bean collage2


Keep reading for recipe, detailed instructions and more than you would ever want to know about making refried beans…  If you are still eating beans from a can STOP!!! this post is for you…

Why make beans?  They are affordable, nutritious and so so delicious when made at home.  I could go on and on about how much we love eating homemade beans.  My kids now refuse to eat beans from a can – the smell alone is enough to make me ill.  Once you have made this a few times it will become easy.  I never make them exactly the same, but have documented how I made them today.  Experiment with different types of fat, or even no fat.  Try different seasonings, chipotle chili powder (my favorite), hot sauce, whatever you like.  Think of making beans as easy as making steel cut oats, or brown rice.  Once they are cooked, you can flavor them your way… and as Dave Ramsey says, until you are out of debt, “beans and rice, rice and beans.”  Except they are so good the price per serving is just an added bonus.  If you do not own a pressure cooker , buy one!  If that is not an option you can soak your beans overnight, rinse, and simmer in a large pot for several hours; however, as I learned in Mexico this uses a lot more ‘luz’ or electricity and is very painful when you live in a high altitude or have hard water… okay I’ll stop now.  I will not even go into all the meal ideas with your own cooked beans.

Refried Beans

Ingredients for pressure cooking the beans:

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • one small piece of onion
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon  oil

Ingredients for refrying the beans:

  • 1-2 Tablespoons fat (olive oil, bacon fat, or lard)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons chicken bouillon powder (Knorr caldo de pollo) or 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin (optional)
  • additional salt to taste if needed


Step 1: How to make Refried Beans: Sort the dry beans.  This is very important – why?  So you don’t accidentally serve your friends a small pebble or a chunk of dirt.  The dirt won’t hurt of course, but the pebble will.  Scott once had a missionary companion forget this important step, and he has needed a lot of dental work on the molar used to bite into the pebble.  Depending on the quality of the pinto beans you are using, you will find more or less junk.  We also like to throw away the “feo” or ugly beans.  Because beans are so inexpensive it’s okay to be choosy.  I have found that the higher the quality bean, the less “junk” I find.

I prefer to get a fresh crop of beans every year from Walton Feed in Montpelier, Idaho.  When this is not an option, I buy the beans in bulk from a farmers market or natural foods store.  Usually if you buy a large 25lb bag the grocer will give you a discount.  Always start with the best ingredients you can find and afford.  I have had very poor results with the small 1 lb bags from local grocery stores – I won’t mention any names… but just so you know ‘great value!’ beans are the worst I have ever tried.  Avoid canned beans if possible, the metal will leave a slight aftertaste on the final product.


Step 2: How to Make Refried Beans: Cook the beans on high Pressure.  Bring the water, beans and seasoning to high pressure and keep on high pressure for 30-35 minutes.  Let the pressure release naturally, another 15 minutes or so.  Simple enough.  Read your instruction manual carefully and adjust the cooking time as recommended by the manufacturer.

I am using a Cuisinart Pressure cooker that is so user friendly.  It automatically shuts of the heat after the 30 minutes and the pressure is released on its own.  I used to have a stove top pressure cooker but I had problems with dishes burning and with the regulation of temperature.  You can even leave the cooked beans in the pressure cooker for several hours on warm when using an automatic pressure cooker.  NOTE:  higher altitudes may require a longer cooking time.  Also, if your beans are old they may take longer to cook as well.


Step 3: How to make refried beans:  Remove from Pressure cooker.  Test to make sure the beans are cooked throughout and carefully remove from the pressure cooker.  Remove the bay leaf.  I usually remove the garlic and onion but if a little remains it will not hurt the final product.  Place the beans in a blender with about four cups of cooking liquid.  If you are going to smash the beans by hand a potato masher works great.  Sometimes I place the beans in a pyrex bowl and puree using an immersion blender.  It really doesn’t matter.  If you want your beans chunky, spend a long time mashing by hand.  If you like the refried beans smooth, definitely use some sort of blender.


Step 4:  How to refried beans:  Blend, smoosh, squash, puree… whatever you want to call it.  As described above there are so many ways this can be done.  Sometimes I use my Vitamix blender, sometimes I use my cheap little immersion blender in a glass bowl.  I used to smoosh them by hand with a potato masher but we go through them so quickly I don’t have the patience for this method any more.  The important thing is to reserve some of the cooking liquid.  The final blended product will look very watery, but you will find the beans will thicken quickly on the stove.


Step 5: How to Make Refried Beans: Refry, season and reduce.  What do I mean when I say refry?  Well, in so many Mexican recipes flavor is added by taking a cooked product, such as beans in this case, and placing it back in a pot with oil to add more flavor to this dish.  So I usually heat a pot, add just a bit of oil (1-2 Tablespoons) and dump the bean puree back into the pan.  Don’t let the pan get too hot or you will have a big mess to clean up.  Very carefully pour the bean mixture into the pan with oil.  I actually have made refried beans with no oil and they still tasted great.  The best flavor is found when a bit of bacon fat or lard is used.  I’m sure your favorite Mexican restaurant uses some sort of pork fat.  Ask them next time.

Now is time to start seasoning the beans.  The most important ingredient for seasoning is salt.  As a general rule add one teaspoon salt for one cup of dry beans.  I choose to season my beans with Mexican powdered chicken bouillon.  I confess, it has MSG.  If this scares you, stick with plain old salt or MSG-free chicken bouillon.  Knorr Suisa or chicken bouillon is found in just about every Mexican dish, and yes, the MSG adds more flavor.  I love the flavor boost it gives to any dish, but don’t worry the beans will still taste great with out it.  If you put bacon fat in at any step you may want to be careful how much salt you add – bacon is already very salty.  Do the final salt taste test once the beans have cooled slightly.  I have over-salted the refried beans SO many times.

I also like to season the beans with some sort of chili powder and a bit of cumin.  Right now I’m using chipotle powder.  Sometimes I use Valentina hot sauce.  If all you have is taco seasoning add just a bit of that.  It all depends on your taste.  If you don’t know what it should taste like, go eat refried beans from your favorite Mexican restaurant and ask the waiter what is used to season the beans.  Whenever I am making beans I think of that scene from Nacho Libre where Jack Black is cooking beans for the orphans and he adds a big blob of lard to the batch… just remember to make your beans taste good you definitely need SALT.  A little FAT goes a long way, as do SPICES.

Last, allow the bean mixture to reduce, or simmer on very low heat.  Cook until it is slightly thickened.  I have gone overboard with this step and my beans end up the consistency of cement – like the stuff that comes out of a can.  When in doubt, turn of the heat, work on something else for dinner and in most cases it will be just right after a few minutes on the stove.


Here is what my refried beans look like when they are ready to serve.


Refried beans with fresh corn tortillas is a family favorite.  They go great with any Mexican meal, or even Navajo tacos.  They just look so gross in photographs.

beans in pressure cooker

Here is the guide to cooking beans as found in the Cuisinart Pressure cooker manual.  I find it very handy as I sometimes can’t remember how long to cook what type of bean.  Enjoy!

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