Tonight, December 23rd, has been declared Taco Night at the Bean household. What Taco Night would be complete without a good batch of refried beans on the side?! I’ll be honest: I love Christmas, but I am exhausted from all of the preparation and activity of this month! I have made all the lists, bought all the gifts, and attended all the activities. Tacos were a quick and easy dinner to give me a little bit of a break tonight.
Between the BPA in so many of the canned varieties, and the unhealthy fats used in their production, canned refried beans are not the most optimal nutritional decision. (Not to mention that homemade refried beans taste SO much better than canned.) By making your own refried beans, you can also skip all of the nasty oils, and gain a good dose of healthy fats to boot. Lastly, by making your own refried beans, you can significantly improve the digestibility of the beans by soaking them in advance. (In my case, I was in a hurry, so I fast-forwarded the process using my Instant Pot.)
If you are not using an Instant Pot, the process is very similar. Instead of cooking the beans in your Instant Pot for 30 minutes, boil them in a large pot on the stove. Depending on how long you have soaked them in advance, you may need to vigorously boil them anywhere from 1-4 hours. Keep a close watch on them while boiling, and add more water as the pot gets low. (The beans will soak up quite a bit, and if you’ve ever burned beans in your house, you can attest to the fact that this is not a smell you want to deal with in your house.) You can then follow the remainder of the steps in the same pot!
Early in the morning, put your dry beans in a big bowl and completely cover with water. Water should cover your beans by at least 2", or more, depending on size of the bowl. (As they soak, the beans will take in a LOT of water, so monitor the level and add more if its looking like they need it.)
Soak the beans a minimum of 8-10 hours, but longer (up to 24) if you can). You can even start soaking the night before. The longer you soak them, the more digestible they become. Some may start to sprout if you soak them a long time, and that's totally OK!
After the soaking phase, rinse the beans and put them in the Instant Pot with 2 tsp of salt, and cover with (new) water until your IP is about 1/3-1/2 full. Cook on Manual for 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes is up, you can do quick release (if you're on a schedule), or allow it to sit and slow release. Regardless, once you have released the IP, once again drain the beans, but this time, reserve the bean water. This is key! Once again, do. not. toss. the bean water. :-) (You can thank me later.)
Now you have your cooked, softened, slightly salty beans, as well as the Magical Bean Water. Put your IP on the "Saute" feature, and allow it to get nice and hot.
Once heated (I'd give it a good 5 min. or so), add a big chunk of your cooking fat. (A note about the cooking fat choices: I have used both with good results. The one 'warning' I want to give you about bacon grease is that it can add a smoky flavor, depending on how smoky your batch of bacon was. Personally, we've been perfectly fine with that. But if you prefer a milder flavor in your beans, go for the lard option.) Don't be chintzy on your fat! These are called reFRIED beans for a reason, and fat is good for you! It strengthens your immune system, your brain, and so so so much more!
Let the cooking fat melt, and once melted, toss in your beans. Have that Magical Bean Water (henceforth referred to as MBW) at the ready, because as soon as those beans are sautéing in the IP, you are going to start mashing them with a potato masher (basic model works perfect) and be ready to add MBW as needed.
In this stage, it all moves very quickly, so be ready to move with the MBW as they cook (re-fry!) in the fat, and keep mashing like crazy at the same time.
One more task ... as this is all happening, taste regularly! Dry beans require a LOT of salt to taste good! Again, don't be chintzy! Salt is also good for you and so necessary for basic bodily functions! When you eliminate processed foods, you may find yourself using a lot more salt, and that. is. OK!
So, this process ... the mashing, the adding of the MBW, the tasting and salting, continues until it feels right for you (consistency and flavor).
*OPTIONAL* Something that I have done, because it makes them more "restaurant style," is to finish the beans with the Immersion Blender. Its a magical device, really. It makes everything smooth, creamy, and flawless. Its like the airbrush of the food world!
So, ... immersion blend those bad boys! Top with some cheese and be ready to impress your family! Because this might just be the cheapest, easiest real food recipe you have ever made!