Over the summer I went to San Fransisco and had the best refried beans of my life at an all vegan Mexican restaurant called Gracias Madre. It was confusing to my sense of Texas pride to be bettered by California (of all places). It was even more confusing to discover I had developed Texas pride but I guess if you live here long enough it seeps in.
The whole meal there was fantastic but the beans were magical, they were so creamy and nuanced. I couldn’t figure out how they made them. I tried several different recipes but they always ended up either a little pasty or not as nearly flavorful. I researched a little further and found these instructions from a Mexican restaurant that suggested roasting the garlic, not using olive oil, and a really long simmering time and those all seemed like great tips. For some reason, a lot of recipes, including this one, just have you simmer the beans and then mash them but my experience is that better flavor is created through frying them after the beans are done. I also decided to add some nut milk because I thought that might be the difference with the Gracias Madre beans. I don’t know if this is what they do at all, but we were swooning over these beans in the same way we were at Gracias Madre so I am naming them after that! I think you could easily do the first step in the crock pot, I’ll have to try it and let ya’ll know
Gracias Madre inspired Frijoles Refritos
2 cups of dried pinto (or black) beans
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil (not olive oil)
1 whole roasted garlic bulb
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
1 Tsp Epazote
1 onion, chopped
almond or hemp milk
Sort the beans and pick out any rocks and give them a rinse with cold water. Put them in a pot with 8 cups of water, the bay leaf, and the epazote and bring to a simmer. Simmer for the next two hours stirring and adding more hot water as needed so that the water level stays above the beans. Make sure the beans don’t get stuck on the bottom by keeping the temp really low and stirring.
Meanwhile roast the garlic
Once the beans are soft add the oil, salt, rotel, and garlic. Simmer as before for another hour at least. The longer they cook the better they will taste and you can’t over cook them because they are just going to get mashed up anyway.
Here we left the beans in the fridge over night because something came up but you could proceed with cooking them now or wait until the next day to finish for a quick dinner.
Strain out any excess water from the beans. Some water is fine but if you still have a couple inches over the beans you might want to pour it out or else it will take longer to cook off. Brown an onion in a large cast iron skillet and then add the bean mixture. After some of the water has evaporated mash the beans with a potato masher. Add some almond milk and stir adding more until you reach your desired consistency. Cook over low heat, stirring, for at least 5 minutes adding more milk if necessary and then enjoy with every Mexican dish you make!