Let’s get one thing straight: “refried beans” is kind of a misnomer. They’re not fried, and they’re certainly not fried twice, as the name implies. In fact, when made with cholesterol and heart-health in mind, they can actually be a good addition to your diet.
So what are these misleading legumes, really? Very basically, they’re made by soaking and stewed pinto, red or black beans, which are, by themselves, super high in protein and low in fat. Then, they’re mashed for a smoother consistency, seasoned and eventually baked—none of which actually make the beans worse for you.
But buyer beware: refried beans can get into trouble during the mashing and stewing phase, during which some restaurants and manufacturers toss in lard, fatty chicken stock, cream, or other less-than-savory additives that take away from the healthy benefits of the beans themselves. If you are going to opt for refried beans in a restaurant, be sure to ask who what they use to thicken it up.
Making your own refried beans, however, is super-easy, affordable, and can be a refreshing break from the beans-in-a-can cycle that many protein-conscious eaters get caught in. You can find about a million recipes for healthy refried beans online, but here’s one that I almost weekly:
1.) Soak 3 cups of dried pinto beans (you can buy they in bulk for practically nothing) in about an inch of water, overnight.
2.) After soaking, put a whole chopped onion, 3-4 cloves of minced garlic, a dash of pepper, and some cumin into a pot, and simmer until the beans get soft. Add water or low-fat broth if the liquid begins to evaporate. If you find yourself adding more than a single cup of water, turn down the heat.
3.) Once the beans are cooked and soft, drain the liquid into another container to save it. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the drained liquid back in until you reach the consistency that you like.