Saturday, January 18, 2014

How to Make Refried Beans

Did anybody try Kara's beef enchilada recipe the other day? Well, I tried it tonight, and I figured she'd want to make sure that I posted how I did mine differently. Really, I don't change the ingredients much- I just make them myself. Except for tortillas. Tortillas are the bane of my from-scratch existence, and I have accepted that they always will be.

But refried beans and enchilada sauce? Well, that's just kid play, those are super easy to make! So while I'm not going to run through her recipe again with my variations, (you can find it here if you so desire), I'm going to do a quick post on how to make refried beans.

This is one of my "stock up" things. We don't use refried beans a lot, but I usually make more than enough for one meal when I do make them. They can't be canned, because they're too thick to guarantee proper heating, but you can can plain pinto beans and have them ready to use, properly soaked and everything. If you have cooked pinto beans, this recipe takes half an hour and you can have a stash of refried beans available in the freezer.

If you want to do this from serious scratch, start here at this tutorial on how to soak, cook, and can beans. Once you have a stash of canned beans on hand, you can make refried beans quickly any time you need them.

If canning beans is too much of a step at this point, then feel free to buy canned pintos (or whatever bean you prefer) and start from there. It won't save you a trip to the store, but it will help you get more comfortable making them if you do small steps instead of big ones. And it will save a couple bucks, just not quite as much.

If you like numbers, you would end up spending $4.73 to make three cans of refried beans if you buy canned pintos. If you just bought three cans of refried beans it would cost you $6.60. Yes, these are organic prices, but remember that applying them to non-organic prices would still yield similar ratios in savings, even if not the same actual cents.

Similarly, here are the numbers for if you cook your own dry beans and go all the way to the point of refried:
$1.24 two quarts home-canned beans (this is a little more than necessary, but I didn't have pints)
$0.50 1 medium onion (I used garden ones, but this is about market rate for organic)
$.34 1 oz. (1/2 head) garlic, organic
$.50 various spices
=$2.58 for 3 pints refried beans
Retail (organic): $2.20 per pint
Saved: $1.34 per pint

One of these days I need to build a chart for home made/canned versus store bought. I keep track of such things (although they vary a bit from year to year) and the difference in some cases is striking, but the difference in ALL cases is savings, no matter what the product. It would add up seriously in the course of a year, especially if you incorporated factors like larger families or gardens with small financial input for big returns. Would anybody be interested in a chart like that?

At any rate, today we're here for refried beans. So here we go!

4 c. cooked pintos (3x15 oz. jars is about right)
fat for sauteing-- butter, olive oil, whatever you prefer
1 c. diced onion
6-8 cloves minced garlic
1 T. cumin
2 t. paprika
2 t. salt
1 t. chili powder
1 t. pepper

Strain your beans, but save the juice!

Saute the onions and garlic in your frying fat of choice until tender.

Add beans and some of their juice, enough to make the dish "saucy" instead of just beans and onions. You'll need to simmer this for awhile later, so make sure there's enough liquid to make that possible.  Add all spices and mix well.

Bring to simmer for 10-20 minutes. Keep an eye on this because the beans will stick unless you're careful. Empty the dishwasher or something, but don't leave the room!

Run the whole mess through a blender of food processor, to achieve your preferred preference. We like ours completely pureed because I tend to use them as a "spread" on enchilada tortillas and such.

Pour into containers that make sense for your family-- we use pints. Freeze what you don't plan to use shortly. Yes, thawing them can be a pain-- but it goes pretty quickly if you stick them in a saucepan of cold water and heat it up over medium. Maybe an hour. Or just get them out the night before to thaw on their own, if you're a menu planner. I currently am not, although that varies. I just use the appropriate solution depending on how much time I have.  :-)

Save out a pint of them, because you're going to want them to make Kara's enchiladas!


  1. How about gardens with high costs and small returns? Haha. I don't think I want to do that math.

    1. I have experiential sympathy with that plight. :-) I try to forget the year before, but last year I barely broke even at market prices, which I didn't consider horrible. This year I'm determined to come out at least a LITTLE bit ahead! :-)

  2. I simply like to keep canned beans on hand. I can Reds, Blacks, Great Northerns, Pintos, and Split Peas. On all varieties, I figure 1/2 lb per quart. 1t of salt per quart. Can at 10lbs pressure for 50 - 60 minutes. I only soak them for about 4 hours prior to canning. (Peas and pintos take less time.) Any of them can be used on short notice. Pintos for refried. Blacks for almost anything. GN for most any soup. I love having canned beans on hand. They are at least half price of buying them at the store.

  3. Traditionally, refried beans are fried in lard. That's been politically incorrect for quite a few years, but it still tastes the best.

    1. Yeah, I know, I was thinking about that as I wrote this, thinking they'd probably be a great option to try. Might get there someday, but I don't tend to keep lard on hand, and we don't eat refried beans often, so...