Refried Beans

This dish is probably the most popular Mexican side dish ever conceived. Most people think beans are beans. This recipe is passed down from my grandmother. What makes grandma's beans better? I think this may be one of those recipes where burning the ingredients is essential to obtaining that superior flavor which cannot be found in the canned varieties or even in the best of Mexican restaurants. I don't know if this discovery was one of grandma's "accidents", or a deliberate method learned from someone else. Whatever the case, this recipe is the favorite of everyone in the family, and that reputation is well deserved. Try this one if you want to be a hit with your family and friends! These beans will complement any Mexican dish, steak, or can be used with a tortilla as a snack (bean burrito).
  • 2 large cans cooked pinto beans (not the refried variety!) -- An alternate to the canned variety of cooked pinto beans is to pressure cook dried pinto beans, or soak dried beans for 24 hours in water, then boil the beans in just enough water to cover for 1 hour. You will need 1 lb. dried beans if you choose this method.
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease (or lard)
  • 2 dried New Mexico chilies
  • 2 dried California chilies
  • Sharp cheddar and jack cheese

Melt bacon grease (preferred over lard as it has more flavor) in an 8 quart pot over medium heat. Cut onion into rings, smash and peel garlic, and put them into bacon grease. Fry the onion and garlic until it turns black. Yes, until it is just about burnt! At this point, remove the garlic and onions from the bacon grease and discard. Have the dried chilies prepared by soaking them in water, breaking the stems off, and opening them to removing the seeds. Put the chilies into the hot bacon grease and simmer until they are almost crisp. Then add the beans, with their liquid, to the bacon grease and chilies.

Simmer the beans at medium-low heat for 1 hour. Finally, remove the chilies with a slotted spoon or tongs. At this point you have the makings for another favorite dish, PINTO BEAN SOUP, an excellent appetizer or first course! Bean soup can be served instead of Albondigas in a traditional Mexican style dinner. To make bean soup, simply scoop some beans and a bit of the liquid into a bowl, add a spoonful of salsa, stir and enjoy! I usually end up doubling the quantity of beans that I am preparing in order to provide bean soup for family and guests. Invariably, half of my beans get eaten before they ever get to the table!

If you only want the refried beans, smash the beans with a potato masher until a thicker consistency is obtained, and add chunks of cheese just prior to serving. You may garnish the beans with grated cheese as you serve, for appearance.

  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
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