Let’s clear something up here: Yes, you can buy refried beans in a can, and yes, you can make a semi-homemade version with canned beans. They’re both fine when you’re very short on time, but they won’t match the richness or texture of those made from scratch. This recipe comes from Richard Martinez, dad of cookbook author and former BA senior food editor Rick Martinez. Richard makes his frijoles refritos using bacon drippings and, “as if that weren’t enough deliciousness,” Rick writes, “there’s salt-cured pork belly cooked with the beans! I mean, how could you not love these beans?” Richard uses dried pinto beans, but you could certainly sub in black beans or kidney beans if that’s what you have on hand.
If you’re new to preparing homemade refried beans, keep two things in mind. First, grab an apron and an old long sleeve shirt before frying as the beans and their cooking liquid splatter easily. Second, be mindful of over-seasoning; both the cured pork and bacon drippings contain quite a bit of salt, and there’s no coming back if you overdo it. Little accompaniment is required for serving, but Rick recommends fresh pico de gallo and a crumbling of queso fresco. Alternatively, layer them onto a tostada, fold them into enchiladas, offer them as a side dish with tamales, or try recreating Rick’s favorite bean-chorizo-salsa breakfast taco.
Makes 2 quarts
medium onion, chopped
green bell pepper, chopped
garlic cloves, finely grated
pound dried pinto beans, rinsed, picked through
ounces salt pork or thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
teaspoons kosher salt
cup lard or rendered bacon fat, divided
Pico de gallo and crumbled queso fresco (for serving)