Starting from scratch can make all the difference; these Homemade Refried Beans with Bacon are seasoned during cooking and again when frying and are absolutely amazing! Plus BACON!
I had the best possible intentions; without a Kentucky Derby this year I thought I would give my attention to Cinco de Mayo and try something new; so I decided to try my hand at making refried beans from scratch. It was roundabout but I got there yesterday and we thought these were The Best Homemade Refried Beans…with Bacon!
I really had planned better; hoping to publish a recipe BEFORE Cinco de Mayo. While weeks went by without success when I tried to source some dried pinto beans, a neighbor who knew my plight found some and brought me the perfect gift…yeah pinto beans!
Not being a refried bean expert, I thought I would take the advice of someone else from Texas who pointed me to a recipe she thought looked good. Sure, sounded good enough so I took a leap of faith. Big mistake. They weren’t the worst ever but I will always remember thinking how verklempt I was at a result that was less than stellar that had lots of ingredients invested.
I should have taken the time to learn more before I ever tried that recipe and I would have known a couple of things. NO…no half and half and sort of no…not usually mixed with cheese. So now I know and yesterday decided to give it my own twist and wow…OK, these are more what I was talking about. A far cry from any I’ve ever had!
I won’t do a comparison with the cream/cheddar cheese version because I considered that a fail (although my neighbor said he liked them fine!) but I will highlight what I think made them so stellar. First and foremost, lots of seasoning. Amazing how many recipes for refried beans are so boring. Beans, water, and maybe some onion? No thanks.
So I upped my game. I knew I would be sautéing some aromatics to add to them after they were cooked so I didn’t do that when I pressure cooked them but I did put a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat into the Instant Pot and sautéd some garlic with spices for just two minutes. Heating up your spices can really open them up and I think it adds more flavor to the final dish.
No bacon fat? No problem, use olive oil or whatever your favorite cooking oil is.
To make the beans I used these ingredients in the Instant Pot:
- Bacon Fat
- Minced Garlic
- Chili Powder
- Chicken Broth – I actually used a combination of water and my favorite chicken broth concentrate (affiliate link)
- 1 pound of pinto beans
How to Cook Refried Beans
Once the beans have been cooked (see Notes for cooking on stovetop), they are strained (save that precious cooking liquid!) and then finished in a skillet, the ‘frying’ of refried. Real old fashioned refried beans use lard to fry them after they are cooked. I actually have some lard in the freezer but I save it for pie crusts so I used bacon fat…and bacon. How could I go wrong, right?
They are best if you take the time to cook them down until they start to become a bit dry, add more stock and repeat once or twice more. Not unlike caramelizing onions, that step adds so much to the flavor. Once finished with frying, then they are mashed, thinned with some of the cooking broth, and the aromatics are added back in along with the bacon.
How to mash them? I’ve seen suggestions for using a potato masher or a Cuisinart food processor or even a fork. First decide the texture you want. I decided that as long as I was making them that I would keep them chunkier and we loved them so much, no smooth version will ever measure up again but if you want that smooth texture, use your food processor.
I don’t even have a potato masher, so while unconventional I used a meat tenderizer (affiliate link)…you know one of those hammer looking things that you pound meat with. It worked perfectly so I can suggest it for your use. A friend said she uses a pastry cutter; I can see that working well too!
These were so good that next on my agenda will be some Refried Bean Nachos. I’m going to combine the beans with cooked ground beef as the featured nacho ‘stuff’ and make those this weekend…look for that recipe soon!
PIN IT! ‘The Best Homemade Refried Beans With Bacon’
For the Pinto Beans
- 2 Tbsp bacon fat, olive oil, or mild cooking oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 lb of dry pinto beans
- 8 cups of chicken broth (or 8 cups of water and 8 tsp of chicken broth concentrate)
For the Refried Beans
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- 1 onion diced
- 1 jalapeno, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 4-5 cups homemade refried beans or 2 cans pinto beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (or saved liquid from making beans)
- salt and pepper to taste
- For Garnish:
- Lime wedges
- 1/2 cup Queso Fresco cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
!To Prepare the Pinto Beans
- Put the beans into a colander and rinse the beans 3-4 times until water is clear; removing any particles or bad beans.
- Put the bacon fat into the pressure cooker and turn on sauté to medium heat. Add the garlic and spices and sautmedium for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add the chicken stock (or water and concentrate) and stir to mix with garlic and spices.
- Add the beans to the stock; turn off pressure cooker, put on the lid.
- Set to High Pressure for 25 minutes and then after cooking let the pot release pressure naturally; wait about another 15-20 minutes...or just ignore it until you're ready to proceed. Total time to come to pressure and cook will be about 40-45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes if you're ready to proceed, manually release pressure if necessary. The beans are done when they are soft and the skin is just beginning to break open.
- Strain the beans from the cooking broth and SAVE THE BROTH.
! To Make the Refried Beans
- While the beans are cooking prepare the remaining ingredients for refried beans. In a heavy skillet (I used cast iron), fry the bacon until crispy on medium high heat. Remove the bacon and set aside.
- To the bacon grease in the skillet add the onion and jalapeno and sauté until soft and slightly browned (about 4 minutes). Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, do not let garlic brown. Spoon the aromatics into a bowl and set aside.
- Add the prepared pinto beans to the skillet and sauté until they just start to get dry. Add a bit of the stock, sauté them down again; repeat 2-3 times until the beans start to get a bit toasty.
- Using a potato masher, a meat mallet, or a fork, mash the beans to desired texture, add back in the aromatics and then start adding some of the cooking broth to achieve desired consistency. Add the chopped bacon and stir in thoroughly.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue heating until warm throughout. If they are too thin, continue heating until some of the liquid has evaporated and you've reached the desired consistency. Keep in mind the beans will thicken as they cool. They should have enough liquid that they do not have any structure but not enough to actually be runny.
If you have leftover broth, save it; you might need to add more if you save the beans til later and reheat.
- To Serve, garnish with crumbled Queso Fresco cheese, lime, and chopped cilantro. Serve hot.
Stove Top Method - Put beans into a pot and cover with at least 3 inches of water—about 3 quarts for 2 1/2 cups of dry beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours.