Guest: Cristina Potters’ Refried Beans

In this post, I have invited Cristina Potters to be a guest and share one of her favorite recipes. Cristina is the author of Mexico Cooks!, a culinary and cultural website about all things Mexico. She is also known for giving outstanding tours. 

A Chicago native who arrived in Mexico in 1981, she was first a social worker in Tijuana.  Now, after 30 years, she is a permanent fixture in Morelia, Michoacan.  She learned the cuisines of the central highlands of Mexico from the Mayoras (Michoacan home cooks). Now, without further ado, here is Cristina…

I’d like to offer my personal recipes for frijoles refritos and frijoles de la olla. The following recipe for refried beans is not only simple and delicious; it converts people who turn up their noses at ordinary refried beans into folks who insist on another helping!

Christina Potters Refried Beans 1

In central Mexico, the most commonly eaten bean is the peruano (peh-roo-AH-noh), an oval, yellow bean that cooks to a pale beige color with a creamy consistency.  I like frijoles de la olla (freshly cooked beans, straight from the pot) served with a big spoonful of salsa fresca (chopped tomato, minced onion and chile serrano, salt, and roughly chopped cilantro).  I often steam white rice, fill a bowl with it, add frijoles de la olla, salsa fresca, and crumble cotija cheese and call it comida (main meal of the day).

Cristina Potters Refried Beans 2

For breakfast, I often prepare frijoles refritos (refried beans).  Served with scrambled eggs, sliced Mexican avocado, and a stack of hot tortillas, beans are a great way to start the morning.

Here’s some fun bean trivia: frijoles refritos doesn’t really mean ‘refried’ beans. Mexican Spanish often uses the prefix ‘re-‘ to describe something exceptional.  ‘Rebueno’ means ‘really, really good’.  ‘Refrito’ means–you guessed it–well-fried.

Frijoles de la olla are very easy to cook and the fresh-cooked flavor is a million times better than canned beans! In my kitchen I prepare about a pound of dried beans at a time.  After cooking, I serve some as frijoles de la olla, prepare some as refried beans, and freeze the rest in plastic sandwich bags.  The cooked beans and their pot liquid freeze very well.

To make frijoles de la olla, the traditional cooking method I use has no onions, no garlic, no salt, and no other seasonings–just water and dried beans. First, pick carefully through your beans.  Put the cleaned beans in a strainer and wash well under running water.  Now, to soak or not to soak?  I have tried both soaking and not soaking and have noticed that the cooking time is about the same either way. I never soak my beans.  My olla de barro (clay bean pot) holds about a half kilo of frijol plus enough water to cook them.  If you don’t have an olla de barro, a heavy metal soup pot will work almost as well.  After the beans are in the pot, add 6 to 8 cups of cold water.

Over a high flame, bring the pot of beans to a rolling boil.  Turn the flame to a medium simmer and cover the pot.  Allow the beans to cook for about an hour and check the water level.  If you need to add more water, be sure it is boiling before you pour it into the bean pot; adding cold water can cause the beans to toughen.  Continue to cook the beans until, when you bite into one, it is soft and creamy.  The pot liquid will thicken slightly.

Cristina Potters Refried Beans 3(Frijoles de la Olla, already cooked over the fried chilies, ready to be turned into refried beans)

Now’s the time to salt your beans–after cooking, but while the beans are still hot. I use Espuma del Mar (Mexican sea salt from the state of Colima) for its wonderful sweetly salty flavor, but any salt will do.  Add a little less salt than you think is correct–you can always add more later, and you don’t want to over salt your beans.

If you live in the United States or Canada, you’ll want to order the fabulous heritage dried beans sold by Rancho Gordo.  Its owner, my friend Steve Sando, has nearly single-handedly brought delicious old-style beans to new popularity in home and restaurant kitchens.  If you’ve tasted ordinary beans and said, “So what?”, try Rancho Gordo beans for a huge WOW! of an eye opener.

Following is a recipe for turning these frijoles de la olla into refried beans.

Cristina Potters Refried Beans 4 (Refried beans ready to eat)


Refried Beans

Frijoles Refritos

Recipe Yield

6 servings

Cooking time

12 minutes

Rate this recipe

4 from 4 votes


  • 3 cups recently cooked frijoles peruanos de la olla
  • 1 or 2 chiles serranos depending on your heat tolerance
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil -- preferably lard and definitely NOT olive oil
  • Bean cooking liquid
  • Sea salt to taste

To Prepare

  • Melt the lard in an 8-inch skillet. Split the chile(s) from the tip almost to the stem and add to the melted lard. Saute over a medium flame until the chile is dark brown, almost black. Allow the lard or oil and chile to cool a bit before the next step.
  • Now add the beans and a little of the bean liquid. When the beans begin to simmer, mash them and the chile with a potato or bean masher until they are smooth. Add more liquid if necessary to give the beans the consistency you prefer. Add sea salt to taste, stir well, and serve.


15comments inGuest: Cristina Potters’ Refried Beans

  1. dolores sandoval

    Aug 02

    My favorite type of bean for Frijoles de Olla are pintobeans, their flavor is very traditional in taste of Mexico. Now I’ve seen Peruano frijoles, and looking at them don’t really look good to me. So my question is, do they taste just as good as our traditional Mex. pinto bean, or better? I’m willing to try them.

    1. Pati

      Aug 03

      Both are delicious!

  2. John Williams

    Mar 16

    Thanks for the tip on Rancho Gordo. I went over, checked them out, and created an account. Looking forward to my first order.

    1. Pati

      Mar 18

      Oh, good!! Thank you!

  3. Maggie

    Jan 13

    hey chris!!! escribeme!!! vivo en sonora!! quisiera cocinar contigo!!!

    maggie Valladolid

  4. Helen

    Dec 19

    Pati, I just found you n PBS, how wonderful. I moved to New Mexico from New England and have enjoyed learning a new cuisine. I have made many Mexican dishes. We had a restaurant that made Charro beans once a week. I have tried , by taste, to replicate them to no success. No one else makes them. Can you help?
    Merry Christmas,

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 28

      Hola Helen, Here’s my recipe for Charro Beans: Thank you for writing to me!! I’m glad you found the show.

  5. Lisa

    May 07

    Ihave made these beans dozens of times and they are simply, just the best. I have adopted your habit of making a bunch every week, bacon, eggs and PopTarts have become a thing of the past for breakfast! Thank you so much
    Hugs, Lisa

  6. Toronto Dentist

    Oct 03

    Hey, this is blog is really a fantastic weblog! I do not normally remark on your wonderful blog posts, I typically just learn them. Even so, after studying this publish, I just had to congratulate you on your excellent work! Keep it up!!

  7. heidileon

    Dec 09

    Pati and Cristina:
    I so hate you chicas!,pero eso ya lo saben no?.Frijoles de la olla/fresh cooked beans, frijoles refritos/refried beans; and someone mentioned conchas?? OMG, estoy verde de la envidia.
    btw,mis favoritos son los frijoles chinitos, como los refritos pero bien bien sequitos, con un poquito de queso fresco y un bolillito….mmm, que rico!.\
    besitos a las dos
    ps I also want to try the “Espuma de Mar” salt, never ever heard of it before..

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 09

      Hi Heidi! We should all get together to eat refried beans with conchas! Cristina, you have to tell us how we can get our hands on the “Espuma del Mar” salt…

  8. karen

    Dec 05

    Guer ! que delicia……….m.m.m.m
    ya mero nos vemos para cocinar juntas en valle el proximo anio,nos vamos y le damos a la cocinada y vemos a los amigos !

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 05

      Yes we will! We will make refried beans and eat them with conchas dulces, how about that?

  9. Vanessa Delgado

    Dec 04

    Now i know why my beans sometimes come out tough…mental note now to add boiling water to my pot.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 05

      That is a great tip!!! What I really want to try is the “Espuma de Mar”…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.