Refried Beans

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

refried beans is the misleading translation of a term very familiar in Spanish-speaking countries of C. and S. America: frijoles refritos. This refers to beans which have first been cooked in water and are subsequently fried. There is no question of their being fried twice, i.e. literally refried. Diana Kennedy (1986) has explained the matter:

Several people have asked me why, when the beans are fried, they are called refried. Nobody I asked in Mexico seemed to know until quite suddenly it dawned on me. The Mexicans have a habit of qualifying a word to emphasize the meaning by adding the prefix re-. They will get the oil very hot (requemar), or something will be very good (retebien). Thus refrito means well fried, which they certainly are, since they are fried until they are almost dry. I am glad to say that Santamaría in his Diccionario de Mexicanismos bears this out.