Making refried beans with canned pinto beans
June 3, 2008 6:19 PM   Subscribe

How can I make decent refried beans using canned pinto beans?

All the refried bean recipes I'm finding either want me to start from scratch with dried beans and toil away half the day cooking them, or buy a can of refried beans. The problem is that I've got more canned pinto beans than I know what to do with, and I'm not certain how to adjust the recipes. Advice or suggestions from the chefs here?
posted by chips ahoy to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Through careful experimentation, I have found that if you cook canned beans for long enough, they will break down and turn into a pasty mush. Then I add some spices and vinegar or lemon juice.
posted by gnutron at 6:29 PM on June 3, 2008

The secret ingredient is lard.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:32 PM on June 3, 2008

I like mine really soupy, so I stick them in a food processor or blender along with some garlic and cilantro and olive oil and whip them together for a while. Then they go into a skillet for a few minutes.
posted by nitsuj at 6:33 PM on June 3, 2008

I fry a bit of minced garlic, cumin and chili powder in oil in a wide skillet. (The 'real' recipe starts with lard of course...) Then I dump in the can of beans and mash some of the beans with a fork until I get the consistency I like (still some whole beans in there but swimming in a lot of thickened bean puree). You could also split the can in two parts, half pureed in a blender, the other whole beans.

Some will tell you to drain the liquid ("blah blab blah gas"). Ignore them, it's a myth!
posted by drmarcj at 6:33 PM on June 3, 2008

Have you tried this recipe? the writer says she got it from a Rick Bayless cookbook. It sounds pretty tasty to me...

This other recipe does call for dried beans. But I think you could start after the first part of step 2, the point at which you add the spices. Rinse the canned beans, add the spices, cover with water, and continue with the recipe. You'd have to experiment to see how long to boil them until they are "really soft" per the recipe.

You could do this with any recipe that calls for a simple boiling step first. You should reduce the amount of salt in the recipe, though, because I think the canned beans will have salt in them.
posted by cabingirl at 6:34 PM on June 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

But the interesting stuff in all the refried bean recipes I know begins after the beans are cooked in water. Just proceed with any recipe, starting from the frying part, and use your (rinsed, drained) canned beans. Canned beans are often mushier than dried/cooked, so go easy on the liquid...and maybe on the salt, as well. From-scratch beans of all kinds are awesome, yes, but the lard and onion and frying go a long way towards oomphing up the flavor of canned.
posted by peachfuzz at 6:35 PM on June 3, 2008

Thanks all -- this is very helpful so far. As a followup, if I may ask: is it possible to use bacon fat in place of lard? I don't have lard here, but I do have fresh bacon grease.
posted by chips ahoy at 7:06 PM on June 3, 2008

Never mind, I see on Wikipedia that pig fat = lard. For some reason I was thinking lard was beef fat.
posted by chips ahoy at 7:07 PM on June 3, 2008

Bacon is smoked, though. Lard isn't.

(I mean, hell, it could still be tasty. Just a different kind of tasty.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:16 PM on June 3, 2008

I always melt some sharp cheddar in with my refried beans.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:20 PM on June 3, 2008

You can use bacon fat, but it will give a different taste (which sometimes you get with frijoles charros and similar dishes anyway), and be cautious about adding extra salt before tasting it.

So yeah, it's super easy. Oil and some spices, maybe some onion and/or garlic, in the frying pan (cast iron is best) and get it cooking; add entire can of beans, liquid and all; keep heat high enough to bubble but not so the bottom gets scorched; stir and do some mushing with a fork, while cooking off the liquid, until the texture is right.

It takes about 15 minutes start to finish, give or take -- it couldn't be easier.
posted by Forktine at 7:32 PM on June 3, 2008

All my (Guatemalan) relatives save their bacon grease and then use it to fry their beans. And eggs. And everything else. And it is delicious. So if you want really authentic beans, then bacon grease is just fine.

I think traditionally lard (I think it was called "leaf" lard, because it came from a very specific part, not all over the animal?) had no pig flavor. Thus it was frequently used in pie crusts and other sweets. This is, I imagine, before the advent of shortening.
posted by GardenGal at 7:51 PM on June 3, 2008

Lard vs. other oils? Shrug. Fat is fat, so I use whatever's handy. Grandma used lard or shortening, whichever was within reach at the time. If I'm making enchiladas, I use the oil that I was frying the tortillas in and dump the drained can of beans. You just need that initial slidy-ness so the beans don't stick to the pan when you're warming them up and then mushing.

I let them sizzle for a bit then take a fork to them and mush them up good. I also put in cheese, usually sharp cheddar, to bind it together. That makes the mush part for me. That also provides some fat and flavor - I'd argue more effective than bacon fat or lard.

(I should note that I'm using a cast iron frypan, so messing around with a fork in it isn't going to hurt anything)
posted by lysdexic at 8:41 PM on June 3, 2008

Bacon grease is perfect for making refried beans.
posted by bigmusic at 9:34 PM on June 3, 2008

Stupid question, but why do they call them 'refried' beans? I thought the 're' in 'refrito' meant 'well' or 'very' (as in well cooked) not 'again'. Is it just a linguistic mix-up, or am I missing something?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:16 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Obi, "refrito" just means "well-fried", referring to the fact, I suppose, that they are normally cooked in a lot of lard.

I have used bacon grease with great effect. I've also heard of lots of Latinos using olive oil (not traditional, but it's another flavorful fat that adds a not-unpleasant note).
posted by rossination at 5:45 AM on June 4, 2008

You can substitute canned beans for dried in your favorite recipe. After you remove the beans from the can and rinse them you are at the step in the recipe where you have initially cooked the dried beans in a pressure cooker or boiling water. Simply follow the recipe from there. Of course, this is the type of recipe where you can freely deviate and experiment to make beans to your own taste.
posted by caddis at 7:46 AM on June 4, 2008

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