Refried Beans - Southern Style Mexican redux

Southern Refried Beans with Tamales
Mexican Refried Bean Style Recipe with a Southern Twist.

This recipe is from an older way of cooking pinto beans using the flavors of pork; first by creating a stock from ham and later by binding the beans in bacon fat. Southern elements like bay leaves and small tabasco peppers are mingled with the traditional onion and garlic for flavor. By the way, tabasco peppers are the only chili pepper whose fruit is juicy on the inside, as opposed to the dry ribbed, seeded membranes of others, It is also the pepper used to make Louisiana's Tabasco hot pepper sauce and the favored chili pepper used to make the flavored hot pepper vinegar we southerners have to have on our collards and turnips.

As mentioned before, our south is a land of bounty influenced from hundreds of years of foreign progression, including foodstuff and cookery. This cradle of many ethnic groups is what makes our food culture, to me, so interesting and worth writing about; researching the older ways and developing recipes for cooking in today's time that tastes the same as it did for our ancestors. This is just one example of how a very basic bean recipe from Mexican cuisine intertwined within the kitchens of our Creole South.


Southern Style Refried Beans
Southern taste using the custom of Mexican cookery
makes about 10 servings

1 pound dry pinto beans
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves (or 2 medium)
2 tabasco peppers (jalapeno or serrano will do)
1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham
3 strips thick-cut smoked bacon
1/2 large onion, diced
2 garlic toes, minced
Sazon Completa to taste (Badia Complete Seasoning)

Rinse and sort the beans under water, drain and wash under running water to remove dirt. In a medium stockpot, add the beans and cover with 3 inches of water. Add the four seasonings to taste (I added about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon each pepper, garlic and onion powders) along with the vinegar. (You should know by now the reason.) Bring to a boil and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to set several hours. I did it overnight.

Drain the beans and rinse out the stockpot. Add about 1 1/2 quarts of water, the 1 onion chopped, bay leaves, tabasco peppers and ham. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Allow to simmer for about an hour.

stock for the beans

Add the beans and at second boil, cook on low for another hour or until the beans are very soft. Remove and reserve about 1 cup of bean stock. Drain the beans well. Remove the tabasco peppers and the whole bay leaves if you used it.

Clean the stockpot or use a large skillet. Heat over medium high heat the bacon and fry until bacon is crispy and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and put aside. Add the 1/2 chopped onion to the hot grease and saute about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the beans and about 1/4 cup of the bean stock. Mash with a bean or potato masher adding additional bean stock as needed to acquired consistency. We like ours kinda lumpy and the bits of ham helps with this. Add the Complete Seasoning to taste or your favorite seasoning salt.

Remove from heat and serve in a bowl topped with grated cheese, chopped green onions and the crumbled bacon if desired. Or, use the refried beans in your favorite Mexican recipe for a little south Alabama flavor.

Note: Ground bay leaves are much more flavorful than using whole, but be careful and use wisely. You cannot take away the flavor but you can always add to it. As with this recipe, I think using 1/4 teaspoon for 2 medium bay leaves did just right.
Also, add a chili powder blend or Chipotle chili powder for a deeper flavor if desired.


  1. I can honestly say I've never had beans cooked this way but I'm sure they're delicious! Thanks for sharing a "forgotten" technique.

  2. I bet these would be the best refried beans that I have ever tasted. I love the flavor bay leaves add, and have never in my life ground them. I'll have to try that next time and I promise I'll be careful. I don't think I've ever seen a Tobasco pepper for sale in the Denver area. I forget what the actual name of pepper is. Can you tell me? I'd probably have to substitute jalapeno.


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