There’s nothing better than really good Mexican food, especially when you can make the really good Mexican food at home. One of my favorite parts is the beans and I’ve only ever used beans from a can, until now. My co-workers introduced me to homemade refried beans and I’ve never had anything so delicious! I’ve been meaning to make them for almost a year now but I kept chickening out and buying the cans instead, so I finally made them for the first time about 2 weeks ago. They were okay, but not great and so I made them again this last weekend after learning a thing or two and they were perfect! Refried beans are so easy to make and now that I’ve made them I can’t really imagine going back to the cans.
When I made the beans over the weekend I made two versions of beans, one was vegetarian that I made in my crock pot while the other version was done in a dutch oven and used bacon. After all was said and done, I preferred the crock pot vegetarian version. So this post is about the crock pot version and I’ll write another post about the dutch oven version another time.
What I love about the crock pot version is that it’s like any other great crock pot recipe, you can put all the ingredients in the crock pot and forget about it until it’s done!
Start by rinsing the dried pinto beans and picking out any bad ones and then dump them into your crock pot.
Note: you don’t need to pre-soak the beans.
Along with the beans, add in half an onion and garlic cloves. The onion can be in large chunks or small, it’ll be mashed at the end anyways so it doesn’t really matter. The garlic cloves will be kept whole and the flavor will deepen and get sweet while they cook.
Pour in enough water to cover the beans by just an inch or two, there’s definitely no need for anymore water than that. Especially in a crock pot, the water won’t evaporate like it would on a stove top, plus, using a little less water seems to keep the flavor more concentrated.
Cover the crock pot and turn onto low for 6. If you double this batch then it probably needs to cook more like 8 hours, but mine never take more than 6.
After 6 hours check to see how the beans are doing, they should be very tender and the water the color of pinto beans. I dumped the water out before I took the picture, which I shouldn’t have done, but it was just covering the top of the beans and it was a rich pinto bean color. You’ll want to save the water, so pour the beans through a strainer set over a large bowl. If the beans get too dry while mashing, you can add in a tablespoon of water if needed to help moisten them up.
Melt a quarter stick to half a stick of butter in a cast iron skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil
Dump the beans into the cast iron skillet and toss them so they’re all coated in butter. Now if you haven’t noticed, there hasn’t been any salt added to the beans thus far, so now is when we’re going to add salt. I’ve heard several different theories about not adding salt before, but my best reason is that I add much less salt when they’re at this stage. Last time I made them I added a TON of salt while in the crock pot and they still needed more afterwards. So adding salt only when I’m about to mash them allows me to add a more reasonable amount.
Then grab your potato masher and start mashing the beans.
You can mash the beans as much or as little as you’d like. I like my refried beans pretty mashed up so I mashed them well. If you like them pureed, you could even use an immersion blender to get them smoother.
If they seem too dry, you can add a little of that pinto water that was saved. Also a drizzle or two of olive oil adds a lot of great flavor and helps smooth the beans out.
And just like that, homemade refried beans!! I promise you’re going to love them and you’ll never want to buy another can of beans again!! Making them this way, especially in the crock pot, was so incredibly easy and I didn’t have to stand over a stove for 3 hours watching them. Also, can I just add in, this way is SO much cheaper than using cans, especially if you’re making beans for a large group dinner. These can last several days in the fridge and you can even freeze them in smaller amounts and pull them out when needed.
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 6-8 cups water
- 1/4-1/2 stick butter
- 1 teas - 1 tablespoon salt
- olive oil
- Dump the beans into a strainer to rinse, then remove any bad ones. Pour them into the crock pot with the onion and garlic. Pour enough water in to cover by 1-2 inches. Turn the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.
- Beans will be fork tender when they're done. Strain the beans over a bowl to keep the liquid.
- In a heavy skillet, like cast iron, melt the butter with olive oil and then pour the beans in and add the salt. Add just a little at first because you can always add more if needed.
- Take a potato masher and mash the beans to the consistency you like. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
- This makes a lot of beans, freeze the beans after the crock pot stage before the butter/salt and mashing stage.