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Mexican Beans/Refried Beans/Frijoles Refritos

Photo by Vinita Punjabi

Also known as Refried Beans or Frijoles Refritos. Although beans have a relatively long shelf life, the older they are, the longer you’ll have to cook them to get them to soften. Fresh beans are best. If you have some that have been sitting around for a year, don’t even bother with them – throw them out.


  • 2½ cups dry pinto beans (or white rajma) (about 1 lb or 450 g)
  • 3 quarts (2.8 L) + ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup chopped onion (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp roasted cumin (jeera) powder
  • Unrefined salt to taste


Soak the beans overnight. Rinse the beans in water and remove any small stones, pieces of dirt or bad beans. Throwing out the water used for soaking and washing them is important – to prevent gas.

Cook the beans in water.

Pressure Cooker Method:  Take the beans in a 4 quart (approximately 4 litre) pressure cooker. Fill up the pressure cooker with water, up to the line that indicates the capacity for the pot. Cook for 30-35 minutes – until the beans are soft and the skins are barely breaking open.

Regular Method: Take the beans in a pot and cover beans with at least 3 inches of water – about 3 quarts (2.8 litres) for 2½ cups of dry beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and cook covered, for about 2½ hours. The cooking time will vary, depending on the batch of beans you have. The beans are done when they are soft and the skin is just beginning to break open. Strain the beans from the cooking water and wash. (Again to prevent gas).

Heat a sturdy wide frying pan on medium high heat and add onions and garlic. Cook onions until translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked. Add the strained beans and about a ¼ cup of water to the pan. Using a potato masher, mash the beans in the pan, while you are cooking them, until they are a rough purée. Add more water if necessary to keep the fried beans from getting too dry. Add salt to taste and the beans are ready to serve.

Serves 8-10


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