Sunday, May 16, 2010

Recipe: Refried Pinto Beans

These beans (shown here with spanish rice) are perfect for enchiladas, bean and cheese quesadillas, tacos, bean dip, and more.

This recipe takes about 25 minutes, so it makes sense to double or triple it so you have extra for other meals.

I keep bags of frozen pinto beans ready for this sort of thing, but you could also use canned (pre-cooked) pinto beans.  In that case you'll want to strain the liquid out of the beans before you use them.  You'll also want to season this recipe more heavily with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and perhaps a splash of your favorite smoky hot sauce.

Adding caramelized onions to refried beans brings in some sweetness to round out the otherwise salty/savory flavor, and fresh garlic gives the spices more dimension.

It's important to add the fresh garlic after the onions and beans are done, since if the garlic cooks too long it will burn and turn bitter. I add chicken broth to shut down the garlic's cooking, and to lift flavors off the skillet.  The broth also helps meld flavors, and for some dishes (like enchiladas or bean dip), a filling with a bit more liquid may be desired.  

  • 4 cups Derek's (almost) Famous Pinto Beans
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced fine
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3/4 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • salt
  • pepper
  • spices

Begin by caramelizing the onions in 2 tablespoons of oil. To do this, heat a large cast iron skillet on medium-low heat until hot (the oil should shimmer and get visbly thinner when you add it).

Toss in the onions.  I typically leave my onions sliced, but you can chop them as small as you like. You can read more on caramelized onion theory and practice.

Once the onions are starting to turn golden (i.e. caramelizing), add the beans.  Heat the beans until they are hot while stirring every minute or two to prevent burning. Once the beans are hot, clear a spot in the middle of the skillet, and put a tablespoon of oil in the center of it.

Toss your minced garlic into this spot, and stir it around with a wooden spoon to keep it from burning. Be sure to scrape up any garlic that sticks to the skillet (again, to prevent burning).

After 30 seconds or so when the garlic is just cooked, add the broth to shut down the garlic cooking and to lift flavors off the skillet.

Stir things around to meld flavors,  adjust seasoning as necessary, and serve!


  1. Dude, I love your recipes and your site. I found it soon after I created a similar themed blog myself. Despite what I said in my blog about having to get rid of you, I think there is room for more than one good cast iron cooking blog. :)

  2. Hey Tyrone,

    I think we should absolutely go Highlander-style with some cast iron skillets one of these days...

    But seriously, there's plenty of ground to cover in the cast iron space, so I'll be checking out to keep tabs and learn something new.

    Thanks for stopping by!



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