Re-fried Beans Done Right (Frijoles Refritos)

When you think about Mexican food, re-fried beans always come to mind.  They are one of the classic sides to most main dishes, especially in restaurants.  If you follow my method, you will make better beans than you will often find in restaurants and will never look at the canned type again.  Re-fried beans aren’t just a side either.  They are an important part of many dishes and if you have them on hand, you can make a variety of quick dinner options.  They are used for tacos, tostadas, sopas, and many more.

The secret that makes these beans different than others is that frying peppers in the oil first infuses the oil with flavor which comes out in the beans.  Don’t worry, the final dish will not be spicy at all.

  • about 8 cups frijoles de la oya (whole beans) with up to 2 cups of the juice – see recipe here
  • 6 fresh jalapenos
  • corn oil, enough so that the jalapenos sit about half in and half out of the oil (You can also use canola or other vegetable oil with a relatively high smoke point, olive oil doesn’t work as well.)
  1. Wash the jalapenos and pop off the stem.  Dry the peppers on a paper towel.
  2. Make several slits in the jalapenos with a paring knife on each side of the pepper.
  3. Add the oil to a medium sauce pan and heat on medium high.
  4. Add the jalapenos to the oil.  Turn them frequently so that they get fried all the way around.
  5. Once the peppers are blistered all over, but not burned, take them out of the oil and place on a separate plate.  Salt the peppers.  Many people like to eat the peppers as an accompaniment to the beans.
  6. Remove the oil from the heat and let cool for about a minute.  Spoon in frijoles de la oya with enough of its juice so that the beans can move around in the pot, but are not too soupy.
  7. Do NOT stir.  Simmer the beans on medium for twenty minutes or until a skin forms on the top of the pot and then begins to break up.  Longer is often better.
  8. With a potato masher, mash the beans until smooth.  A stick blender can be used, but there is a danger of making the beans too smooth.  If it gets too smooth, it can turn gluey.  There should be some texture, but no chunks.

Re-fried beans can be served as is as a side dish or as part of a simple main course of bean and cheese tacos.  This versatile dish adds authentic Mexican flavor to your cooking.

Beans on the Boil
Notice the film that has formed on the top of the pot. A good indication that the beans are ready to smash is when this is gone.


Frijoles de la Oya (Whole Pinto Beans)

Beans are a foundation of Mexican cooking, they accompany many, many dishes and a major component of many more.  This recipe for Frijoles de la Oya (Whole Beans) is just like La Abuelita taught me to make them.  With this recipe I am beginning a series on the building blocks of Mexican cooking, so that you have the tools to make a variety of incredible dishes.  Once you have made beans this way, you will never consider using canned beans again.  The difference in the quality and the flavor is astronomical.

From this recipe you can make re-fried beans, and the bean juice is also used for Enchiladas Rancheras.  It is also the basis for Frijoles Borrachos (Drunken Beans).  You can add whole beans to things like tacos and burritos you might otherwise use re-fried beans for, as a healthier option.  I have a pot in my fridge most of the time and add them to Fajitas and Chile con Carne, the possibilities are endless.  Another great way to eat them is in a bowl with just a little bit of chopped cilantro and maybe some grated queso cotija (Mexican dry cheese).  They are packed with fiber and protein and a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  Here is a link to an article on their nutrition.  Frijoles de la Oya make a great addition to a healthy diet.

Frijoles de la Oya (Whole Beans)


1 part dried pinto beans to

3 parts water



When you bring the beans home from the store, there will be some broken beans, some that have shriveled up, and sometimes tiny hardened dirt clods.  All of these will need to be found and removed for the best frijoles.

The best way I have figured out to do this is to pour the beans I intend to use into a pile on the table, then take a small section, about as much as I can fit in my hand, spread it out and pick out the undesirables. Then, pick up that section of beans and pass them back and forth between your hands to see any broken ones you may have missed.  Too many broken beans make the bean juice thicken too much.

Place the sorted beans into a strainer and move on to the next section.  This can be a tedious process, but it is worth it in your final product.  I will often do this sorting process when I get home from the store and then separate one pot’s worth of sorted beans  into bags.  I buy in bulk, then have pre-portioned amounts to easily start a pot of beans whenever I want them.


Next rinse the beans in hot water until they are cleaned of dirt and the outside oil coating on the beans has mostly washed away.  Stir the beans as you are rinsing them to get to all of them.


Combine the beans and water in a large pot, cover and heat on high, stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil.  At this point a bunch of the beans will be floating on top.  Add some cold water to the pot and the beans will drop back into the water.

Aside: La Abuelita taught me to bless the pot as I was adding the cold water, so I do.  It is a great way to remember why I cook, and to ask that we will always have nutritious food.  It is also a way that I continue her traditions and teach my son about the value they bring.

Once the water returns to a boil, add the salt and give it a stir.  Put the lid back on and reduce the heat so that the pot continues to simmer gently for about another two hours.  Stir every once in a while to make sure the beans don’t stick to the bottom.

Check to see if they are done by looking and tasting.  If the beans are about twice their original size and there are a few that have split open, then they are done.  The texture should be soft, but not mushy.

Serve whole beans with a little cilantro or cheese, add them to quesadillas, burritos, or many other dishes for fiber, protein and just wholesome goodness.

Note about pre-soaking:

I don’t pre-soak my beans and neither did La Abuelita.  The process only saves about a half hour of cooking time, and it is extra fuss. I would be curious if anyone knows an actual benefit of the process, please let me know.  The point is to begin the softening process for the beans, and to get rid of dirt and oil from the outside of the beans.  Just wash them under hot water, and you’re done.



I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this recipe.