Sunday, March 15, 2015

Slow Cooker Refried Beans

What do refried beans taste like?  Not much.  They're just sort of mushy cardboard, to put it nicely.  Not that I am bashing refried beans: I use them all the time.  But I never noticed how bland and flavorless they are... until I made my own.

As I posted yesterday, I threw a Mexican dinner party where I made sopes (next post, I promise).  The carnivores topped their sopes with Mexican shredded beef, but I wanted to make a vegetarian topping for myself, so I decided to try out making my own refried beans.  Part of the reasoning behind this, besides wanting beans for myself, is that lots of canned refried beans aren't gluten-free for Maggie (what? Why is there wheat in our beans?!).  I figured making my own would be safer for Mags, more delicious for me, and frankly wouldn't take that much work, because I found a slow cooker recipe.  Plus, I always feel extra accomplished when I cook using dried beans.  So cheap, so easy - remind me again why I rarely do it?

The dried beans boil away for 15 minutes, and that's the hardest part of this recipe, frankly.  Then you just toss them into the slow cooker with water, onion, garlic, jalapeño (it just adds flavor; these aren't spicy at all), and salt.  That's it.  Forget about it for the next 4 - 6 hours while you make Mexican shredded beef in the meantime (or, I suppose you could make whatever you want!).

When they're ready, the beans and veggies get pureed in a food processor with some of the water they cooked in and a tablespoon of the liquid from pickled jalapeños (I thought that was cool).  Voila!  Refried beans.  This was such an easy recipe, with such a good end result, that it makes me wonder why I used canned refried beans, ever.  The next time I need them, luckily, I have a nice big container of them in the freezer (apparently they freeze really well!).

Even though I made refried beans mainly for my own vegetarian option, all the carnivores tried them too.  They ended up topping their sopes with both refried beans and shredded beef, which made me happy.  Everyone agreed they're much better than the canned version.  I love when I find a good, easy DIY recipe for something we never think twice about picking up in a grocery store.  Go buy a giant bag of dried beans for pennies and try this out.  Trust me.


slow cooker refried beans
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
makes 8 cups refried beans

1 pound dry pinto beans (I used kidney), rinsed, stones and shriveled beans removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 jalapeño, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
1 tablespoon white vinegar, or same amount of liquid from a jar of jalapeños or banana peppers
salt to taste


1) Place the rinsed beans in a medium or large saucepan and cover with water by at least an inch.  Bring the beans and water to a boil and cover, cooking for 15 minutes (be aware that the beans will expand as they absorb water and cook, so make sure your pan isn't overly full to begin with or else you'll have an overflow problem; it's safest to start with a larger pot).

2) Remove from the heat and drain the beans.  Place the beans in the slow cooker and cover with about 2 inches of water.  Add the salt, onion, garlic, and jalapeño.  Cover and cook on high for 4 - 6 hours, or on low for 8 - 10 hours.

3) When the beans are tender, ladle out 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and reserve.  Drain the beans and veggies in a colander until most of the liquid is gone but there are still a few drops (you don't want the beans bone dry).

4) Place the beans and veggies and 1 tablespoon vinegar or jarred pepper liquid in a food processor or blender.  If you need to do this in batches, make sure to split the vinegar among your batches).

5) Depending on how well you drained the beans, add about 1/4 cup liquid, more if needed, and process until the desired texture is reached.  Add more liquid if needed.  Taste beans and add additional salt if needed.

6) To freeze, let the beans cool and spoon the in 1 - 2 cup amounts into freezer Ziploc bags.  Press them flat, remove as much air as possible, and seal.

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