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Refried beans, or frijoles refritos, are a traditional Mexican dish made with beans. Generally, refried beans are created using pinto beans. However, the dish can also be made using pink or red kidney beans. The name of Frijoles Refritos is translated to mean “well fried beans” and is an apt description of how the dish is prepared.
To make basic refried beans, pinto or kidney beans are thoroughly cooked. Any excess water or broth is drained from the beans. While still warm, the beans are mashed until there are no more than a few lumps remaining. Simple spices such as salt and pepper are sometimes added during the mashing process.
Once the ingredients are thoroughly blended, the mixture is placed into a frying pan and cooked over a low heat. In order to enhance the flavor of the refried beans, lard is often melted into the frying pan just before the bean mixture is introduced. When lard is not available, shortening or vegetable oil can be used instead.
Traditionally, refried beans are served at breakfast as an accompaniment to eggs. The beans also work well as an afternoon snack or as a side dish at dinner. While refried beans are usually served warm, it is possible to enjoy the dish served at room temperature or cold.
In Mexican restaurants around the United States, refried beans are often one of the staple accompaniments to the entrée, along with seasoned rice. It is not unusual for a small amount of grated cheese to be placed on top of the refried beans. The cheese is added just before serving, allowing it a chance to melt slightly before the presentation at the table.
In consistency, refried beans are not quite as thick as bean dip. However, refried beans are usually thick enough to be consumed with a fork. If desired, a small amount of hot sauce may also be used to enhance the flavor of the beans.
Along with serving refried beans as a side dish, the mashed Mexican beans can also be used as an ingredient in a number of recipes. A tasty layered dish using lettuce, chopped tomatoes, onions, cooked ground hamburger, and cheese may rest on a bed of refried beans and scooped from the serving dish using tortilla chips. In other applications, Mexican casseroles often make extensive use of refried beans and Spanish rice in the basic recipe.
Along with making refried beans from scratch, it is also possible to purchase cans of beans that are already mashed and infused with some type of lard or oil. The contents of the can are dumped into a skillet and allowed to slowly heat. Care should be taken to turn the bean mixture frequently, so that the beans are not scorched during preparation.