A lot, a lot of taco nights go down in my house. Tacos are easy. Beans are cheap. And it’s hard to go wrong with a bunch of flavors wrapped up into one. Plus, any excuse to pull out a few avocados is a welcomed one. The phrase “holy guacamole” didn’t come from nowhere. I mean, we all know guacamole is holy in every sense of its being.
Generally I make my own guac, but on very rare occasions I’ll just pick some up at the store. However, I always make my beans from scratch, if that is what’s to be at the center of the night’s tacos. (Sometimes I opt for ingredients like butternut and goat cheese instead.) Refried beans are incredibly simple to whip up and are truly better than any pre-made versions at the store. There’s something about the freshness you get from doing it yourself…kind of like most things you do yourself. But with refried beans, it’s particularly noticeable.
If you want to really take the homemade superiority to the next level, start with dried beans.
As opposed to pre-cooked ones in a can, dried beans let you go through a simmering process that really cooks them down and makes them all creamy inside. Then, you get their juices to pull back into your saute process, which makes the whole refried bean mixture that much creamier. The two steps required for this are painless and are totally worth the bit of waiting time required. (Don’t tell anyone, i.e. my landlord, but I let my beans slowly simmer on the stove while I jetted out for a run. My apartment survived.)
Last weekend I hosted a taco night, which is where this was born. This year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations looked more like Cinco De Mayo, and I’m 100% okay with that. The sentiment of cooking up a huge pot of beans for a night with friends is always a warm one. And I mean really, what’s better than a taco night with your pals or your family, especially when everyone’s put in charge with crafting their favorite ingredient? Add fresh mint mojitos (not the Tecate that we were surviving off of) and a few board games to the table, and it’s hard to think of a place I’d rather be. I’m already ready for the next one.
Given this was for taco night, the following recipe is designed to serve a crowd. However, it could easily be cut in half for taco nights with less people. Just whatever you do, don’t cut the guacamole from your topping list!
- -3 cups dried pinto beans
- -8 cloves garlic, minced
- -1 large onion, diced
- -2 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
- -1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
- -2 tsp. coriander
- -1 1/2 tsp. oregano
- -1/2 - 1 tsp. cayenne, or to taste
- -A few drops of liquid smoke, to taste
- -Salt, to taste
- -2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Place pinto beans in a large pot. Cover with water so that at least 2-inches of water rests atop. Place a lid on top and soak overnight, or for at least 8 hours, in the refrigerator. Drain and rinse.
- Return beans to pot. Cover again so that at least 2-inches of water rests on top. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 2 hours, or until beans are tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid in a separate bowl.
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Saute onions and garlic until translucent, seasoning with salt. Add spices and stir for a minute, until spices are fragrant. Then add beans, and a little of the reserved liquid. Reduce heat to a simmer, and begin to mash the beans using a potato masher. Mash until smooth. Season with salt by generously sprinkling around the pan. Then simmer for about 10 minutes, adding some or all of the cooking liquid, as needed, to keep the beans creamy, and stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and serve in tacos! I like to add sautéed veggies (onions, zucchini, peppers, oregano, and whatever's in season), and top with salsa, lime, and cilantro.