Bring Out The Savory Power In Refried Beans With Canned Adobo Sauce

Refried beans may already seem like an ideal use of leftovers, and they are, but even the best foods can use a little punching up now and then. Nice, creamy refried beans make an excellent side or dip — made with just a bit of fat in which the beans are fried and mashed — but they can also be a dish's starting point. Add some salty notes of some crumbled cotija or queso fresco or a cool dollop of pico de gallo, and the refried beans make a mild canvas for the rich flavors to complement. A world of flavors is waiting to be woken up in there, just ready for some extra salt, acid, or spice to make them sing. There is also an ingredient that checks every one of those boxes at the same time: canned adobo sauce.

Adobo sauce, which can be sold by itself or packaged with chipotle chiles, is a complex mix of tomatoes, vinegar, and spices. It's incredibly flavorful, with a spicy, smoky, and tangy taste that make it a fantastic condiment on taco night. Pair it with refried beans, and it adds an incredible depth — both mildly spicy and pleasantly acidic — that the relatively simple dish doesn't usually have on its own.

Adobo sauce is packed with a wide variety of flavors

Adobo comes in various forms, such as a sauce and spice blend, that can be traced back to areas the Spanish colonized, so it draws on several regional flavor influences. Chipotles in adobo is a Mexican version, and the sauce is usually based around chiles and tomatoes while incorporating spices and herbs like cumin, cloves, and oregano. Those flavors are an obvious pairing with Mexican and Central American-style beans. Vinegar, tomato, and chiles bring different types of acidic bite, while the warm spices blend with the beans' natural earthiness.

Adobo sauce is also great for adding a smooth texture to your beans. Mashing it with refried beans adds a little more liquid, giving them a lighter, silkier feel. This is especially helpful if you are trying to keep your refried beans vegan because they are often made using lard, which acts as a flavoring and softening agent. The smoky flavor of adobo sauce has a meaty quality to it as well that brings extra savory flavor in place of what's lost, subbing out lard for oil. 

Whether you add just a few dollops for a little boost or turn them into a fiery dip, adobo sauce is one of the best ways to unlock the potential of your refried beans.