How to make healthy refried beans

A Latin treasure

Refried beans are a popular Latin American dish that originated in Mexico and, despite the name, the beans are not fried twice. The mistake comes from a mistranslation. In Spanish these frijoles (beans) are refritos, meaning well fried not re fried. They are fried once only, or in my basic recipe, not at all. This photo shows pureed beans with a swirl of sour cream. You could add the jalapeno peppers for extra bite - I prefer them as decoration.

In some parts of Central America these beans turn up in every meal, as a side-dish, in enchiladas, and as a breakfast ingredient alongside eggs, tortillas, chorizos, platano and avocado. Here in El Salvador they are also a regular ingredient in the traditional dish called pupusas. These stuffed tortillas are super-cheap and filling but unfortunately the healthiness of the beans is overshadowed by lashings of gooey cheese and thick tortilla all fried in pork fat - enough to give any self-respecting cardiologist a few sleepless nights.

All photos in this lens by Sue Pogson

A Salvadoran tradition

My local pupusa sellers

Maria and Evelyn do a great trade thanks to the factory and passing trucks.

Large picture:
Breakfast prepared on site
Smaller pictures top to bottom:
>Beans with lard - not very appetizing!
>Evelyn turning pupusas.
>The finished product - yummy but bad news in the cholesterol department.

A final word on pupusas

For a great discussion of Salvadoran pupusas check out this lens:
http://http://www.squidoo.com/what-are-papusas

The healthy option

Why refried beans?

Beans are a great source of non-animal protein and, without all that extra fat, refried beans are actually very good for the heart too: Their fibre helps lower cholesterol and just look at all the other goodies they contain! This list gives the proportion of your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals to be found in one cup of refried beans. These nutrients are important in maintaining healthy heart muscles.
  • 30% of fibre
  • 23% of vitamin B
  • 17 % of potassium
  • 21 % of magnesium
  • 8 % of calcium

Fresh or packet beans

So - I have cut down on the pupusas but I still love refried beans and have been buying packets and tins off the supermarket shelves. The other day though I thought to check the ingredients. Not only do packet and tinned refried beans contain a fair amount of sugar and monosodium glutamate but also listed is the ominously scientific term: Tertiary Butylhydroquinone.

A little research told me that this chemical preservative is made from butane and can be found in all manner of foods, cosmetics, babycare products etc, Anything made from butane doesn't belong in my kitchen - never mind my stomach. I decided it was time to make my own 'refried' beans.

I chose red kidney beans simply because that's what my local pupusaria uses, but in Mexico pinto beans are most popular. Any dried beans will do - feel free to experiment with this most colourful vegetable.

Beautiful beans from Salvadoran growers

Meat or Beans?

Beans and meat are both excellent sources of protein. Which is your preference and why?

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Beans are best!

ArthurPrittNdubi says:

i would rather take beans,this because have less side effects compared to meat. i am not big fan of red meat because the healthy trauma it has brought me.

luggnutz13 says:

I am using beans (and rice) as a means to accomplish my goal of debt free living. They provide a very inexpensive (and helthy) means to do so. Love your lens and the recipes...thanx!

vegival says:

As a longtime vegan, I'm all about the beans!

Mia-Mia says:

I do enjoy meat, but have been trying to cut down my consumption of it. So I'm especially glad to see this recipe. Thank you.

KarenTBTEN says:

I'm vegetarian. And beans seem nearly perfect from a nutritional standpoint -- except for the sodium levels in many prepared ones. The key is to make them tasty without loads of salt.

Meat for me!

Titia says:

I like both and I eat both. I hardly ever buy meat, because I raise sheep and eat them too. I gave them a good life and they give me something in return + I know what I'm eating. No hormones and antibiotics, that's for sure. Eating my own sheep is much better for them than being sold 4/5 times in 2 weeks by the traders to eventually end up in a slaughter house anyway. Ok back to beans, I just love them and I eat them on a regular base, but I've never heard of frying them.

susan-zutautas says:

Meat but I do love beans too!

BunnyFabulous says:

I'm right in the middle. Love both!

JessicaLVine says:

I like them both but I usually choose chicken. :-P

Merrci says:

Looks like ou really need a both option here! I love both too. I'll choose meat to balance the columns.

 
view all 26 comments

Basic Bean Dip

Basic Bean Dip

I've split my recipe into two parts - the first doesn't require frying at all but produces a jolly good imitation of re-fried beans. The preparation time seems long but that's just because beans take forever to cook. As chef your job is to sit in a comfy chair with a good book (or whatever takes your fancy), just remembering to lift the lid off the pot every half-hour or so and chuck in more water as required. You should explain to your family that this is a very important job and that you are not to be disturbed. Simple!

(Soaking beans overnight before cooking helps break down the complex sugars that produce gas - do it if you remember but don't worry if you forget!)
  • Serves: many
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dried beans
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (the magic ingredient)
  • water
  • salt (optional)
  • a squirt of sour cream (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put your beans in a large pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar but no salt.
  3. Bring the water to the boil, then put to simmer and cover the pot.
  4. Check the water level every 30 minutes or so. Add boiling water (cold water shock can make the beans tough) as necessary.
  5. The beans are ready when they are soft when bitten. This can take a couple of hours depending on the size of bean While the beans are still warm you should add salt to taste. I actually find that they need little if any at all.
  6. Now you're ready to mash your beans and the texture you end up with is very much down to personal choice. You can use a masher or press the beans through a sieve if you want to be really authentic but I think that's too much like hard work and prefer to leave the heavy stuff to a food processor. For a rough texture mix 3 spoonfuls of beans with one spoonful of the cooking liquid. For a really smooth texture I added a tablespoon of sour cream, but this does mean it is no longer good for vegans. It's worth experimenting until you find the texture you like. Don't add too much liquid at a time unless you want bean soup (which is delicious).

Enjoy!

Now just grab a handful of carrots, celery, whatever you fancy and get dipping.

Refried Beans - a more substantial meal

Refried Beans - a more substantial meal

Here's a main course recipe where the beans actually get fried along with the other ingredients (but only once!) The ingredients listed below make a beautiful vegan meal but you can add whatever takes your fancy - Experiment with extra ingredients such as carrots, chopped jalapeno pepper, cumin, parsley, grated cheese, bacon or sausage (for the non-veggies) - be adventurous! Amounts stated are very approximate - you like tomatoes? Add some more.... Prefer your onion mild? Use a white one. You get the picture.
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:
  • Total Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked and mashed beans - a fairly coarse mash is best
  • 1 large onion - chopped (red looks pretty but whatever you have in the kitchen will do)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (finally chopped)
  • 2-3 tomatoes (chopped)
  • tablespoon vegetable oil (my favourite is light virgin olive oil)
  • salt/pepper to taste (optional)
  • parsley/coriander (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Warm a splash of olive oil in a large pan and add chopped onions and garlic - sauté till onions are soft.
  2. Add tomatoes and any other ingredients you choose
  3. Mix in the beans and stir together for a few minutes until the whole dish is hot.
  4. Add salt/pepper to taste if needed.

Bean feast!

The combination of flavours here is quite exquisite - hard to believe something so tasty can be so simple!

Some Beanie Books

Beans are nutritious and tasty as well as being very pretty. Here are some great ideas for using them (and a pressure cooker to speed up the process).

Thank you for visiting. Please drop me a line so I know you've 'bean' by.

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  • WarnerRobinsRealtor Jan 29, 2014 @ 10:37 am
    Thanks so much for the recipes and congrats on achieving LOTD!
  • ArthurPrittNdubi Jan 29, 2014 @ 7:23 am
    i highly appreciate your recipe it is something that is worthy trying out.
  • paulavijitp Jan 27, 2014 @ 5:25 am
    Awesome recipes! Thank you for sharing. :)
  • vegival Jan 26, 2014 @ 9:54 pm
    I never knew about the vinegar trick! I will be giving this recipe a try soon!
  • DebMartin Jan 26, 2014 @ 9:43 pm
    This is a great Lens of the Day. And I love refried beans. Thanks for sharing your expertise.
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 9:59 pm
    And thank you for commenting.
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Jan 26, 2014 @ 7:45 pm
    Stopping back by to congratulate you on Lens of the Day. :-)
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 8:19 pm
    Thank you!
  • Mia-Mia Jan 26, 2014 @ 7:22 pm
    Congrats on the LOTD. Isn't it a wonderful feeling?
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 8:19 pm
    It certainly is! (I took a screen shot!)
  • rauspitz Jan 26, 2014 @ 6:15 pm
    Very groovy lens. Myself, I like beans and find your recipe worth exploring. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 6:35 pm
    thank you. Groovy is good.
  • Titia Jan 26, 2014 @ 6:10 pm
    Enjoyed the read and I'm gonna try some of your recipes for sure. Never smashed the beans either. Most of the time I use 4 or 5 different kind of beans and make a one pot meal with veggies.
  • DaisyDixon Jan 26, 2014 @ 4:00 pm
    What a well deserving LOTD! I will have to try this, its a new one for me! Thanks :)
  • leahjsongs Jan 26, 2014 @ 3:26 pm
    I love beans. The spicier, the better.
  • Graceonline Jan 26, 2014 @ 2:01 pm
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this page. You are a wonderfully engaging writer, and your photographs are elegant in their simplicity and absolutely appetizing. I've been cooking dried beans for forty years, but I never once thought to add balsamic to the water. What a terrific idea! My mouth is watering at the thought. Thank you for all the information. I always wondered why they were called "refried" since I have never seen a single recipe requiring frying the beans twice and few that required it even once. Now I know.
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 3:47 pm
    What lovely comments! Thank you so much.
  • susan-zutautas Jan 26, 2014 @ 1:48 pm
    Your refried beans look and sound very good. Congrats on your lens as being chosen for LOTD!
  • BunnyFabulous Jan 26, 2014 @ 1:39 pm
    I'm a huge fan of beans. I do a similar recipe with black beans, because those are my family's favorites. I puree them in the food processor and add some cheese. Delicious! I'll have to try your refried recipe too. Thanks for all the bean background info as well.
  • Michellle Jan 26, 2014 @ 11:24 am
    Just in time for the Super Bowl Party!
  • partybuzz Jan 26, 2014 @ 11:07 am
    I love refried beans, but never made my own. Now I can! Congratulations on LotD!
  • d-artist Jan 26, 2014 @ 10:11 am
    Congratulations on LOTD!
  • JessicaLVine Jan 26, 2014 @ 9:44 am
    Hey there! I really thought they were fried two times. lol Goodness me.
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 10:09 am
    so did I at first! Thanks for visiting
  • Merrci Jan 26, 2014 @ 9:17 am
    Congrats on LotD! What a great recipe to have--thanks! Ingredients are going on my shopping list for this week. Nice to have a healthier version.
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 10:09 am
    Thank you - I took a screen shot of the honmepage! LotD feels good. Enjoy your beans.
  • esmonaco Jan 26, 2014 @ 9:09 am
    Great infomation, thanks for putting this together, I'm going to pin it for these wonderful recipes! Congratulations on LOTD!!
  • suepogson Jan 26, 2014 @ 10:10 am
    Thank you.
  • tonyleather Jan 26, 2014 @ 9:02 am
    This sounds very tasty, but I suspect that using so many pulses would be a carb overdose, so I will not be trying it!
  • Casacicak Jan 26, 2014 @ 8:28 am
    Felicidades on Lens of the Day. Well done and much deserved. :-)
  • StephenJParkin Jan 26, 2014 @ 7:28 am
    In order to understand why beans are best people should look out for the books of Dr Joel Fuhrman. He studied the foods of the healthiest people in the World and his cookbooks are based on the foods that maximise the strength of our immune systems. It works and will both help to prevent and cure nearly all of today's killer diseases!
  • halvmarathon_Jesper Jan 26, 2014 @ 4:46 am
    I'm am deffently going to try the Refried Beans recipe. It sounds delicious. Thank you for sharing.
  • chrisilouhoo Jan 26, 2014 @ 3:03 am
    Thanks, I've never thought to make this on my own, I love that it can be super healthy.
  • RubyHRose Jan 26, 2014 @ 12:51 am
    That bean feast looks so delicious. I will be making it quite soon. What a terrific lens. Black beans are my favorite, though I like them all. Congrats on LotD!
  • beautyandbeast Jan 26, 2014 @ 12:49 am
    Awesome recipes! Thank you for sharing. :)
  • RinchenChodron Sep 30, 2013 @ 9:59 am
    I came by at 7 a.m. so now I'm eating refried beans for breakfast! Thanks.
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Aug 27, 2013 @ 10:18 pm
    I'm glad I stopped by. Since I'm eating more beans these days, I need to learn as much as possible about them. Very helpful. Thank you!
  • takkhis Aug 10, 2013 @ 10:41 pm
    It sounds very delicious! I would share this one with my mom, thanks :)
  • FlowerChick Aug 05, 2013 @ 11:08 am
    These look so good...I look forward to trying your recipes! Thanks for sharing.
  • d-artist Jul 27, 2013 @ 8:22 pm
    Great lens! I make Puerto Rican beans for my hubby and me, I love these tasty pinto beans. Occasionally I'll add chorizo or a bit of lean hamburger.
  • CHANGECOACHER Jul 25, 2013 @ 6:27 pm
    What a wonderful lens! I am such a health nut and beans are a staple in my diet, especially organic black beans. Thanks for the explanation about "re-fried"..mystery cleared. I will pin this to my "For The Inside" board.
  • suepogson Aug 25, 2013 @ 10:59 pm
    Thanks CHANGECOACHER. Glad you stopped by.
  • artbyrodriguez Jul 25, 2013 @ 1:34 pm
    Very nice article and great subject. Love the photos, too.
  • kiwinana71 Jul 24, 2013 @ 11:29 pm
    Very nice article, looks simple and easy to do, must try it.
    Thanks for the tip about soaking the beans, that could be very helpful.
    I like the dish you have the beans on, very smart, i haven't seen one like that.
  • BarbaraCasey Jul 23, 2013 @ 10:21 am
    Now that we're not eating meat, beans are on the menu more often. Printing your page and will try my hand at making beans from scratch. Thanks!
  • suepogson Aug 25, 2013 @ 11:00 pm
    Thanks to you for your comment. I hope you tried and enjoyed.

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