Mexican cuisine is one of my absolute favorites, and no matter which restaurant I’ve been to, it has never failed that the beans were one of the best parts of the dish. However, whether I was making tacos, fajitas, or enchiladas in my own kitchen I always found the bean portion to be disappointing. There was something disheartening about taking a can of refried beans and having it plop in the same can-shaped blob into the dish, and regular canned pinto beans are usually bland and slightly mushy. This discontent led me to looking at the bags of beans in the grocery store. I figured that I could make my own refried beans instead of buying canned products.
After looking up multiple techniques for cooking refried beans, I decided to settle for Frijoles instead. Refried beans have a lot more steps that needed to be taken, and I was simply looking for a tasty side dish of beans for the nights when I was cooking Mexican cuisine. This could easily be accomplished with just a slow cooker and a couple of ingredients.
After some trial and error I managed to find the flavor profile that mimicked restaurant refried beans – a slight warmth without being spicy. An added bonus to this recipe is that it makes A LOT, and beans freeze really well. This meant that I was truly able to replace the canned bean products that I was using before in favor of my own Frijoles. These have become a staple in my home, and I always make sure to have a couple of containers frozen and ready to use. It’s so nice to be able to pull them out as an easy side dish or a snack when desired.
1lb Dried Pinto Beans – Soaked Overnight
4 Cups Chicken Broth
1 ½ tbsp Dried Onion Flakes or ½ cup Finely Diced Onion
¼ tsp Black Pepper
3 oz Canned Green Chilies
2 tsp Hot Mexican Chili Powder
½ tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Cumin
The first step to making Frijoles has to happen overnight. You have to cover the beans completely with water in a large bowl and let them soak in the refrigerator overnight. I promise, you do not want to skip this step. I’ve tried to skip it before, and the beans refused to cook all the way through. Is soaking beans overnight a pain because you have to remember to do it? Yes. Is it worth it in the long run? Absolutely.
The next morning, strain your beans and stir them a little bit. As crazy as this sounds, while you are stirring through them you are looking for pebbles. Occasionally, a small rock will find its way into dried beans packages. Don’t be super paranoid about this or overthink it. If you have stirred it multiple times and you haven’t found any pebbles then you most likely did not have any in the bag. I’ll be completely honest, I’ve made this dish at least twelve times, and I’ve only found a rock in the bag once. It is good to check as a precaution though. It would be terrible to bite into a pebble and have an expensive dental bill on your hands.
After your beans are strained and checked, pour them into your slow cooker. Next, add in the rest of the ingredients and mix everything together. A note on the chicken broth: I always use Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base to make my own broth. It makes a tastier broth than any other that I’ve purchased, and this base provides enough of a salty flavor that you do not have to add salt later on. In addition, it’s way easier to store this tiny jar in your fridge and mix it with water, than it is to buy cartons of broth at the store.
When everything is mixed together, put the cover on your cooker and let them stew on low for 8-9 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE POT AT ANY TIME WHILE THEY ARE COOKING. Yes, I’ve done this before, thinking they should be stirred, and I ended up having to wait 10 and a half hours for them to cook fully instead. These beans need consistent heat and moisture to cook, and opening the slow cooker releases a little bit of both. It may be open for only a small span of time, but it still makes a difference in the overall cook time.
Once the beans are cooked, you have a lot of choices for how to serve them, but you should make sure you are scooping them out with a slotted spoon. There will still be a bit of broth left over in the bottom, and that needs to stay in the pot so the rest of the food on your plate doesn’t get soggy. Most of the time I combine the beans right into my taco shell, but sometimes I use them for filling and make bean enchiladas. However, my absolute favorite use of Frijoles is to mix them with cheese and sour cream to make bean nachos.
This recipe makes up so much food, and I always freeze some in small containers to pull out later. Since the beans do take such a long time to stew, it’s nice to be able to save them in meal-sized portions so that you don’t have to cook a new batch every time you are making Mexican cuisine.
I like to freeze my frijoles in two cup portions since that is relatively the same size as a can. Just like when I serve these for a meal, I scoop the beans out with a slotted spoon because the broth isn’t necessary to freeze them. My favorite freezer dishes to use are Rubbermaid containers since they come in multiple sizes and are easily stackable. I save the frijoles for up to six months before eating them. After the six month marker they start to get a little freezer burnt.
When you do want to eat your frijoles, simply take them out about 5-6 hours before your meal and microwave them for a minute or two to get them up to temperature. This is another great part about the Rubbermaid containers; you don’t even have to take them out of the dish before popping them in the microwave.
I hope you enjoy these Frijoles and that they save you the hassle of buying canned refried beans in the future!
Looking for something to serve with your Frijoles? Try out my Guacamole recipe!