LARDER: The pulse of love – scratch homemade refritos

No more cans! Homemade frijoles negros refritos.

It’s so easy to make delicious fresh, homemade refritos. Once you start making them – and see how easy it is – you’ll be giving your canned refritos away to neighbors. Well, OK, go ahead and keep a few cans for emergencies, but these homemade beans are a revelation. Smooth, creamy, with a slightly chunky texture – and the taste!  Once they’re refried, the beans will keep for a week or more in the ‘fridge. Refried beans also freeze well – freeze them in smaller amounts and defrost as needed. This recipe makes a vegetarian (but not vegan) style refritos negros.


  • 1.5 lb. dried black beans, rinsed, picked (means take out any broken beans and any little bits of gravel that may be there)
  • 1 white onion, medium dice
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 dried bay leaves or 4 fresh
  • ½ carrot, shredded
  • 1 TB cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 2-3 tsp. salt to taste
  • 4 TB. Butter, divided (if you have leaf lard, so much the better, or if you’re restricting fats, you can use a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil – not olive)
  • Enough water to cover all ingredients to at least 2-3 inches

Method – Cooking the Beans

If you want your beans to cook quickly, it’s a good idea to pre-soak or “force” them. Both methods are given below

Forcing: Black beans are smaller and do not need that much forcing time. Put the beans in the pot, cover by at least 2″ water, add a TB salt, bring to a rapid boil, let boil for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off, cover the pot and let sit for an hour. Drain and rinse the beans, now they’re ready for cooking (in fresh water).

Pre-Soaking: Put the beans in a pot, cover with at least 2″ of cold water, let stand overnight, drain and rinse, now they’re ready for cooking.

Tip: If you’re lucky enough to live near a Farmers’ Market that has a vendor selling dried beans, get some! Check with the vendor. If the beans have recently been processed (dried) and harvested, they really need no additional soaking time – they’re incredibly flavorful and don’t take long to cook at all.

Melt half the butter in a medium sized pot; add onion, shredded carrot, garlic and sauté for a few minutes over medium heat until the onion is translucent and soft.

Add cumin, paprika, bay, allspice, nutmeg and sauté for another minute or two until fragrant. Sauteeing the aromatics with the onion and garlic lets their flavors blend and expand – be careful not to burn them.

Add the beans and sauté for a few more minutes, tossing and stirring gently to coat everything with the butter.

Add enough boiling water (or if not, then just cold water and bring it to a boil, this is a pretty forgiving recipe) to cover everything in the pot by at least 2”, 3-4” is better.

Bring water to a boil and let boil moderately for 2-3 minutes

Turn heat down to simmer, add pinch of baking soda – it will foam up a bit, gently stir the foam back in. The baking soda cuts the acidity and softens the beans a little. It’s also rumored to help with BRF (Bean-Related Flatulence), which is a good thing.

Cover and simmer low for hour or so. Every once in a while, stir your pot of beans from the bottom with a wooden spoon to make sure the beans are not sticking. This is low-intensity stuff, you can watch a football game, play World of Warcraft, or just hang out while it’s happening, as long as you periodically give the pot a stir.

Test the beans for doneness. If you put a few on a spoon and blow on them, the skins should burst a bit.

Soft enough? They’re done. Pick out the bay leaves. You can use these beans for so many things; one of our favorite things to do is to make a big batch of refritos. Refritos are just beans that have been fried and lightly mashed, like this:

Making the Refritos

Pour the cooked beans into a colander set in a pot. If you like, keep the liquid, it’s a wonderful base for – that’s right, bean soup! Let them drip for a moment or two.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add 3 TB. Butter and heat until all the butter is melted.

Add the beans to the frying pan and pat them into a thick layer. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash the beans up a bit – you’re not trying to pulverize them, just mash ‘em up and develop a nice chunky texture.

Add more butter as necessary. Add 2 tsp. salt, continue to cook. As you stir and lightly mash the beans, they’ll begin to dry out a bit and form a crust. This Is Good.

Once you’ve got a nice crust on the bottom, turn the bean mixture over with the wooden spoon (or a spatula) and start cooking the other side. Keep mashing here and there until you’ve got most of the beans mashed up a bit.

When a crust forms on the other side, your beans are done. Drizzle them with a bit of lemon juice, gently turn the juice into the bean mixture and enjoy.

Use homemade refritos in traditional Mexican dishes, such as burritos, nachos or tortas, as a base for a poached egg (as shown in the illustration), as the base for a gorgeous bean dip, or even just spread on a bit of toasted baguette.