Frijoles means beans of course in Spanish. However the word Refritos can be misleading. Mexicans have this habit of qualify a word to emphasize the meaning by adding the prefix re-. Refritos actually means well fried as opposed to re-fried as the word is often mistakenly interpreted to mean outside of Mexico.
Frijoles Refritos (well fried beans) are an everyday Mexican staple with many regional variations. Essentially, boiled beans are tipped into a pan of lard fried onions and garlic along with their cooking broth. I know, lard has gotten a bad rap over the years, but recently lard has been making a come back and not be so bad for you after all. I’m famous for saying “a little indulgence now and again isn’t going to kill you.” However if lard or bacon fat isn’t in the cards for you I have found that cold pressed peanut oil imparts the same unctuousness that lard does without any guilt or regrets.
The texture of frijoles refritos can vary widely. They can be mashed and fried with their broth to a thick porridge like consistency or by continuing the frying until the beans are almost dry and roll out of the pan and onto a plate much like you would do with an omelet. The latter is by far my preference as the flavor intensifies with a longer frying time. These are the frijoles refritos I really fell in love with while travelling all over Mexico.
Mexican Frijoles Refritos serves 6
Have on hand 10-12 inch non-stick frying pan
- tablespoons melted lard, bacon drippings, or cold pressed peanut oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 4-5 cups cooked beans (or canned beans) in their cooking broth (see here)
- sea salt to taste
- 4 oz Mexican farmers cheese (if available), dry feta, or creamy goat cheese
- oregano (Mexican if available)
- fresh marjoram
- chipotle powder or pure red chile powder (New Mexican is ideal)
Place the fat of choice in the frying pan over medium-low heat. When the fat is hot add the onions and fry until the onions are very soft and translucent, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to fry another 2 minutes.
I would advise wearing an apron as the beans will splatter a bit until the cooking broth evaporates while frying.
Turn the heat up to medium and add 1 cup of the beans and some cooking broth. Begin mashing the beans with a bean masher, potato masher, or large fork. Move the beans around as you mash diligently until the beans resemble a coarse puree. Then add another cup of beans and broth and continue mashing as before. Repeat the same process with the remaining beans and broth while continuing to mash the beans until the mixture is the texture you prefer.
If you would like a smoother texture, remove the pan from the heat and blend with an immersion blender set on low speed until the bean puree is to your liking. Then return the pan to the heat and continue frying.
At this point you can stir in any of the optional seasonings if you like.
Using a heat proof silicone spoon is ideal for moving the puree around in the pan as you continue to fry. Be sure to continuously move the spoon around the edges and across the bottom of the pan as you fry, folding the puree over on top of itself as you continue frying. As the liquid evaporates the bean puree will begin to firm up. At this point taste the beans and add salt to taste being sure to stir in the salt throughout the mixture evenly.
Continue frying just until the bean puree has a sheen to it and releases from the sides and bottom of the pan nearly on its own as you move the beans from side to side of the pan. Total frying time will be 20 to 25 minutes from start to finish. Be careful not to over cook as the beans will firm up somewhat as they cool.
Once the beans are firmed to your liking move the puree to one side of the pan and tip into a serving platter.
Scatter the cheese over the beans and serve. The interior of the beans will remain quite warm for quite a while for second helpings.
Delicious served along tortilla chips with drinks, included in a nachos platter, or as a side with many Mexican main courses.