With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner I have Mexican food on the brain.
I love, love, love Mexican food. Really what we get up here in Iowa is more like Americanized Mexican food. Actually it’s Midwestern-ized Mexican food. I have enjoyed my fair share of Mexican food in Texas and it is a whole new world compared to our Mexican food here. Yes, maybe some of it is considered to be more Tex-Mex, but it is probably way closer to the real deal than our food is here.
Let’s just say, Texas is not afraid to spice things up. Come on Iowa, turn up the heat a little!
All things considered, once you know which Mexican restaurants to return to in the Midwest, some are pretty good. Authentic? Probably not. But I’ll take what I can get.
The majority of the dishes ordered in Mexican restaurants in the Midwest are served with a side of refried beans, maybe some guacamole, rice, a slice of tomato, and some shredded iceberg lettuce. You all know by now how I feel about iceberg lettuce. Water, no nutrients! Flavorless!
Anyway this is about the refried beans, not the lettuce. These sides that are brought with our meal are pretty standard; they are predictable, and sometimes a little boring.
I have a love-hate relationship with the refried beans that are served here. They are of the pinto bean variety and are pretty runny and bland. Somehow I usually end up eating the refried beans, mostly because there is a good amount of melted cheese on top.
MUST-NOT-WASTE-CHEESE, says my Wisconsinite subconscious.
To be honest, I’m not really sure what traditional (at least non-Midwestern-ized) refried beans are really supposed to taste like. Are they completely smooth, or are they a little chunky? Onion or no onion?
Either way, I knew I could make my own version of refried beans way better than any Midwestern Mexican restaurant can. And there is no doubt that they will be better than what comes from a can.
I chose to use black beans because I think they have more flavor than pinto beans, but you could use whichever variety floats your boat.
Making refried beans was surprisingly easy. They only took 1 skillet and 15 minutes to make.
The spices add a ton of flavor that I find canned refried beans to be lacking. They are totally customizable. If you don’t want them to be very spicy then hold back on the cayenne pepper. If you want more of a smoky flavor, then add more smoked paprika.
Use a potato masher to mash the beans up, which allows complete control over the texture. I enjoyed my refried beans mostly smooth with a few chunks of bean laced throughout.
Top them with some Queso Fresco or Cojita Cheese, cilantro, and green onions for a dip with tortilla chips. Or enjoy them alongside your favorite Mexican dish.
Honestly I didn’t think I would like them eaten as a dip. I thought hummus was the only bean dip for me. But I was wrong. These refried beans made up the majority of our lunch. Would you like a little chicken with those refried beans?
The true test that they were good was that Paul ate just as much of them as I did. Usually he won’t touch refried beans. After trying my own tasty version, I may not touch refried beans at restaurants again either.
The next time you consider grabbing a can of refried beans to accompany your Mexican meal stop yourself and take 15 minutes to make your own from scratch. You’re welcome.
- FOR REFRIED BLACK BEANS:
- 2 tablespoons butter (sub grape seed oil if vegan)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- Sprinkle of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 to 5 garlic gloves, minced
- 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained*
- Fine sea salt to taste
- Filtered water
- OPTIONS FOR TOPPINGS:
- Cojita cheese or Queso Fresco, crumbled
- Green onion, chopped
- Cilantro, chopped
- Tortilla chips
- Corn or flour tortillas
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter. Add the onion; sprinkle the onion with salt. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is tender and translucent.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. Sauté for 1 minute. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Stir in the black beans and ¼ cup water. Use a potato masher to mash the beans until they reach your desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky). Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. The beans should thicken and the liquid should mostly be evaporated. Add a little more water if you want them to be a little moister, or cook them a little longer if you want them to be drier. (I used about ½ cup water total).
- Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with desired toppings such as chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, and crumbled Queso Fresco or Cojita cheese. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or spread on corn or flour tortillas. Or serve alongside tacos, fajitas, or your favorite Mexican dish.
If leftovers seem a little dry when you reheat them than stir in a little filtered water until they reach the consistency you like.
Recipe adapted from: Simply Recipes