I’ve been asked how I make my frijoles. Frijoles can be used in all kinds of ways. Whole cooked frijoles can be used in rice, on chicken, in omelets, on salads, in soups, all kinds of things.
Cooking frijoles isn’t a step-by-step process that you can just copy. It’s an art that you have to practice. In places where beans are a staple, people make them daily, so they really have it down. For those of us who just make them from time to time, the learning curve can take a bit longer. Sometimes I really nail it, sometimes I really don’t. I don’t always know what exactly went wrong. I think a lot of times it’s because I either got in a hurry somewhere along the way, or I got distracted and didn’t pay enough attention. Don’t let this scare you off of trying. Most failed bean experiments can be salvaged with a good dose of salsa or crema. Beans aren’t expensive, so if you totally ruin a batch, it’s ok.
The first thing is to find good beans. You can either use black beans (frijoles negros) or small red beans (frijoles rojos). When you’re looking for frijoles rojos, look for beans labeled “red beans” or “frijoles rojos” rather than ones labeled “kidney beans.” Technically, they’re the same thing, but the ones labeled “kidney beans” are generally larger, and in my opinion, grainier – more like pinto beans. Don’t use pinto beans, unless you really like Tex-Mex style refried beans (I don’t).
For your first try, don’t use a whole bag, it will be too overwhelming. Start with 1/3 or 1/2 a bag or less.
- Soak your beans overnight.
- Boil them for 10 min (this gets rid of a toxin that can be present in dry beans).
- Then add some onion, salt & garlic to taste. Go easy on these the first time around, you can always add salt, onion powder & garlic powder after the fact.
- Cook them until they are soft, but still firm – not mushy. You can either do this in a stock pot or slow cooker.
- If you’re using your beans whole, you can drain them at this point & add them to whatever recipe you’re making.
- If you want frijoles refritos, DON’T drain the beans, go on to the next set of directions.
- In a large pan, saute some onion & garlic pieces in oil, butter, or grease.
- Scoop the beans out of their “soup” and put them in the blender, or a bowl where you can mash them w/ a fork or ricer.
- Add the “soup” as needed to get the beans to a thoroughly smooth, pureed consistency. You want them to be a little runny still.
- Remove the onion & garlic pieces from the oil.
- Add your liquid beans to the pan & cook on medium (low enough to keep it from bubbling and making a mess all over your stove).
- Cook until the oil is absorbed and your beans are no longer runny.
- One of my host moms in Honduras added a bit of brown sugar to her beans in the blender phase, which was heavenly.
- Another friend in Honduras adds some red chili peppers to the oil.
- If you like your beans more Mexcian flavored, you can also add ground cumin during the boiling phase – but go easy, as you cook the beans down, the cumin flavor will get stronger, it’s very easy to over-do it.
Sometimes I get lazy and skip the frying part by just returning the beans to the slow cooker after pureeing and letting them cook down w/out oil or sauteed onions. The beans come out a bit blander, but if you’re using them for a layer dip or even as a baleada topping, they’re totally fine. They just aren’t as tasty on their own that way.