Healthy Refried Beans

October 15, 2014 | Posted by Sally Jackson

Refried beans – whether folded inside a tortilla with some shredded lettuce, hot sauce and grated cheese, spooned over rice, or scooped up with salty corn chips – are one of my favorite Mexican staples. If you haven’t made your own before, I highly recommend giving these a try. The sodium level in canned varieties can be extremely high, and the texture…meh. Like most things homemade, yours will be better!

>> get the recipe and watch the video <<

I personally like a silky, loose consistency to my refried beans (yes, you’ll see in the video that I prefer them “loosey goosey!”) but what I don’t like is how much fat is traditionally needed to get them to that point. I don’t believe in going fully fat-free – you need a little oil to get things moving – but I do want to make this a healthy and vegetarian dish, so tons of oil or lard is definitely out. What’s in? FLAVOR. Here’s what I do:

To start, you have to make your own beans! Now, I wish that I were the kind of totally-on-top-of-menu-planning, totally on top of everything kind of person who always remembers to soak dried beans the night ahead of time…but I’m not. When I do get those beans in the pot to soak overnight, yay me! And when I don’t, I turn to this quick method of covering my beans with water, bringing them to a boil, turning them off, and then soaking them in the hot water for an hour. Then drain, rinse, and pretend you had the forethought to presoak your beans. TA-DA.

Now that the soaking is out of the way, we can get started with the actual cooking of the beans. What’s most important in it is that you get to inject your refried beans with flavor from the get-go. That means cooking your beans with salt (Forget the myth that it makes them tough. It doesn’t. What salt does do is make them tasty.) plus great aromatics. (Something else that would be great in that pot: epazote!)

Another tip: please don’t drain any of that cooking liquid! The starchy, flavor-packed liquid is your ticket to deliciously silky refried beans without all the added fat. Simply add that warm liquid in by the ladleful as you mash them until you reach the consistency you desire. In fact, it’s best to take them a step beyond where you want them as they will firm up off the heat, so pour it on. I start things off by sautéing grated onion, minced jalapeño, a whole clove or two or garlic and a dash of smoky, earthy cumin in my pan before adding in the cooked beans and mashing with the beans’ broth. Easy, delicious, healthy, and just right.