How to Improve Canned Refried Beans

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Not that a brown tube of bean porridge needs help or anything

Before being ruthlessly cut from their menu, Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza was one of my all-time favorite dishes. Despite being utterly inauthentic to both pizza and current Mexican cuisine, there was something beautiful about the simplicity of refried beans sandwiched between two crispy tortillas, topped with melted cheese and tomatoes.

I could try to recreate it at home, but I get a wave of nausea every time I see refried beans come out of a cold aluminum can. The gelatinous tube of brown slime that smells like dog food isn’t, as the kids say, fresh beans.

Alas, is there a way to make canned refried beans more appetizing? Could a humble bean goop box be the Mexican pizza star of my dreams?

How to Make Canned Refried Beans Taste Better

According to food blogger Abi Cowell, there are several ways to spice up the refried beans themselves. “To make a can of refried beans taste better really quickly, add 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp salt or garlic salt,” she tells me. “Then add about 1/4 cup of water to thin the mixture because canned refried beans are always too thick and need to be thinned.”

For those whose “spice rack” consists mostly of a few half-empty hot sauce bottles in the fridge, this will work great too. “You can definitely add a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce,” says Cowell. “I recommend Cholula or Chipotle Tabasco.”

Adjust the seasoned refried beans to taste, then reheat them on the stove or in the microwave. Taste again and adjust seasonings if needed. “Heat the beans in a small saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring frequently — or heat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between,” says Cowell.

Once you’ve improved the taste of your canned refried beans, they’re the perfect addition to meals that need quick and convenient protein. Forget using them for a layer of taco dipping sauce — add veggies and broth to your newly upgraded beans for a great refried bean soup, or stir them into your morning egg omelette.

“Canned refried beans are a staple in our house,” says Cowell. “We add them to tacos, nachos, tostadas, or any Tex-Mex meal, like creamy spinach enchiladas.”

Canned Refried Bean Dip Recipe

Finally, if you want to showcase that underrated bean flavor, here’s nutritionist Amy Lippert’s recipe for a delicious canned refried bean dip. “As a busy mother of three, I’m always looking for a quick and easy way to improve ready meals,” she begins. “This is how I improve refried beans for our family – and my kids love to add grated pepper to it and eat it straight with corn chips or fresh veggie sticks.”

Step 1: Over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of pork or bacon fat in a medium saucepan.

2nd step: Dice 1-2 green onions, separating the green ends from the white ends.

Step 3: Sauté white ends in bacon fat for 3-5 minutes until tender.

Step 4: Add ¼ cup of your favorite salsa, 1 tbsp green chilies, 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp chili powder.

Step 5: Add 2 cans of refried beans and heat over medium-low heat until hot, stirring frequently.

Step 6: Season with sea salt to taste and garnish with the leaves of a diced green onion.

Step #7: Serve with tortilla chips for a hearty, protein-packed dip from canned refried beans.

As long as you don’t gag too much when you initially remove the lukewarm brown porridge from the box, all you need are spices and hot sauce to turn it into a delicious dip. Canned refried beans aren’t the most glorious item in the cupboard, but if such a tastier canned refried bean recipe can bring my beloved Mexican pizza back to life, then they’ll always have a place in my heart.

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