This week, we’re testing Scratch vs. Store Bought Refried Beans by reader request. I’d never made refried beans from scratch before, so this was a new cooking adventure for me.
I used my pressure cooker and a slightly altered recipe from Lorna Sass’ Cooking Under Pressure. Yields 4 servings, 1/2 c each.
1 c. Pinto Beans
1 T oil (to keep beans from foaming)
Pick over beans, rinse, and drain. Cook 1 cup of unsoaked beans with 4 c. water and 1 T oil for about 25 minutes, or until soft-cooked and mushy. Quick release the pressure and drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
1/2 T olive oil ($.02)
1 t whole cumin seeds ($.02)
1 small onion, finely chopped ($.15)
1 clove garlic, minced ($.02)
2 c. soft cooked pinto beans ($.40)
1/2 c. bean liquid, vegetable stock, or water
dash cayenne pepper
1/3 t salt, to taste
1 t cider vinegar (optional)
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add and sizzle the cumin seeds for 10 seconds while stirring. Add the onion and garlic and saute until onions are soft and lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add about 1/3 of the cooked beans and 1/3 of the liquid, mashing the means with the back of a spoon.
While the mixture is simmering and the liquid is being absorbed into the puree, continue adding beans and liquid in two more batches. Add cayenne, salt, and vinegar to taste. Serve immediately.
The Cost Breakdown:
Rosarita Vegetarian refried beans cost $.75 on sale for 3.5 servings, or $.25 per serving.
Home made refried beans cost $.61 for 3.5 servings, or $.15 per serving.
The Taste Test:
The left side is from a can, the right side is from scratch. The color difference? I can’t explain that. How do the canned beans get so evenly brown? Either way, they’re not winning any beauty contests.
The home made version is lightly seasoned, so the bean flavor is fresh and comes through. You also get the occasional bite of onion. The canned version was much smoother, and quite a bit saltier. Mr.Penny thought the canned version was more flavorful; I thought it was too salty. He thought the home made version was bland; I liked that the bean flavor was most prominent, and it wasn’t too salty. There was no clear winner.
The Time Factor:
Home made beans were ready from dry beans in under 45 minutes using my pressure cooker. Only about 15 minutes of that was hands-on time. (I wrote most of this post while they bubbled away in the cooker!) If I had soaked the beans overnight, the y would have been cooked in 6 minutes, so the entire dish would take just about 15-20 minutes. It’s certainly longer than opening a can, but it’s not as intimidating as several hours on the stove as is traditional with dry beans.
Rosarita Vegetarian Refried Beans: Cooked beans, water, less than 2% of: Canola oil, salt, distilled vinegar, chile pepper, onion powder, spices, garlic powder, natural flavor
Fat: 2 g
Sodium: 540 mg
Carbohydrate: 19 g
Dietary fiber: 6 g
Protein: 6 g
Home made: Cooked beans, water, onion, garlic, olive oil, spices
Fat: 2 g
Carbohydrate: 24 g
Fiber: 8 g
Protein: 8 g
Both are very healthy, although the home made version is higher both in fiber and protein, and much lower in sodium.
Scratch vs. Storebought winner:
The cost of home made is significantly less, and salt can be added for those wanting a saltier bean, so I’m calling it for homemade. You may also want to play around with spices if you like a more well-seasoned bean. The only thing lacking is the color, but if you’re putting it inside a burrito with salsa and cheese, that factor won’t be too big.
Next time on Scratch vs. Store Bought: Flour Tortillas. I’m open to suggestions of what to test after that!