Cinnamon Is The Unexpected Spice For A New Take On Refried Beans

Refried beans are far from fancy, but their flavor is unmatched — that is, when they're prepared just right. While cooking down and mashing beans leads to an irresistibly smooth and creamy consistency, the major issue with many refried beans recipes is that they tend to fall short when it comes to taste. Given that pinto beans can be relatively bland, refried beans need a helping hand from more flavorful ingredients whether that be savory bacon fat, zesty lime juice, or a touch of spice. Using the latter as inspiration, why not think outside of the box and add a sprinkle of cinnamon to refried beans for a wonderfully complex bite? 

Cinnamon is often reserved as a spice for sweeter applications like baking. However, it's just as much of a powerhouse in savory recipes thanks to its warm and woodsy quality. That said, because refried beans are such a blank slate, spicy cinnamon can contribute a world of flavor. Offering zest and zing without setting taste buds ablaze, it can impart mild notes of citrus and even smoke, allowing the beans to evolve from being just one-dimensional to incredibly multifaceted. Plus, cinnamon can even draw attention to the delicately nutty and earthy profile of pinto beans.

Delicious when served with a side of corn chips, the cinnamon-y spread can also be worked into recipes that call for traditional refried beans. Layered into quesadillas or spread over tostadas, cinnamon refried beans are a gustatory game changer in any scenario.

What to consider when introducing cinnamon into refried beans

Working exclusively with cinnamon is a good starting point. But, you can also build depth by combining a variety of warm spices. For example, you could concoct a powdered blend of woodsy cinnamon along with any number of spices like zesty allspice, peppery clove, earthy nutmeg, or minty cardamom. Likewise, you could even use a mixture of cinnamon and bitter cocoa powder to emphasize the beans' umami richness. 

Regardless of whether you elect strictly for cinnamon or opt for a combination of warm spices, it's best not to be too heavy handed. Since dried spices can be quite strong, a teaspoon is enough to give refried beans a makeover. However, for a more subtle infusion of flavor, you could also add a cinnamon stick to the cooking liquid, if you make the dish from scratch. 

Although there's nothing stopping you from sprinkling powdered cinnamon into a can of refried beans, making your own refried beans will give you an especially bold result. Simply begin by browning aromatics along with spices so as to let them become more fragrant and flavorful. After adding in the beans and water, let everything simmer before you start mashing. Super delicious and super easy to execute, cinnamon singlehandedly transforms this classic dish, which is pretty amazing in our books!