Refried beans are whole beans -- usually pinto -- that are mashed and cooked with lard or another cooking fat such as olive oil. They are a staple of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. Known in Spanish as "frijoles refritos," they are often served as a side dish. But you can also incorporate refried beans into many main dishes directly.
One of the simplest ideas for refried beans is to wrap them in a flour tortilla and serve the dish as a bean burrito. Other ingredients may be added to suit your taste -- grated or crumbled cheese, cooked rice, sour cream or its Mexican cousin "crema," salsa, chopped onions, ground beef, chopped chicken, eggs, and roasted or pickled vegetables.
Tacos and Tostadas
Tostadas are made from flat fried corn tortillas topped with a variety of ingredients; refried beans make a tasty first layer. Add any of the burrito fillings on top. Tacos are folded tortillas stuffed with a filling; the shells can be flour or corn, fried or not. Again, add refried beans as the protein base and add as few or as many toppings as you like. Tostadas and tacos made with refried beans prepared with oil are a good vegetarian Mexican food option.
Nachos and Taco Salad
Refried beans can be spread atop a layer of tortilla chips and then topped with cheese for simple vegetarian nachos. Or pile refried beans, cheese, sour cream, salsa and olives atop a bed of shredded lettuce and surround it with tortilla chips for a taco salad.
Refried beans plus sour cream or Mexican crema and perhaps a few seasonings result in an easy dip for parties and snacks. Refried beans can also be used as one of the layers in five-layer or seven-layer dip, along with avocado or guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa or chopped tomatoes, scallions and olives. Either way, bean dip is a good way to use up any leftover refried beans you may find yourself with. Serve the dip with tortilla chips.
Tortas are Mexican sandwiches that layer various ingredients on a soft French-style roll or "bolillo." Refried beans and guacamole are common ingredients, spread against the bread in the place of condiments like mayo and mustard. Stuff the sandwich with shredded pork, grilled beef, scrambled eggs, cheese, chorizo sausage or whatever else strikes your fancy -- this is a great vehicle for leftovers. Dress the sandwich with shredded lettuce or cabbage, salsa or chili sauce, crema or sour cream.
- "The Border Cookbook"; Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison; 1995
- Tigers and Strawberries: Wholly Vegetarian Refried Beans
- "Austin Post"; Essential Knowledge -- Anatomy of a Torta; Matthew Bey; Jan. 10, 2011
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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