Refried beans have gradually become one of my favorite side dishes. Highly anticipated upon visits to Mexican restaurants, met with delight when they are exceptionally delicious. I say gradually because it wasn’t until I learned how to make refried beans at home that I grew to love and appreciate them. Because making them is a labor of love.
That is if you start with dried beans. Which I frequently do. But, I don’t always have the time or the forethought to soak dried beans overnight, then proceed to cook them for 2+ hours. And I’m guessing you don’t either.
So I created a refried bean recipe shortcut – Easy Seasoned Refried Beans. The shortcut, the “Easy” in Easy Seasoned Refried Beans is, of course, canned pinto beans.
Time-saver in a can right there.
However, as we all well know, what makes refried beans so good is the labor of love part. The part where beans simmer for hours on end, slowly taking their time to develop flavor. To make up for skipping this flavor-developing part, I like to add a variety of seasonings to boost the flavor despite time constraints.
Just a pinch of Mexican oregano adds an earthy, licorice-like cooling undertone that mimics the bay leaf I usually include when making refried beans from dried beans. I’m incapable of making refried beans without adding cumin – I can’t get enough of its complex flavor, simultaneously nutty and earthy with hints of citrus. Both Mexican oregano and cumin work so well with chiles, that the addition of chili powder brings it all together. And if you find yourself so inclined, a small amount of cayenne pepper heats things up without overpowering the integrity of the beans.
If you’re a carnivore who stockpiles bacon grease like I do, I encourage you to use it here. While traditional recipes for refried beans call for lard (which by all means use it if you’ve got it), bacon grease is something I always have on hand. And, like lard, bacon grease adds that richness that makes the best refried beans so damn good. But if you don’t have it on hand or are otherwise a non-meat eater, use vegetable oil instead.
So, go on and serve yourself up a big old bowlful. And get your garnish on with crumbly cheese and sliced green onions.
- 2 (15 ounce) cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup beef cooking stock*
- A pinch of (around ¼ teaspoon) Mexican oregano**
- ½ - 1 teaspoon cumin***
- 1½ teaspoons chili powder
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- ½ tablespoon lime juice
- Salt, to taste
- Add the bacon grease and onions to a pan over medium heat.
- Cook for around 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, then turn heat to medium-low.
- Continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until onions and garlic are completely softened.
- Add the beef cooking stock and beans, and increase the heat to medium.
- Add Mexican oregano, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and lime juice.
- Simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until liquid is nearly evaporated.
- Reduce heat to low, then mash beans until desired consistency is reached. You can also use a stick blender if you prefer smooth, creamy refried beans.
- Depending on how wet or dry you prefer your refried beans, you may want to add more beef cooking stock at the end to achieve the desired consistency. The beans should be pretty dry at this point. My preference is to slowly add a few splashes of beef cooking stock at a time until I reach a consistency I like.
- Taste and add salt, if necessary.
- Remove from heat and garnish with crumbly cheese and sliced green onions.
**Use sparingly, as Mexican oregano has an intense flavor.
***Cumin has a very earthy, nutty, citrusy flavor that I love. Adding a full teaspoon makes it a more prominent flavor in the resulting dish, so dial it back to ½ teaspoon if you’d prefer it more muted.