexicantable.com/2010... note: She has you add a few sprigs of fresh cilantro in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking in the recipe in her cookbook. I would definitely do that as it adds the perfect flavor to the beans.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Njchicaa

                                                      I would do more on the 10 minute side than the 15. Cilantrol added at the very end of dishes is a wonderful thing. I also add it (Stem and all!) on top of my Mexican rice in its last 5 minutes...


                                                    2. I'll have to search for both Peruanos and epazote. Thanks for the info.

                                                      1. I too had never quite been able to get that true "Mexican Restaurant" style of refried beans, where they are so pureed and soft they verge on liquid, with that bit of porkiness in the background.

                                                        Well, this past weekend I discovered the best method for these is nearly *opposite* of what I had been doing all along.

                                                        Rather than soaking the beans overnight and simmering them gently with just enough water to cover, one must put dried beans in with LOTS of water, and boil them hard for two hours, lid partially closed, adding more water as it evaporates so that the beans are floating around as in soup. At the beginning toss in a chopped onion, chopped and seeded jalapeno and some minced garlic. These will dissolve.

                                                        After boiling them for two hours, bring down to a simmer with the lid off. At this time stir in some salt, a bit of onion powder and garlic powder, and whatever porky fattiness you're using - I used saved bacon fat, about two tablespoonsful. Simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half.

                                                        Now you have to watch them closer as they simmer, stirring to keep from sticking as the water evaporates. After an hour of simmering they should be so soft they begin to "self mash." And then when they are utterly mush, smash them further with a potato masher gadget.

                                                        1. You may want to consider investing in a pressure cooker if you enjoy making these and other kinds of bean recipes - they will cook the beans from dried to done in about an hour or so, with no pre-soaking.

                                                          Also, as others noted, it's likely the pork fat. Personally I just slowly render down a bunch of bacon and save all the grease to add to the beans, and I crumble up the bacon itself and add it to the beans too before mashing.

                                                          If you are using a pressure cooker, you may also want to consider cooking the beans in a stock instead of plain water, to infuse even more flavor. You could certainly throw in some fresh garlic & onions, along with some dried chili's as well, to pressure cook along with the beans.

                                                          1. Sadly for most, lard is the answer.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. I braised a beef roast with lots of veggies and aromatics recently. We pureed the pan juices with the cooked-down veg for a sauce for the beef.

                                                              We had a lot of sauce left and I was making refried beans the next day, so I threw some of the sauce into the beans (along with cumin and lard). They were THE BEST EVER beans that we have ever had - enough that we think we'd probably braise another chuck roast just to make those great beans!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                I would never have thought to do that with refried beans. Sounds great.