It probably goes without saying that refried beans were a large part of my diet growing up, what with all the Tex-Mex I indulged in. But what might surprise you is that I don’t have many memories of eating them at home. It was usually restaurant and Taco Bell fare.
After moving to New York and discovering the scarcity of Tex-Mex restaurants, I learned to make the cuisine at home. But the refried beans portion of the meal usually came from a can, I’m sorry to say.
I did attempt them from scratch once, a few years ago, but it qualifies as a Bona Fide Kitchen Disaster, as hours of soaking and boiling the beans left them still crunchy and inedible, and marked probably the first (and hopefully last) time I ever ate enchiladas without a side of refried beans. That little incident drove me right back to the canned stuff.
Fortunately, I have since discovered the magical awesomeness of cooking dried beans in the slow cooker. So now I will never need the canned stuff again! Okay, I probably shouldn’t make such a bold statement – we all get in a pinch sometimes. But I’m so happy to have this method available, because these refried beans are the real deal, y’all!
Your family and/or guests will swear you had them flown in from the best restaurant in Mexico. Or maybe San Antonio. They are so amazing and do not remotely compare to the canned stuff. And speaking of guests, I served these at a dinner party last weekend which is why I have no pictures of the prep or raw ingredients. My apologies. But they are too good not to share.
If you enjoy Mexican and/or Tex-Mex food, I highly urge you to try these. It’s very easy, and the recipe makes a ton, so you can eat off them all week. Black beans can be subbed in for pinto beans if you prefer.
Source: slightly adapted from The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider
1 lb. dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over
7 ½ cups water
1 ½ tsp chile de arbol powder or crushed chile flakes
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbs lard or canola oil
¼ cup finely diced white onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
Combine the beans, water, chile de arbol, salt, and black pepper in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the beans are very tender. When the beans are done, shut off the heat.
In a large skillet, heat the lard over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Remove skillet from the heat. Add 1 cup of the beans and their liquid to the skillet. Mash to a smooth paste with a potato masher. Return the skillet to the heat and continue to add the remaining beans, 1 cup at a time, mashing them until smooth after each addition and adding liquid as needed. When all the beans are mashed, add any remaining cooking liquid necessary to thin to the proper consistency. The beans should be thick but not stiff. Serve hot, sprinkled with Cotija cheese, Monterey jack cheese, scallions, raw minced white onions, cilantro, or plain, whatever you want.