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Homemade Refried Beans

There’s a little jingle about beans. Not that we have to sing it here.


Unless you’re singing it now.

It’s just that there’s some truth in that tootin’ part. Also known as bean gas. Something we’ve smelled around here. And something we like to smell as little as possible.

The thing is I’ve bought refried beans in a can for years because–shamefully–I thought that’s just where you got ’em–from the store, in the can. I knew the can beans held no resemblance to the refried beans on my plate from Los Pinos in appearance or taste. But I figured Mexican restaurants just had their bean secrets.

Through a collaboration of this recipe from Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food and a few suggestionss from friends who also makes their own beans, our family finally has a recipe for refried beans that tastes amazing.

It starts with beans.


2 cups of dry pinto beans.


And a bowl big enough to cover them with twice as much water.

The water temperature we soak the beans in and the length of time we soak the beans is important. We want warm water (100-140 degrees) and we want a soaking time of at least 18 hours.


What happens is the beans absorb a lot of the water, which begins the fermentation process. Why that’s important is because fermentation breaks down phytic acid, which is in foods like beans, nuts and grains, and which is hard on our digestive system.

Why breaking down phytic acid matters is because when it’s broken down, it becomes an absorbable form of phosphorous, which is needed for most biochemical processes in the body, such as cell growth and the conversion of food into energy for every action we do.

When phytic acid isn’t broken down through fermentation, it becomes that gas in our gut that either can or can’t find an escape route.

These are my beans the next morning. They’ve absorbed most of the water. The best thing for me to do now, is to rinse them and then fill my bowl with warm water again and let them soak for several more hours.


Once my beans have soaked at least 18 hours, I’ll rinse them a final time…


And put them in a crock pot.

We want to cover the beans with water by about 2 inches.


Then these are the goodies that give the flavor.

Garlic. Jalapeno. Onion. Salt. Pepper. And cumin (which…is still in the cupboard).


We opt for 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/2 a large onion, 1 to 2 slices  of jalapeno (depending on whether kids are eating these or not), 1 teaspoon salt (to start), 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper (again, depending on whether kids are eating these or not).

We toss it all in there. Put the lid on. And plug it in on medium high.


Here’s a lookie, six hours later.  The beans have absorbed even more water.

But are they done?

I like to squish a bean or two against the inside of the crock pot with a spoon to tell. If they mash easily, then they’re done. If not, I put the lid back on and give ’em more time.


Here they are having just been stirred.


And here, I’ve drained most of the liquid off but kept in the onion and garlic. Occasionally I keep the jalapeno, too. But our kids sometimes spend more time sucking on ice cubes than they do eating beans, so I pluck the green pieces.


Then a stick blender makes this easy.


I blend it all in–beans, a little liquid still in the bottom, onions and garlic.


Until it looks like this.

Add salt to taste.

And sometimes a little more.


Then serve it to happy kids…the same ones who don’t ask quite as often to eat at a Mexican restaurant.


Recipe for Homemade Refried Beans

1. Cover 2 cups of pinto beans with  warm water. Soak 18-36 hours. Change water at least once.

2. Rinse beans a final time and place in crock pot with…


1/2 large onion

1 to 2 slices jalapeno

2 to 3 garlic cloves peeled

1 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Pepper

A few shakes of Cumin


3. Let cook for 6-8 hours in the crock pot.

4. Drain off as much of the liquid as desired, picking out jalapeno as well.

5. Mash beans, garlic, and onions with a stick blender until smooth.

6. Salt to taste.

7. Realize your homemade beans taste better than any restaurant’s!


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