I don’t know about you, but I get these intense cravings for certain food. With these hunger pangs, come distant memories that are attached. It may be the warm fragrance in the kitchen or the vibrant colors lost in a dim-lit restaurant, or it could be the faces of people that I once knew. Whatever those recollections are that rise to the surface is, in such cases, they can only be satiated by a plate or bowl of the associated food. One such food for me is refried beans.
These beans are so humble in their simplicity that it’s a little hard to fathom the work that goes into stirring up a batch. It’s not to say they are hard to make, but they do require attention and time. Which is just fine when you’re not just making a dish, but cooking up a tasteful remembrance!
Most, especially traditional, refried bean recipes include one thing that these do not; lard. In exchange, I use olive oil as my fat of choice. Why? Primarily because it’s healthier. And that’s not the only thing that gives these beans a health boost.
Instead of leaving the base fairly simple, these beans include a sofrito of tomato, onions, and bell peppers, as well as a bit extra stirred in to give some texture.
With tomatoes there are loads of nutrients, one of which is lycopene, an amazing nutrient that helps fight cancer contributes to healthier eyes and skin, and reduces inflammation. Even better, this nutrient is best absorbed AFTER cooking rather than raw, making a tomato-based sofrito an ideal addition.
Bell peppers, however, fair better under raw circumstances in the nutrition department. These include a healthy dose of vitamin C, aid in weight loss with capsaicinoids, and help build the immune system just to name a small few benefits. That’s why it’s not just a part of the basic sofrito flavor base, but added at the end for a bit of crunch!
Lastly, I prefer the use of black beans in my homemade refried beans. This isn’t the traditional approach, but it’s a healthy one. These beans are a plant source high in protein as well as fiber, potassium, and can help reverse iron-deficient anemia.
Now I’m craving a dish of these refried beans for more than just to quench my taste memory, but to increase my health. So let’s get cooking!
Healthy Vegetarian Refried Beans Recipe
- Black beans
- 2 cups dried black beans
- 1 onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Refried Beans
- 1 onion
- 3 to matoes
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 lime
- shredded cheese
Pick through the beans to remove any debris like small stones or seeds before placing them into a bowl and covering them with water to soak about 5-6 hours or overnight. Drain the beans when ready to cook.
Transfer the beans to a soup pot. Peel and cut the onion in half and place it into the pot. Fill the pot with water to just cover the beans. Put them on the stove over high heat and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let the beans simmer for about 2 hours. Add the salt to the pot about 15 minutes before the beans are done and stir well.
Strain the cooked beans of excess water with a colander in the sink.
On a cutting board, dice the onion, tomatoes, and bell pepper. Mince the oregano. Reserve ¼ of the tomato and bell pepper for later.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, stir, and cook another 2 minutes. Add the tomato, cumin, and salt to the pan and stir well. Let this mixture cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the black beans to the pan, stirring well to combine. Using a fork, mash some of the beans into the rest of the ingredients. Pour in about half of the vegetable stock and stir well. Allow this to simmer 16-18 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the liquid has reduced significantly, add more of the stock and stir again to combine. Mash the beans into the mixture again, stir, and allow to simmer another 1Repeat this process 2 more times, using the water to add liquid to the beans in between mashing.
Turn off the heat, cut the lime in half and squeeze it over the beans. Stir well, taste and season with salt if needed.
Serve the beans with shredded cheese, the reserved bell pepper and tomato, and a slice of lime.
If time is an issue, use a pressure cooker to cut down on the soak time as well as the cooking time.
STEP ONE – SOAK THE BEANS
Pour the dried black beans into a bowl and sift through them to make sure no stones or debris are mixed in before filling the bowl with water. Allow the beans to soak 5-6 hours or overnight.
Once the beans have soaked, remove the water and rinse well.
STEP TWO – BOIL THE BEANS
Place the pre-soaked beans to a large pot. Cut the onion in half and add it to the pot along with enough water to cover the beans.
Bring the beans to a boil on the stove over high heat.
Reduce the heat to low and allow them to simmer about 2 hours. Season the beans with salt about 15 minutes before they finish cooking.
STEP THREE – DRAIN THE BEANS
Turn the cooked beans out into a colander to drain off any excess water. Discard the onion.
STEP FOUR – PREPARE THE VEGETABLES
Dice the onion, tomatoes, and bell pepper on a cutting board and mince the oregano with a sharp chef’s knife.
Do this while the beans cook. Remember to set about ¼ of the tomato and pepper aside for garnish.
STEP FIVE – MAKE THE FLAVOR BASE
In a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and saute it a couple of minutes. Add in the bell pepper and cook it another couple of minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, cumin, and salt and stir well.
Allow it to cook down until it becomes almost a chunky paste-like texture.
STEP SIX – START MAKING THE REFRIED BEANS
Reduce the heat on the pan to medium and add the black beans to it.
Stir and then mash some of the beans into the pan in order to break them up a bit.
Pour some of the vegetable stock into the pan and stir again. Bring it to a simmer and let it cook for about 15 or so minutes. The beans should have absorbed most of the liquid.
STEP SEVEN – MASH AND SIMMER THE BEANS
Pour in more of the stock and stir again before mashing the beans some more.
Bring it back to a simmer and let the beans absorb the stock.
Repeat twice more with adding water instead of stock, and mashing the beans.
STEP EIGHT – ADD LIME TO THE BEANS
Cut the lime in half on a cutting board and turn off the heat on the beans. Squeeze the lime over the beans and stir well. Add more salt if needed.
STEP NINE – SERVE THE REFRIED BEANS
Serve the refried black beans with shredded cheese and diced tomato and bell pepper on top.
While this isn’t a traditional recipe, it really is a deliciously healthy version that will satisfy your refried bean cravings. Easily wrap it in a tortilla for a quick burrito, or use it in your next seven-layer bean dip instead of the canned kind!
Don’t like black beans or want to change it up? No problem! Switch out black beans for red or, the more traditional, pinto without a problem.
How do you like your refried beans served? Please comment to let us know!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.