When it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine, refried beans are an undeniable staple. A favorite in any food-loving kitchen, refried beans are actually not “twice fried”, but in fact are titled for their original name, “frijoles refritos”, translating to “well-fried”.
Refried beans are always delicious with anything from burritos and fajitas, to simply topping the beans off with an extra sprinkle of cheese and eating them by themselves. While in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, we sampled some excellent examples that we hoped to recreate once we returned home, and did a little research to figure out the best method and recipe for perfect authentic refried beans. This is a great recipe for anyone wanting those classic Mexican foods and flavors!
Pick your Best Beans for Authentic Refried Bean Flavor
Pinto beans are the basis for traditional refried beans, and the lighter colored the bean, the better! These lighter colored pinto beans tend to heat and cook faster than the darker, perhaps more aged version. Once you get your dry beans you’ll see the variations and can remove any you don’t want to cook.
Quick Soak your Raw Pinto Beans (and eliminate the possibility of bloat from those beans!)
- Use about 2 ½ cups of dry beans to begin.
- Pick out the best beans from the batch – lighter, non-broken, and toss any impediments like small bits of dirt that may have been packaged.
- Using the appropriate sized pot, cover the pinto beans with water (up to a few inches) and bring it to a rolling boil.
- Use the pot cover to seal in the heat for 3 minutes.
- Take the pot off the burner and let stand aside for around 60 minutes.
- Drain the water from the pot in preparation for cooking.
This is the quickest method, the alternative being to soak the beans overnight. Either is effective, but if you’re hungry for some authentic Mexican cuisine, faster is better!
After a Quick Soak, these Pinto Beans are Ready to Cook!
In a large pot, cover the beans with about three inches of water, add a teaspoon of salt, mix, and bring to a boil. After the water begins to boil rapidly, lower the heat so that the beans are simmering, cover, and cook for about 2.5 hours. The pinto beans are finished cooking when soft and the skin begins to break open.
Strain the water into a separate bowl (you may have to use it later!) and get ready to “re-fry” them to perfection!
Preferably using a cast iron skillet, slowly heat up about ¼ cup of vegetable oil in the pan. Bring the oil to a medium to high heat without burning it. If it burns, go ahead and start this step over at a lower heat and keep a watch on the pan.
Once the oil is hot, take if off the heat and set aside for a minute before adding your cooked beans. Since the beans still have moisture, they might react with the hot oil if immediately placed in the pan.
After the oiled skillet has cooled, add the beans and enough of the reserved bean juice to make sure they’re not dry to the pan. Put the pan back on the burner, set to medium heat, and make sure to stir so they don’t begin to stick or burn.
You’ll begin to see the fruits of your labor now – the refried beans begin to get that creamy consistency you’re looking for! Now, to get that authentic refried bean recipe result, use a fork or spatula to mash half of those beans, and then continue to mix them all up in the skillet as it continues to cook on a low to medium heat.
Now its Time for the Extra Flavor!
The beans are ready for finishing touches! Pick your favorite shredded cheese – preferably a Colby/Monterrey blend – and add about 1/2 to 1/3 of a cup depending on taste. Keep on mixing as the cheese melts and infuses into the creamy, cooked beans! Turn off that burner… it’s time to enjoy these authentic refried beans for yourself!
Quick Tip: Don’t be afraid to enhance your dish! Try adding a dash of garlic powder, onion powder, and maybe even a dash of cayenne to the finished product for that extra kick! Add your favorite flavors, mix it well, and pair these tasty beans with your favorite Mexican meal!