This was a question that came up the other day as our extended family was eating dinner together. We were actually discussing cooking terms that we take for granted, but shouldn’t. Bobbi grew up in Texas, and Rebecca and Greg spent many summers and holidays visiting family there. So, refried beans have been part of many Mexican meals we’ve eaten over the years. However, as the family grows and non-Texans are welcomed into the fold, our assumptions have been challenged. Refried beans were the perfect example. “What are refried beans, anyway?” someone asked.
First of all, refried beans have never been fried at all, so don’t worry. These beans in Spanish are called refrito, a term used for rehashing, redoing or revising something. “Refrito” beans would be beans that are cooked again, kind of like twice baked potatoes. Calling refrito beans refried beans is actually a misinterpretation of the word.
Basically, refried beans use cooked beans that are cooked again with seasonings and then smashed or puréed. Some refried beans are simply cooked with a little salt and water, whereas others use jalapeños or other chilies, garlic, cilantro, onions, chili powder, etc.
You can easily make your own refried beans at home. Like most things, homemade is almost always better. Try our recipe and see what you think. These are a little spicy and savory. Serve with rice on in a tortilla. They’re also good in a baked potato! However, do NOT use them in our Black Bean Brownies, which use canned refried black beans made with water and a little salt only!