Refried beans are a staple in my house. Back when my oldest was a toddler, he went through a phase where he would only eat “smushy beans”, so I’ve practiced this recipe a lot.
Canned beans are OK – they’re good, and consistent – but if you want great refried beans, you have to cook your own. Homemade beans have an extra depth of flavor, and the cooking liquid is almost better than the beans. It’s a shame that cooking dried beans takes so long.
That’s where the pressure cooker comes in. A cup of dried beans, three cups of water, and 45 minutes of cooking time (30 minutes under pressure, plus 15 minutes for the pressure to come down naturally and the beans to finish cooking). Homemade refried beans, from scratch, in about an hour. And most of that cooking time involves staring at the pressure cooker.
*No pressure cooker? No worries. See the notes section for stove top instructions. Or if you really want to cheat, see the notes section for canned bean instructions.
For weeknight beans, I try to get the pressure cooking going early. I don’t want to be staring at the pressure cooker, willing it to finish, when everyone is sitting around the table. As soon as I get home, I throw everything in the electric pressure cooker, set the cooking time, and then go about the rest of my evening routine. The electric PC shuts itself off when the beans are done. The beans can sit in their liquid for a while once they’re cooked. That way, the beans are waiting on me, not the other way around.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Refried Pinto Beans
Adapted From: Lorna Sass, Pressure Perfect
- 6 quart or larger pressure cooker (I used my electric Instant Pot)
- Potato masher
- Large (12 inch) fry pan
Pressure Cooker Refried Pinto Beans – rustic, chunky beans from the pressure cooker.
- 1 cup pinto beans (7 ounces), sorted and rinsed
- 2 cloves garlic (whole, with skins still on)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 jalapeño, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pressure cook the beans: Put the beans, whole garlic cloves, bay leaf, and water in the pressure cooker. Stir, and then lock the pressure cooker lid, Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes in an electric pressure cooker, or 30 minutes in a stovetop pressure cooker. Turn off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and discard the bay leaf and garlic cloves. (Save the beans and the cooking liquid).
- Sauté the aromatics: While the pressure is coming down on the beans: heat the vegetable oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion, smashed garlic cloves, jalapeño, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until the onions are browned around the edges, about five minutes. (If the beans aren’t done, turn the heat off and move the pan to a cool burner. When the beans are done, put the pan back over medium-high heat and continue with step 3.)
- Fry the beans: Add the beans and all of their cooking liquid to the fry pan. Be careful – the hot oil may splatter when the wet beans are added. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the beans. Start mashing the beans, stirring as you go to get the onions evenly distributed. Keep cooking the beans, mashing and stirring occasionally, until the beans thicken, about eight minutes. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Serve.
For more bean cooking details, see my Pressure Cooker Beans Basic Technique.
- For an extra touch of flavor, sprinkle crumbled queso fresco (or substitute shredded pecorino romano) on top of the beans right before serving.
- These are rustic, chunky refried beans. If you want smooth beans, use a food processor. After step 1 is complete, pour the beans and their liquid into a food processor. Process until smooth, about 1 minute.
- If you want to speed up the pressure cooking, soak the beans overnight in 1 quart of water with 1/2 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Drain the beans, use the recipe recipe as written (including the 3 cups of water in the pressure cooker), but cut the time under pressure to 15 minutes.
- No pressure cooker? No problem. Cook the beans in a large sauce pot with a lid. Instead of pressure cooking, bring the pot to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover with the lid ajar so some steam can escape. Cook for 2 hours, or until the beans are completely cooked. You may have to add water during the cooking time to keep the beans submerged. Once the beans are cooked, continue with Step 2.
- No dried beans? No problem. Canned beans will work just fine. Replace step 1 with a 16 ounce can of pinto beans and its liquid.
- Use make-ahead beans: Why cook a cup of beans when you can cook a pound? I freeze leftover beans in 2 cup containers, covering them with their liquid. Then this recipe is a quick weeknight side dish. I pull a container of beans out of the freezer, and thaw it in the microwave while I sauté the onions in step 2.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Pressure Cooker Pinto Beans in Tex-Mex Broth
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Pressure Cooker Mexican Black Bean and Noodle Soup (Frijoles y Fideos)
Click here for my other pressure cooker recipes.
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