Recipe: Refried Beans

Beans are a common ingredient in all Latin American cooking, and refried beans are particularly popular in Central America, made famous from classic Mexican food. As a great vegetarian replacement for meat in quesadillas, fajitas, or served as a side, I’ve been dying to make my own refried beans.

Typically, refried beans are made from black beans or pinto beans, and neither of which are easy to find or that cheap. I ended up buying a pack of raw black beans, which meant that I had to rinse and cook them, before I could start on the recipe. This wasn’t that much of problem, but if you do plan to make refried beans for a particular occasion, plan ahead if also using uncooked beans!

Refried Beans

  • 250g raw refried beans
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • Cumin
  • Paprika (smoked if available)
  • Coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp of chopped chillies (optional)

First of all, the beans need to be soaked in water for around six hours, or overnight. This is where they soak up the liquid to become softer, before cooking. I placed the beans in a shallow dish and covered them in water, with about a cm of water above them.

After a minimum of six hours, the beans should have soaked up the majority of the water, and will be soft enough to split, but still firm. Drain them from the water and rinse. Add the beans to a pan water and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for about 45 minutes, until the beans are cooked and mushy.

Meanwhile, finely chop up the garlic and onion, and fry lightly until soft. Drain the beans, keeping the liquid that they were boiled in to the side. Take the garlic and onions off the heat, and add to the beans. Add some cumin, coriander and a generous helping of paprika and season well.

Using a manual potato masher, or a hand-held electric food processor, mash all the beans in with the onions and garlic, adding small amounts of the cooking liquid saved from earlier. Make sure that enough water is added to make the mixture hold together, but not too much that it becomes sloppy. Taste the beans as you go along, as they may need more seasoning. Beans usually need quite a lot of seasoning and spices to compliment their texture, so add more if you think it is necessary.

Once mixed together to the correct consistency, either serve immediately or leave to cool. The beans will last overnight in the fridge, for use the next day, or can be frozen.

Refried beans are great to dip tortilla chips in, or use them as a filling for vegetarian quesadillas as I did.

Cheesy Refried Bean Quesadillas (serves 4)

  • Refried beans (quantity made above from 250g of beans)
  • Red and yellow pepper, chopped
  • Cheddar cheese
  • 4 Tortilla wraps
  • Olive oil

These quesadillas (pronounced kay-sa-dee-yas) are so simple to make. Firstly, fry up the peppers in a pan until soft and set aside. Bring a frying pan to a medium heat, and heat a small splash of olive oil. Take the wraps, and spoon a helping of refried beans on each half, spreading to about a centimetre away from the edge. Add the peppers and cover with  shavings of cheddar cheese (less messy than gratings). Fold over the other half of the wrap and press down.

Lightly fry the quesadillas on each side until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Take them off the heat, cut them in half and serve.


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