Slow Cooker Spicy No-Fry Refried Beans
I’m beyond happy with this recipe. It’s a dream to make (i.e. you need to do almost nothing, except soak some beans) and makes enough refried beans to be used as a base for many meals over several days. It’s a super-frugal dish, fat free, dairy free and an excellent source of vegan protein. Refried beans is a typically cheap and cheerful Mexican creation, and traditionally was a way of using up the leftover beans used in other dishes. They would be fried in lard (!) with spices and seasonings until mushy. In fact, think of them as a spicy, chunky version of mushy peas, as long as this doesn’t put you off. This version obviously doesn’t use lard, in fact it doesn’t use any fat at all, as there is no frying required. The long, gentle cooking in a slow cooker simply produces the most perfect no-fry refried beans. Soak the beans the night before, then throw everything into a slow cooker in the morning. What could be simpler?
So what do you do with refried beans? You can use them in a multitude of ways, but here are my favourite ways of using them:
- As a side dish: The obvious way of using them; spoon into a dish and simply serve alongside your favourite Mexican themed food.
- Quesadillas: My personal favourite. Spread refried beans over a large tortilla and top with cheese, salsa and chopped coriander. Place another tortilla on top (like a sandwich) and place in a hot oven for a few minutes until the cheese has melted and the edges are a bit crispy. Slice into quarters, like pizza.
- Burritos: In the centre of a large tortilla, layer warm refried beans with shredded lettuce, cheese, hot rice and salsa/guacamole then fold up to make a fat burrito.
- Tacos (soft or crunchy): Fry one chopped onion, red pepper and a handful of cherry tomatoes until soft, then add about 400g of refried beans. Spoon into the tacos and top with grated cheese, a squeeze of lime, chopped coriander and avocado.
- Nachos: In a large oven-proof dish, layer tortilla chips with dollops of refried beans, salsa and some chopped jalapeños. Top generously with grated cheese and place in a hot oven for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. [Top tip: the cheapest, own-brand supermarket plain tortilla chips are closest thing in Britain to true tortilla chips found in Mexico, and that’s a fact.]
- Spicy Soup: You can blitz any remaining refried beans into a soup; just thin with hot stock water first and heat as required. Serve with chunky buttered bread.
Or just eat any way you like! Any – or all – of the following go brilliantly with refried beans: Salsa, sour cream, grated cheese, rice, guacamole, coriander and a squeeze of lime. Any leftover refried beans can be kept for several days in the fridge. Alternatively, freeze into portions if you like – it freezes brilliantly. Defrost overnight in the fridge before using.
Just a note, these have a good fiery kick, but you can reduce this by omitting the cayenne pepper if you like. Also, this does make a LOT of refried beans; simply halve the recipe if you want to make less.
400g pinto beans, rinsed really thoroughly. Soak overnight (or about 6-8 hours) in plenty of cold water. Use a very large bowl – a mixing bowl will do – as the beans will expand!
2 large onions, diced
1 red pepper, diced (or use about 100g mixed frozen peppers like I do. Place in a colander and pour boiled water over them to defrost quickly)
2 tbsp finely chopped jalapeños (I use ones from a jar)
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chipotle flakes (don’t worry if you can’t find it, just leave it out).
1/2 tsp salt
800ml hot water from the kettle
After giving the pinto beans their overnight soaking, rinse them thoroughly and drain. Place in the slow cooker and switch it on to the setting you want. (See guide below).
Chop up the onions, pepper and jalapeño and add them to the slow cooker. Sprinkle the lime juice, spices and salt, then give everything a good mix. Pour in the hot water, mix well and put the lid on. Approximate cooking times:
High: 7-8 hours
Medium: 8-10 hours
Low: 10-12 hours.
When you think it’s ready, carefully try one of the pinto beans to see if it’s soft enough to eat. Not all the liquid will be absorbed – it should look something like the picture above left. If you think there’s too much liquid, you can use a ladle to remove some before blitzing – you can always add it again until the consistency is to your liking. When the beans are creamy-soft, give everything a stir and use a hand blender to partially blitz it. I like a bit of texture to my refried beans, some people like it really smooth. It’s up to you. Go slow and steady and stir now and again to check the consistency. Use a potato masher if you don’t have a hand blender. Remember it will thicken as it stands/cools. Serve and enjoy!
Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge (use an airtight container). You should only reheat once, so only take out the amount you need.