Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mexican Feast Part 1: Frijoles refritos/Refried Beans

I decided to make a full, savory, "authentic", Mexican meal this weekend. So, for a few days, and depending on how well the photos come out, I will try to post everything I made. To start off, I made Steak fajitas, Mexican rice, flour tortillas, and refried beans. Surprisingly, I didn't make dessert. I guess I could do that later. I did make lemon/lime curd with cream cheese (will blog about this much later), but I didn't make it for the purposes of this feast. Anyway, everything came out almost perfectly. With the exception of the steak, I had made all of these items before. I did try a new recipe for the flour tortillas, and it will now forever be my go-to recipe. I will blog about them next.

The refried beans are so good. I usually put Monterey Jack on the beans to make them more authentic, but the little I had left was starting to mold. By the time I had scraped all the white film off of the cheese, there was nothing but a nob of cheese left. So, instead, I put some grated Colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend on top. I also added cumin in the beans to give off that more authentic flavor and smell.

I have made these beans three or four times now. The first three times were for my girlfriend who was born in Mexico City. She loved this dish, so I knew it was a keeper from then on.

I hope you make this dish soon. There is no need to soak the beans. If you don't have a pressure cooker (like me), you just boil the beans for 2.5 hours, and then transfer them to the grilled, translucent onions. It is really easy to make. Also, don't be afraid of the lard. It has less transfat than butter, so it really isn't as bad as some people think it is. I'm sure we've eaten a lot worse in restaurants since we don't know what is going on in some of those kitchens. If you're still hesitant to try lard, which makes the dish more authentic, there are other options mentioned in the recipe.

adapted from Simply Recipes
  • 2 1/2 cups of dry pinto beans (about 1 lb or 450gm)
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp pork lard, bacon fat, or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin to taste (I put in about 1 tsp to a HALVED recipe)
  • Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese (optional)
  1. Rinse the beans in water and remove any small stones, pieces of dirt, or bad beans.
  2. Cook the beans in water.
  3. Pressure Cooker method Put beans into a 4 quart pressure cooker with a 15 lb weight. Fill up the pressure cooker with water, up to the line that indicates the capacity for the pot. Cook for 30-35 minutes - until the beans are soft and the skins are barely breaking open.
  4. Regular method Put beans into a pot and cover beans with at least 3 inches of water - about 3 quarts for 2 1/2 cups of dry beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours. The cooking time will vary depending on the batch of beans you have. The beans are done when they are soft and the skin is just beginning to break open.
  5. Strain the beans from the cooking water.
  6. Add the onions and lard/fat/oil to a wide, sturdy (not with a flimsy stick-free lining) frying pan on medium high heat.
  7. Cook onions until translucent.
  8. Add the strained beans and about a 1/4 cup of water to the pan (I use the bean water by straining the beans and allowing its juice to pour into a liquid measuring cup).
  9. Using a potato masher, mash the beans in the pan, while you are cooking them, until they are a rough purée. Add more water if necessary to keep the fried beans from getting too dried out.
  10. Add salt and cumin to taste.
  11. Add a few slices of Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, or some (1/2 cup) grated cheddar cheese if you want.
  12. When beans are heated through (and optional cheese melted) the beans are ready to serve.


  1. Those are the most tasty looking refried beans I've seen!

  2. Hi, Mem

    You truly are becoming an international cook! I really have not had refried beans in a month of Sundays, and I look forward to having you fix me a mess of 'em tomorrow, or the next time I see you (whichever comes first)!

  3. Those refried beans look good!

  4. I am excited to try your recipe! however, the most important reason to soak beans is not to cook them faster but to remove the phytic acid, which is an enzyme inhibitor that must be removed to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.


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