The Best Spice To Bring Out The Flavor (And Color) In Refried Beans

Inexpensive, versatile, and delicious, refried beans are a pantry staple, whether you're making them from scratch using dried pintos, opening a can, or rehydrating a dried version. After all, without refried beans, your seven layer dip would only have six sad layers.

Refried beans — which aren't actually fried twice – are the perfect accompaniment to enchiladas and a good source of both protein and fiber. They're also ideal for adding bulk to burritos. In fact, refried beans may just be a perfect food, especially since you can easily find or make low-fat, fat-free, and vegetarian versions to please practically everyone.

But in order to make refried beans taste like... well... much of anything, they require seasoning and spices — lots of 'em. Pinto beans are pretty bland, and unless you kick up the flavors, they'll fill you up, but they certainly won't wow you. Because pintos don't carry a ton of flavor on their own, they're kind of a blank slate for customizing spices to suit your palate. But there's one seasoning in particular that's absolutely perfect, as it lends heat, rich flavor, and also a bit of color to refried beans.

Chili powder makes refried beans the star of the meal

Chili powder is a workhorse in the kitchen. It shouldn't be confused with chile powder, which consists of just dried, ground chiles. Chili powder is a blend of seasonings and spices – McCormick's Chili Powder, for example, includes ground chiles, cumin, oregano, garlic, and salt. Sure, you can use it when making chili, but it is also a standout for adding both flavor and color to bland refried beans.

I think we can all agree that refried beans don't look half as good as they taste, but chili powder transforms the bland-looking, brown mush into a more vibrant reddish brown side dish. Plus, the flavors in the spice blend reinforce the fresh garlic and chiles that are often the base of the dish. Once you've had flavorful refried beans that are properly seasoned with chili powder, you'll never want to settle for the boring stuff straight from the can again.