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Refried Beans woe

I am a huge fan of refried beans. Over the years, I've tried many version of making my own using dried and canned beans - and the results I've gotten have just never quite matched what I can do by doctoring up a can of premade refried beans.

So I am asking Chowhounds for your wonderful refried bean recipes - can have meat or be vegetarian. Use dried beans or canned. Whatever, I'm going to give this a few more tries before just accepting that the time and effort I've been putting into making my own just isn't worth it.

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  1. Maybe what you like is the extra-concentrated flavor the store-bought refried beans have that comes from commercial canning. I don't know exactly how you can achieve that at home.

    Some things I do to intensify the flavor of beans I cook for refritos are to add one or two cloves, a bay leaf, a tiny bit of tomato paste ( say 1/4 tsp per cup of dry beans), a tiny bit of soy sauce (again only about 1/4 tsp per cup of dry beans or even less), a pat of butter for every cup of dry beans, and lots of chopped onion and garlic in the last half hour of cooking the beans. (I never use canned beans for this purpose, because the pot liquor seems pretty important to the flavor. If I have extra cooking liquid, I freeze it for times when I have to use canned beans.)

    I also refry with well-sauteed onion, garlic and jalapeno and saute those things in chorizo or bacon fat when I want a meaty taste.

    One last thought is to not use pinto beans or to add some more flavorful beans, like kidney, adzuki, black or those little Creole red beans in with the pintos.

    1. What do you "doctor" to premade refries?

      What I like... Dry pintos, cooked with onion, maybe a dry chile or chile flakes, plus salt until soft. To refry, saute bacon in a little oil. When the fat is rendered (but bacon is not too crisp), add beans (scoop out of pot with slotted spoon). Mash (potato masher works well) and heat. Add enough bean liquor to get the consistency that you want. Add more salt to taste.

      1. Hi cresyd,

        What brand of refried beans do you prefer? I had a similar experience (could not replicate the canned version at home). Then I looked at the nutrient panel on the can and I realized that there was almost a full teaspoon of salt in just one 16 oz can (this was a vegetarian version - don't know the salt content of regular refried beans). That is far more salt than I would ever knowingly add to 16 oz of beans, but IMHO that's why my homemade version never tasted as *good* as canned refried beans.

        7 Replies
        1. re: MrsPatmore

          Yeah, a bunch of salt.

          Also, never could figure out how my favorite place got their beans to taste so damn good, until I watched a friends mother cook them in her kitchen,

          She used at LEAST a quarter cup of rendered lard in the pan. I cant even imagine what is in the restaurant version.

          Ruined me forever.

          1. re: hyde

            Yeah - I think this may be why I revert to the canned variety. I can get a fat free or largely fat free can of refried beans, and then "fry it up" with extra spices, garlic, and some lime. Sometimes I'll add some bacon, but I'm able to control the quantity.

            1. re: hyde

              Yup, lard and salt are the secrets to great refried beans.

              1. re: hyde

                I worked at a fast-food mexican place way back when I was in high school for the refries, and huge block of lard was melted and added to the industrial size pot pot of beans... then we used a drill with a blade on it to mash!

                1. re: firecooked

                  Fascinating, firecooked. I always wondered whether the fast-food places used canned or made their own from dried beans. I guess in huge quantities it would be more economical.

                  1. re: LorenzoGA

                    I don't know how long ago firecooked worked in the fast food Mexican place, but alot of them now use a dehydrated refried bean product. Add water, stir and let sit for 30 minutes.

            2. I like onion, garlic, lard, salt, cumin, cloves...and whatever else I might think of at the time.

              1. Lard and salt. Repeat until desired result.