Taco Bell is an institution in my circle. We crave the salty, cheesy wonderfulness more than anything. We crave it strongly enough that on many occasions someone has mentioned it in passing and the next thing we know we’re all piled into a car and halfway there. My craving for good beans led me to an everyday lunch stint for their pinto beans. That is until my bean burrito day. I forgot that they use a whole onion in each burrito with kinda crap beans. I forgave them that day and went back the next, determined to outsmart them and top beef burritos with pinto beans. Alas, they misheard my order and instead I got two bean soft tacos that had about one tablespoon of watery beans inside, already leaking out of the wrappers and crying bloody murder. Even their pintos were bad.
Once I got home the next day, I was still so pissed that I was going to make my own refried beans. Despite the fact that I was hungry NOW and this recipe took about four hours, I shoved on. The last of my dried pintos were sacrificed previously, so I subbed in the last of my dried black eyed peas. Oh god, guys. This is the shit. I made burritos for days with just a single slice of cheese as accompaniment and was deliriously happy. I ate them in tortillas, I ate them under fried eggs for breakfast, I ate them with rice. The only adjustment I made was halving the recipe but still adding a whole can of diced tomatoes.
The second time I made them, I used the rest of my dried beans, a mix of black-eyed peas and white northern beans. (As a side note, is everyone else stoked that I’m using up my pantry stuff like I promised and wasting much less food? Oh, it’s just me.) I used 1 1/2 cups which is about 3/4 of a recipe. I adjusted the rest of the recipe accordingly. Guess how good they were. No really, guess. Yes! They were awesome. I added a thin strip of real Monterrey jack cheese and had bean burritos for my work lunches. The third time was made with pintos… can you see where this is going? They’re good with any kind of bean, though I’m partial to black-eyed peas and black beans. As long as you don’t skimp on roasted garlic and cook time, anything will taste good.
You will not go wrong with these. The whole dish has this smoky flavor, and it was so rich and amazing I would be flabbergasted to find out how simple it all was. Plus, judging by the other refried beans recipes I”ve seen, you can’t get them any healthier than this. I’m not sure I can ever look at Taco Bell beans again. It might feel too much like betrayal.
Make your own beans using the original recipe or follow my slightly modified version below.
2-ish cups of dried beans, most will work
1-2 bay leaves
Rinse and pick through dried beans. Throw all the good ones in a pot. Add a bay leaf or two and fill the pot with water to a few inches above beans. Boil. Once it comes to a strong boil, turn down to about medium heat. Cook beans until tender. It should take about two hours and keep refilling the water to about 2 inches above beans.
a few glugs of oil, I prefer vegetable oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 – 1 bulb of roasted garlic
While doing step one, start roasting garlic. I adjust the amount of garlic based on whether my tomatoes are seasoned or not, but don’t skimp too much. This is where most of the awesomeness comes from. Once the garlic is nice and tender and fragrant and awesome, let it cool a little. Once your beans are tender, throw in all the step two ingredients. Let this simmer for as long as possible, I recommend at least an hour or two. Wait until most of the water is cooked out and the beans start to pull away from the sides as you stir.
Now slightly cool and enjoy the greatest refried beans ever. EVAR!