Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Comfort Food Classics: Refried Pinto Beans

Frijoles Refritos (refried beans) were a constant at the dinner table when I was growing up. Mi abuelita (my grandma) made them every day of the week. No exceptions. And she always made a little extra so she could pack some for my lunch to take to school the following day. I remember wanting the bologna sandwiches that my friends took to school, but Gramm always insisted that "there's nothing better for a growing child than un taco de frijoles". And like most Mexican abuelitas, Gramm was right. Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, and a slew of other vitamins and minerals.

Refried Pinto Beans -

In Mexico refried beans are traditionally made with manteca de cerdo (pork lard), but Gramm preferred to use bacon fat. She had a small canister on the stove where she saved any and all bacon drippings just for that purpose. Both bacon fat and manteca add tons of flavor, but you can also use vegetable oil.

My grandmother's refried beans were known for being creamy and cheesy. That's because she always added a splash of milk and lots of shredded mozzarella cheese. Over the years, I've switched things up a little by substituting Mexican crema for the milk, which makes the beans even creamier, and using mozzarella's Mexican cousin, Queso Oaxaca. I also like to add a little spice by sautéing a fresh serrano chile pepper in the bacon fat before adding the beans.

Refried beans can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner... And not just as a side dish. You can serve them in Tacos de Frijoles, Molletes (open-faced refried bean sandwiches), or Bean & Cheese Enchiladas, just to name a few dishes.

Frijoles Refritos 
(Refried Beans)


  • 2 to 3 tablespoons bacon fat, lard, or vegetable oil 
  • 1 fresh serrano pepper (optional) 
  • 3 cups Frijoles de la Olla (cooked pinto beans)
  • 1 cup bean broth
  • 3 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream 
  • 1 cup shredded Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese 

Heat bacon drippings or oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fresh serrano pepper, whole or sliced, and saute until the skin on the pepper begins to blister. Carefully add the cooked beans, bean broth, and Mexican crema. Let simmer until beans come to a boil. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until desired consistency; season with salt.

Continue cooking the beans for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the beans thicken slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Serve refried beans with warm corn or flour tortillas and Chile de Molcajete (roasted tomatillo & arbol chile salsa). Enjoy!

Receta en Español 


  1. I never could understand my husband's craving for refried beans. He could eat them at every meal. I should know, that duh, they do eat them at most meals!

    I guess it's like my craving for mashed potatoes. I could eat them everyday and never get tired of them...

  2. I love refried beans and was surprised at how easy they are to prepare. You can also add very thin slices of onion to the beans with the chile, tastes delicious.

  3. Melissa, my grandpa was just like your hubby, he had to have refried beans with every meal. I'm going to have to think if there is a food that I could eat without every getting tired of it. :D

    Leah, I'm going to try your suggestion of adding onion. Sounds good. Thanks.

  4. You have no idea how many times this dish has come to the rescue when money was tight!!Refried beans, salsa de molcajete, and homemade corn tortillas. Shoot who said we were poor!I'm thankfull that my kids aren't picky eaters!

  5. Good to see you don´t use lard. If I´m not mistaken lard is a traditional ingredient. Boy, is that an unhealthy thing to consume!

  6. Do you also smashed the pepper with the beans

  7. The beans in your picture are very light in color. Do you use pinto beans? The pinto beans that I can find are a little darker.

  8. I would also like to know if you have to mash the pepper with the beans too.



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