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Refried (Kidney) Beans
August 17, 2018

Caged tomatoes and long row of kidney beansDrying kidney beansOn a whim last summer, I planted a fifty-five foot row of kidney beans. Each year, we need just a few kidney beans for our Portuguese Kale Soup. But I had the space, time, and the seed, so I planted the row.

We ended up getting seven pounds of dry kidney beans in 2017! That's a lot of dry beans!

I saved about two pounds of the kidney beans for future plantings and canned the rest. And then the canned beans just sat in our downstairs pantry, other than for our occasional Texas Nachos feast and our annual batches of Portuguese Kale Soup.

Coming from depression era waste not, want not parents, I felt compelled to find a good use for the beans. And since my wife once lived in the southwest and really loves Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking, I decided to try my hand at making refried beans with some of the kidney beans. Since pinto beans are the preferred bean for making refried beans, I had my doubts, but found several refried kidney bean recipes online (see below for links) to get me started.

Chopping onions
Mashing salt into chopped garlic
Browning onion and garlic
Rinsing and draining beans
Taco seasoning, lemon juice, and broth added
Beans mashed

I begin making the refried beans by browning chopped onion and garlic in olive oil or bacon drippings for about five minutes. I use an old Chef Tell trick with the garlic, finely chopping it and then pressing in salt with my meat cleaver so that there aren't any big chunks of garlic left.

While that stuff is browning, I rinse and drain my canned kidney beans. Then they go into the pan with the taco seasoning, some chicken broth, and a bit of lemon juice. You'll want to add enough chicken broth so that the mixture is a bit runny, as it will cook down.

I let the mix simmer for 10-15 minutes before using a large wooden spoon to begin smashing the beans. One could also use a food processor to reduce the beans to a paste, but our food processor is nasty to clean, so I just went with the spoon and a whole lot of smashing.

I let our refried beans simmer a good bit longer than most recipes recommend. That gives the spices more time to work. I add chicken broth to prevent drying and burning. Off and on through the heating, I smash the bean mix a bit more as I see a bean or two I've missed.

The Tough Part: Ingredients and Amounts

I cook by taste, so that when I write one of these recipes, I have to go back and do it again taking note of what and how much of what I use. But here is the basic list of ingredients and some quick directions:

Ingredients Quick Directions
Olive oil or bacon drippings (cut salt amount if using bacon drippings)
1 medium sized onion
5 garlic cloves
2 pints canned kidney beans
1 tsp  lemon juice
4 Tbsp Taco Seasoning
1 tsp+ Canning salt
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth (preferably Swanson's)
  1. Sauté finely chopped onions and garlic until translucent in olive oil and/or bacon drippings
  2. Rinse canned kidney beans
  3. Add kidney beans, lemon juice, taco seasoning, salt, and chicken broth
  4. Allow to simmer for ten minutes or so
  5. Begin smashing beans with wooden spoon or puree them in a food processor
  6. Simmer a bit if the mixture is a bit runny

Some recipes replace the taco seasoning with cumin, chili powder, coriander, and/or diced green chillies. That's part of the fun of making your own refried beans. You can add or subtract ingredients to suit your personal tastes.

Since I wrote this page in August, I was able to use garlic and onion that were in the ground just a month previously. I absolutely love to cook with fresh garlic!

Burritos made with fresh refried beans

Some online recipes for refried kidney beans:

While researching links, I found a couple of good pages on rendering bacon drippings. Both emphasize slow-cooking the bacon to get as much grease from it as possible and to prevent a burnt taste and then straining the black chunks out of the drippings. When I was growing up, there was always a coffee can of saved bacon drippings on the stove for cooking.

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From Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening
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last updated 1/26/2020