It’s one of the great food mysteries: Why do homemade refried beans taste way better than canned even when you make them with canned beans? The mashing, we reckon. You can make them as rough or smooth as you like, but somehow chunks of beans seem more appropriate for outside dining. You can make the beans ahead and refrigerate for up to a day or two, or freeze for three months. It’s handy to bring them frozen in their container and use them as an ice-pack.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cans pinto or black beans (or 4 cups of your own plain cooked beans), drained
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and turn golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the beans and roughly start mashing them with a fork or potato masher. Stir in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to get the texture you want. (Remember they’ll thicken as they cool.)
- When the beans are hot, taste to see how salty they are before seasoning more. Let them cool in the pan, then transfer to an airtight container.
- Put the beans in a pot, cover, and set over low heat on a camp stove, or in a warm spot over the campfire. Stir once in a while and add water if necessary while you get the rest of the meal ready. (If they were frozen and still aren’t thawed, the beans might take as long at 30 minutes to heat without scorching.)
- Go ahead and double the recipe if you want to plan for leftovers; they won’t go to waste.
- Eat the beans cold like a dip with chips, crackers, or tortillas—and salsa or hot sauce.Use the extras to fill burritos or quesadillas.
- SKILLET HUEVOS RANCHEROS: Heat the beans in a skillet with some salsa stirred in, make indentations with the back of a spoon, and crack an egg into each. Turn the heat down, cover, and let the eggs poach as firm as you like them. Serve on tortillas.
Be uber-trendy (and not at all vegetarian) by using rendered bacon fat or lard instead of the olive oil. Butter will give you a similar richness and is still pretty cool, especially if it’s from a really great dairy. For a little extra flavor, add 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or epazote after the onions are softened in Step 1.
Sprinkle the beans with crumbled queso fresco and a little chopped cilantro just before you serve them.