When I first started cooking, my expectations for the process were 100% unrealistic. I thought 10 minutes in the kitchen could generate a deliciously fresh and seasonal dinner (and no mess to clean up afterward). Wrong. My first few years in the kitchen were spent realigning my view of “quick and easy” with the limitations of cooking. Alex and I spent years of cooking and testing shortcuts and came to a few conclusions. First of all, even the quickest and easiest of recipes require actual labor—and cleanup. Next: easy is not necessarily quick, nor is quick easy. And finally, if you’re not used to it, fitting cooking into your life really is not easy. However, once you get the hang of it, it’s relatively simple. Pretty simple, in fact: and we’ve written a book called Pretty Simple Cooking to explain that more.
The difference between easy and simple? In our minds, an easy refried beans recipe would be something like dumping a can of beans into a blender with garlic powder and blending for 30 seconds. Tasty, maybe, but lacking a little integrity in flavor. A simple refried beans recipe, on the other hand, requires mincing real garlic and simmering it with beans in olive oil for about 15 minutes. What results is a silky, savory bean mixture that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours—and it’s absolutely worth the minimal time and effort.
Another theme of our pretty simple cooking approach is that “simple” requires a little bit of savvy. It’s understanding that prepping a few items the night before can make for a dinner that comes together in minutes. It’s working on “project” type recipes on the weekends or your days off, and then eating them throughout the week. It’s having a few cans of beans in the pantry and a couple tortillas in the refrigerator for those nights when you have no energy to cook. Just a bit of planning ahead can make the cooking process truly simple.
This refried beans recipe is one we’ve been making for quite a while. The amount of flavor coaxed out in just over 15 minutes is notable—and just like your favorite belt, they accessorize with anything. Over the next week, we’ll be posting a couple of recipes using this simple refried beans recipes as a base. However, once you’ve mastered these refried beans, there’s no recipe needed: simply combine with a tortilla, some chopped veggies, and a sprinkling of shredded cheese and you’ve got weeknight tacos. Or serve them alongside scrambled eggs with salsa for a hearty savory breakfast.
A version of these refried beans and a recipe to go alongside are featured in our new cookbook, Pretty Simple Cooking. Click here to preorder.
Looking for easy recipes?
As noted above, there are few truly easy recipes—but there are plenty of pretty simple ones! Here are a few of our favorite pretty simple recipe concepts for weeknight dinners:
- Eggs with Chive Blossoms
- Tex Mex Migas
- Mushroom and Brie Quesadillas
- Simple Black Beans and Eggs
- Goat Cheese and Tomato Pita Pizzas
Looking for healthy dinner ideas?
Who isn’t looking for healthy dinner ideas, these days? Several of our top healthy dinner ideas are in the Vegan Recipes category above, but here’s a few more with a summer flair:
- Southwestern Bowl with Green Chile Vinaigrette
- Eggplant Involtini with Spanish Mojo Sauce
- Vegetarian Spinach Meatballs & Spaghetti
Did you make this recipe?
If you make our supremely simple refried beans recipe, we’d love to hear how it turned out. Leave a comment below or share a picture on Instagram and mention @acouplecooks.
This recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, plant-based, and dairy-free.
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Mince the garlic. Drain the beans and reserve the can liquid in a glass measuring cup.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant but before it browns. Add the beans, ½ cup of the reserved can liquid, the kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Turn the heat to medium low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often and smashing the beans toward the end of the cook time, until most of the liquid has cooked out and the texture is mashed and thick, but not dry. Continue to add small amounts of the can liquid if the beans become too dry, and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan until you achieve a fairly creamy consistency where there are still some beans that are whole. Taste and season with additional salt as desired, then serve immediately.