Basic Preparations/

Well-fried Beans

Frijoles Refritos
Servings: 5cups, serving 8 to 10


  • If you’re cooking beans from scratch:
  • 1pound (about 2 generous cups) dry beans (any color you wish, from black to red, tan, white or speckled)
  • 2tablespoons vegetable oil or rich-tasting pork lard (or even bacon drippings or fat rendered from chorizo sausage)
  • 1medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1large sprig fresh epazote (optional but delicious—especially with black beans)
  • salt
  • For making frijoles refritos:
  • 1/4cup (or more, for richer beans) vegetable oil, rich-tasting pork lard or bacon drippings
  • 1medium white onion, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
  • 4large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 to 7cups cooked beans with their liquid OR 4 15-ounce cans beans, undrained
  • salt


Cook beans from scratch.  Though beans in the United States are sold very clean, you may want to check them for stones or debris and rinse them in a collander.  Pour the beans into a deep, medium-large (4- to 6-quart) pot (preferably a heavy Dutch oven or Mexican earthenware olla) or into a large pressure cooker (I like the electric Instant Pot).  Measure in 2 ½ quarts water (2 quarts for the pressure cooker) and remove any beans that float.  Add the 2 tablespoons oil or other fat, the chopped onion and the optional epazoteFor stovetop: Bring to a strong rolling boil, then reduce the heat (low to medium-low on most stoves) to keep the liquid at a very gentle simmer, and partially cover (no need to cover the narrow-mouthed Mexican olla—its design takes care of maintaining even heat and controlling evaporation). Simmer until the beans are thoroughly tender, adding water as needed to keep the liquid level roughly the same, about 2 hours. For pressure cooker: pressure cook for 1 hour, then allow the steam to naturally release.  

To your cooked beans, stir in 1 ½ teaspoons salt, simmer for a few minutes for the salt to be absorbed, then taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary. 

Make frijoles refritos.  In a large (12-inch) heavy skillet (preferably nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron), heat the ¼ cup (or more) oil or other fat over medium.  Add the chopped onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until richly golden, 7 to 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Now, using a slotted spoon, begin adding the beans to the skillet several large spoonfuls at a time, mashing them to a coarse puree with a Mexican bean masher, an old-fashioned potato masher or the back of a large spoon.  Continue adding and mashing the beans until all have been used.  Stir in enough bean broth to give the mixture the consistency of soft mashed potatoes—the beans will thicken as they begin to cool. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.  Either serve directly from the skillet or scoop into a platter or bowl. 


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