11/03/2011 05:15 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make Refried Beans

Rich, savory refried beans are a staple in Mexican cuisine. Chef Iliana de la Vega of The Culinary Institute of America shows you how to make them in a few easy steps. First, she purées canned or freshly cooked black beans in a food processor. (You can use a blender, but a food processor allows you more control over the texture of the beans.) You don't want them perfectly smooth; just blended. In a skillet, she adds a dollop of pork lard and chopped onion, then cooks the mixture until the onion browns slightly. Next, she adds the bean purée (the mixture will splatter, use caution), and cooks the beans for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates and the beans pull up from the bottom of the pan. After plating, she garnishes the beans with queso fresco and tortilla chips.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Iliana de la Vega from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to make frijoles refritos, or refried beans.

Here we have cooked black beans - or, you can buy the beans in a can. It's good to use a food processor if you have one, or you can be patient and do it in a blender, because it will take longer. We want a little texture, that's the only thing - for this reason, I'm using the food processor. So we put the beans in here, with a little bit of liquid: that's fine. We will now purée them, then turn them off. They look ready; let's check - they are ready, completely blended. Now that they have been blended into a paste, I will put the food processor bowl here on the counter.

Now let's start melting the lard. If you prefer to use vegetable oil, you can also do that; the traditional way is using lard. This is pork lard. They will be flavorful and they will be delicious.

I have some onion here and I will just sauté the onion until it gets a little bit of color on it. So we're sautéeing the onions, and we need to give them a little bit of color; when they are turning brown, they will give a lot of flavor to our beans. Refried beans are traditional in Mexico. Remember, beans are very nutritious for you, so this is healthy and a natural food. Of course we're using a little bit of lard here, but as I said you can use vegetable oil as well. Now you may think: what is going on there? Well, it is the lard that makes it foam - but the onions that you see are getting browner now, they're getting more flavor, so I think we are good to go.

I will now pour the beans into this mixture in the pan. There may be a little bit of splattering, so reduce the heat. All the oil will get absorbed, and the beans will begin to be thicker, and almost form a log. It will take about ten or twelve minutes from now. If you have very low heat, you don't need to be stirring all the time; if you increase the heat, then stir, because you don't want to scorch your beans so they get burned at the bottom. Now they're getting really thick: a couple more minutes, and we will be done with this dish.

This is what we want, when all the liquid is almost evaporated and they're separated from the pan, as you can see. There will be a film at the bottom. So here we have the refried beans forming a beautiful log right here, as we pour then out onto a plate. Now it's time to decorate our refried beans. I have a little bit of queso fresco - fresh cheese or farmer's cheese. I will just put a little bit on top, and I have some chips here that I'll also use to decorate the beans.