Why You Should Avoid Making Refried Beans In A Food Processor

Food processors and blenders have cut down cooking times and preparation work to streamline and facilitate modern meals. While Mexican food certainly benefits from the food processor to make salsas, moles, and agua fresca, some dishes still require traditional manual methods for the best results. Refried beans are a foundational dish in Mexican cuisine that does not benefit from the miracles of modern appliances.

You should avoid making scratch-made refried beans in a food processor if you want to achieve the desired creamy-yet-chunky texture you'd get at a Mexican restaurant. Food processors puree, blend, and otherwise emulsify solid and liquid ingredients into uniformly smooth pastes, dips, and sauces. While they're perfect for blending garbanzos into a creamy hummus dip, food processors cannot easily simulate the action of mashing black beans or pintos into the classic variable texture we love in refried beans. Even if you use the pulse mode on a food processor to partially blend the beans, the processor's blades will chop the beans and their skins, resulting in an unpleasant grittiness.

Surprisingly, mashing the beans manually is more efficient than using a food processor. Classic refried bean recipes are one-pot dishes wherein the mashing occurs at the same time as the frying. A one-pot dish will save you the time and effort of disassembling and washing the food processor and the separate saucepan used to reheat the beans.

Tips for making delicious scratch-made refried beans

While mashing beans manually may take a little more elbow grease and time than hitting a button on the food processor, your tastebuds will thank you for it! Mashing beans in their broth over oil-fried aromatics will maximize the beans' flavor and texture. If you want to cut corners, you can use canned whole beans instead of soaking and boiling dried beans.

The traditional tool for mashing refried beans is called a machacadora, a wooden instrument with a spherical shape and a wide, circular mashing surface. You can find artisanal machacadoras online, but a potato masher or the flat side of a fork would be just as effective. Even a tall round beverage glass or mug will work as an accessible substitute with the same spherical, flat-headed shape as a machacadora.

Both pinto and black beans are common refried bean ingredients, but pinto beans tend to have a creamier, smoother consistency and are also easier to break down than black beans. Black beans have a more robust, earthier flavor. Both will benefit from a mash with fried onions and garlic. If you want to amp up the flavor of your refried beans, use bacon grease or butter to fry the aromatics before adding your beans, or add a scoop of lard or sour cream to the mix.