Refried beans

Contributed by Preston Maring, MD

Refried beans
I've been told, in various ways, that I need to develop a better relationship with beans. Since they are nutritious, tasty, and inexpensive, I listened carefully. First, a retired military leader who, along with his wife, cooks almost 90 percent of the recipes I send out told me that the black bean dressing was one of my few failures—he couldn't tell if it was really a dressing or not so he used it as a side dish. Then a rural food system expert, who butchers her own 400-pound hogs in a weekend to make salami and prosciutto, told me I should really use soaked dried beans instead of canned beans. A director of a big department that creates working relationships between different health care systems took a different approach. He simply hinted by giving me a bag of heirloom dried red beans to try. They were used for this week's recipe. Whenever there is time for forethought, the dried beans are the best choice. Heirloom beans are those varieties that have been around for centuries. Check out It really isn't that hard to use the real thing. I never got them to the creamy consistency of refried beans in a can, but these were great garnished with avocado, non-fat sour cream, and chopped cilantro.

Servings: 6


  • 1½ cups dried red pinto beans or red kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tomato, diced (tomatoes aren't in season—since I really wanted to use the beans I used a couple of canned plum tomatoes)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


Pick over the beans to get rid of stones. Place in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak at least three hours. Drain the beans. Place in a saucepan and cover them in water about 2 inches deep. Bring to a boil uncovered, then simmer for about an hour or until they are very tender and the skins are cracking open. This may take an hour. Drain them and RESERVE THE LIQUID. (The caps are a reminder—I have drained a whole soup pot of newly prepared turkey stock forgetting to capture the stock and watched it disappear down the drain.) In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the onion, jalapeño, garlic, oregano, and cumin in the oil until the onion is very soft. Add the beans and tomato. Mash the beans with a masher or wooden spoon. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid until the desired consistency is reached. Season the beans with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information (per serving)