We were down to the last of the year’s pintos, and I wanted to make something memorable, if that’s possible with the humble bean. Simple won out in the end: I cooked them with onions, jalapenoes, and a little bit of pork fat to accompany a recent pot of Chile Colorado. Delicious. But we weren’t quite done for the year, because there were leftovers — hallelujah! It was a no-brainer to turn the day old beans into refritos, usually translated into English as “refried” beans. Refried may be a bit of a misnomer. Rick Bayless says that refrijtos translates more literally as “intensely” fried. So you see where this is going.

Yup — lard. That’s what makes these things taste so good, and if you’re a vegan you can make great refritos with olive oil. The key is in the intense frying. I like to hand mash in the pan, but you can spin in the food processor for a more even consistency. Yum, and so good with just chips or with rice and sauteed greens.


2 tbls lard or oil / ½ onion, minced finely / 1 clove garlic, minced / 2 cups cooked pinto or other beans plus bean cooking liquid

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat. Render the lard or pour in oil and swirl to coat pan. Add onion and cook until deeply golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and stir. Turn heat up to high and add one cup beans. Mash quickly with a potato masher, then add the second cup and repeat. Pour in bean liquid and stir, cooking, until refritos are slightly thickened. (They’ll thicken more as they rest.) Turn off heat and serve with crumbled cheese and cilantro if desired. Feeds 2-4, depending on use. Adapted from Rick Bayless.