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How to Make Refried Pinto Beans for Mexican Dishes

Ms. Venegas experiments with Mexican foods under the watchful critiques of her husband. The recipes need to pass a "when I was a kid" test.

Nothing goes better with Mexican food than refried beans on the side.

Nothing goes better with Mexican food than refried beans on the side.

Nothing goes better with Mexican food than refried beans on the side. It is true, at one time in my life, I only knew the kind you get in the can.

One cannot beat the taste of homemade pinto beans and refried beans yourself. This article will teach you how to make them, as well as how to freeze them.

In 1981, I married Edward Venegas, the eldest of 13 children from Echo Park in Los Angeles via Guadalajara, Mexico. Sometime after our wedding, I made my first pot of beans, and there was plenty of know-how from Cuca, Ed's mother.

Legumes Are a New World Export

The other half of the world did not have beans until the Spanish brought them back to Europe from Peru. Pinto means "painted" in reference to the light brown splotches on the pinto.

When cooked, the pinto turns a light pink-brown. The cooking water is slightly thick, flavorful, and a deep taupe hue.

Pinto means "painted" in reference to the light brown splotches on the pinto.

Pinto means "painted" in reference to the light brown splotches on the pinto.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

3 hours

3 hours 5 min

A huge pot


  • 5 cups pinto beans, sorted and cleaned

Step One: Prepare the Beans

  1. Measure slightly under 5 cups of dried beans and sort through them to clear out any stones and debris. Broken ones do not matter.
  2. Rinse the beans in a sieve until they are clean. No need to soak them but allow at least three hours stove time.
  3. Choose a large pan with a lid. Choose the heaviest pan you own; however, anything will work. Cover beans with 2 inches of water. Have about 2 more inches of pan left for expanding.

My cooking pot is a 6-quart stainless steel model, and it always makes plenty for freezing. This household is always disappointed if there are no home-cooked pintos in the freezer for Mexican dishes, soups or salads.


Step Two: Cook the Beans

  1. Fire up the pot over medium heat. A slow start will cause less breakage among the beans for salads and other whole-bean dishes. It may take 45 minutes or more to get a low boil going. Check the pot and adjust the heat for a steady simmer.
  2. Check occasionally to add hot water and give it a very gentle stir with a wooden spoon. Don't forget because at this stage legumes will absorb the water and the pot will need replenishing of water.
  3. In less than 1 hour, you will have a house full of fresh pinto bean aroma. They will be tender between 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours after the first hot simmer. Test for desired tenderness.
  4. Done. Turn off the fire.

Step Three: Mash the Beans

  1. Now for the mashing. The cooked beans will have a slightly thick sauce that you will use when mashing. Mash with lots of liquid.
  2. You should have a hot pudding texture or thick tomato sauce. The finished texture should stick to a tortilla, but still be moist. Skins are left and give fiber for a healthy diet.

Additions, Serving Suggestions, and Garnishes

Recently, my husband and I were thinking the refried beans needed new flavor. You can get a more old-fashioned flavor by adding a scant 1/2 teaspoon of lard. That practice is not vegetarian, but variations can make them wholly vegan. Fry the lard, or your favorite oil, for half a minute and add the pintos.

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My family of four are light eaters so about four ladles and the liquid go into the fry pan. This is the time to add the salt and a touch of garlic or onion powder. Lower heat and mash with a potato masher. Add more beans, salt or liquid to adjust consistency and taste.

Simple, isn't it? Add any extra taste ingredients just before serving.

Serve with carne asada, pulled pork, chicken or seasoned ground beef or turkey, red rice and tortillas. Bring out your favorite bottled red and green salsa.

Optional garnishes are green onion, cilantro, sliced radishes, shredded crisp lettuce, Mexican cheese, or Jack cheese.


Buying Dried Pintos

The standard grocery market like Ralph's, Vons etc. have bulk pinto beans in produce and packaged in the aisle section usually near the rice. A Latino swap meet near nearby is a good source.

Any legume will store well for up to a year in an airtight container.


How to Freeze the Beans for Later

A big pot of beans means you have enough to store for later. Using for thirty-three years, the square round Tupperware containers to freeze has saved me money, They fill to just the right amount for a family meal. A pot will fill four or five containers to put in the freezer. Save some of the thick liquid in each container.

Nutritional Information

The pinto bean or any related bean like navy, kidney and black beans are excellent sources of fiber and folate. Fiber is essential for good digestive health, and it is known to help the cardiovascular system. The protein and sugars in beans are slow burning to help stabilize blood sugar levels to avoid spikes in energy.

There is zero cholesterol in dried and canned pinto beans. Avoid canned if you want some control over your salt intake.

Dried cooked beans have zero fat.

All choices of legumes are also good sources of potassium, magnesium, vitamin B1, iron and tryptophan, an essential amino acid.

Beans are one of those foods like fruits and vegetables that we should add to our diets to optimize our health and well being.

Do You Like Mexican Rice and Beans?

Let me know if this has convinced you to cook your own refried beans. Of course, the vegetarian can be assured that their beans are just what they want when cooked at home.

Questions & Answers

Question: Beans sound great do you have a carne recipe?

Answer: Yes! It is here on Delishably and is titled Shredded Beef Tacos Using Flank Steak. It is not the traditional street carne asada, but it has become a favorite as a family recipe.

© 2008 Sherry Venegas

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