Culinary legend tells us that pot-au-feu—soup stock—simmers on the back burner in any and all French homes.
A pot of warm pinto beans is just as ubiquitous in most Mexican and Mexican-American homes.
Growing up in California in the 1970s I loved hanging out at my best friend Teresa’s house. Treesie’s Mexican-American family made guests feel at home and her grandmother always had a big pot of pinto beans warm on the stove ready for meals or snacks at any hour.
Next to the pot stood a foot-high stack of fragrant, fresh tortillas—the perfect foil for the succulent, pink-fleshed pintos.
No wonder pinto beans remain one of my favorite foods—and a staple for our family that includes several vegetarians.
At Copywriters’ Kitchen we always have a bowl of pintos in the fridge ready to reheat for breakfast burritos, lunches or stick-to-the-ribs snacking.
I also cook and freeze pintas in 2-cup containers so they’re ready for chilis, casseroles and salads.
But being a 3rd generation Californian who grew up eating delicious homestyle Mexican food, nothing says “comfort food” to me more than refried pinto beans.
Traditional refried bean recipes call for copious quantities of bacon grease, lard or oil. My lower-fat version is just as tasty—though Teresa’s abuela might raise a questioning eyebrow—and you can eat as much as you like without guilt.
Healthy Homemade Refried Beans are delicious in bean dips, as a side dish with spicy south-of-the-border main courses or scooped onto a heated tortilla.
Healthy Homemade Refried Beans
4 cups cooked pinto beans, reserve one cup bean broth
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Cook pinto beans ahead of time. Rinse a pound of pintos, pour into crockpot, cover with water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover pot and simmer for several hours. Or cook beans traditionally according to directions on package. Spoon out and drain 4 cups of beans. Reserve 1 cup bean broth.
- In a Dutch Oven or large skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium flame.
- When oil is hot, add two cups beans, mashing them down with a potato masher.
- Adjust flame to low and fry beans for 2-3 minutes, stirring often and adding bean broth as needed to keep beans from drying.
- Push beans to the sides of the pot and add remaining tablespoon of oil.
- When oil is hot, add remaining beans and repeat process, mashing beans, cooking and adding extra bean broth. The beans will continue to absorb liquid after being removed from heat so add enough liquid to make them sloppy moist. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or store in covered container in fridge.