Refried Beans

Published January 1, 2006. From Cook's Illustrated.

We found three brands that might serve, in a pinch.

Overview:

Traditional frijoles refritos start with dried pinto beans that are cooked, "fried well" in lard, then mashed. It's not rocket science, but it's time-consuming, so many cooks opt for a store-bought version instead. We sampled six brands of refried beans to determine if any were worth a spot beside our Huevos Rancheros.

Only two brands use lard (the rest use vegetable oil), but to our tasters, lard offered no advantage in flavor or texture. Texture, however, turned out to be key—Spackle is still Spackle, even if it contains garlic and onions. But even the best brands mustered only enough points to earn our "Recommended with Reservations" rating. And whatever you do, steer clear of dehydrated, instant refried beans. These were consistently stale and unappealing.

Traditional frijoles refritos start with dried pinto beans that are cooked, "fried well" in lard, then mashed. It's not rocket science, but it's time-consuming, so many cooks opt for a store-bought version instead. We sampled six brands of refried beans to determine if any were worth a spot beside our Huevos Rancheros.

Only two brands use lard (the rest use vegetable oil), but to our tasters, lard offered no advantage in flavor or texture. Texture, however, turned out to be key—Spackle is still Spackle, even if it contains garlic and onions. But even the best brands mustered only enough points to earn our "Recommended with Reservations" rating. And whatever you do, steer clear of dehydrated, instant refried beans. These were consistently stale and unappealing.

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