Refried bean enchiladas

Refried Bean Enchiladas

Soup beans and cornbread – if I had to guess this would be my dad’s stuck-on-a-deserted-island meal. I think he’d be completely happy having a bowl of buttery cornbread covered in pinto bean and pinto bean juice every night of the week. In fact, I’m pretty sure we came close to doing this growing up.

When you look at a bowl of soup beans and cornbread it doesn’t look all that appetizing. A slurry of brown bean broth with little islands of yellow cornbread floating around is no match for French fries and ketchup (and mayo, yum). So you can’t blame a 10-year-old Beth for not chomping at the bit for a bowl of this southern mainstay.

Having a southern food blog has forced me to look back on the meals I’ve had, many I want to replicate and others I’d love to rework and makeover. Soup beans were definitely one of those meals I wanted to makeover. Since Mexican food was another staple in my house and often utilizes pinto beans it only made since to use that cuisine as a vehicle to work my magic.

I already had an enchilada recipe in my arsenal but knew it could be made much better. After a little research and experimenting I found the perfect makeover for my enchiladas and soup beans – refried bean enchiladas!

A few tips before you get started. When you begin this recipe, you’ll be tempted to skip the refried beans part. You absolutely can skip this step but you’ll be missing out on that much needed sweetness the onions bring to balance out the porkiness of the beans. Another place you might want to skip is prepping the tortillas to roll out the enchiladas. You need the hot oil to make the tortillas more flexible and less likely to break or crumble when you add your filling. I don’t recommend skipping this step.


Pot of Beans

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 slices of bacon, diced
½ medium white onion, diced
1 cup dried pinto beans
6 cups water
a heaping pinch of kosher salt

Refried Beans

5 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ medium white onion, diced
pot of beans

Salsa Roja

3 cups water
2 dried ancho chiles
3 dried guajillo chiles
1 tablespoon oil
½ medium white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 canned diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano


1 ½ cups vegetable oil
8-12 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded jack cheese


Pot of Beans

1. Rinse the beans in water and discard any hard rock-like bits from the beans. Drain the water from the beans.

2. Heat a medium stock pot over medium heat and add the oil. Once oil is hot, add the diced bacon. Cook the bacon to render the fat not to brown and crisp. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the onions to the pot and stir to coat the onions with oil. Add the beans and enough water to cover the beans and then some. I used about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature to simmer the beans. Cover the beans with a lid. Simmer for about an hour and a half until beans are tender. Check the beans periodically as water begins to evaporate. Add water as needed. You want to create a thick soup so add water if the beans look dry. In the last 10 minutes of cooking add a big pinch of salt and stir. Once beans are tender turn heat off and let beans cool to room temperature.

Refried Beans

1. Heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and let fry for 2 minutes undisturbed. Add the pot of beans to the onions and fry undisturbed for another minute. Stir and let fry for another 2 minutes. Turn heat off and let mixture come to room temperature.

2. In a food processor or blender, puree the bean mixture into a thick paste. Set refried beans aside.

Salsa Roja

1. In a small sauce pan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, chop the heads off the chilies and discard the seeds. Once water comes to a boil, add the chiles, turn heat off, and cover the pot with a lid. Let the chiles steep in the water for 10 minutes.

2. In a medium saucepan heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Stir and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and its juices plus the salt and oregano. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add just the chiles to the tomato mixture. Turn off heat and let mixture cool to room temperature.

3. In a food processor, blend the tomato mixture until smooth. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the pulp from the chili, tomato juice into a small mixing bowl. Discard pulp.


1. In a heavy bottomed pan (like an iron skillet) heat 1 ½ cups of oil over medium-high heat. Set up your assembly station by lining up the refried beans, salsa roja, cheese, and a paper towel to drain the corn tortillas on a clean surface. Using tongs, quickly dip one tortilla in the oil, cooking both sides for about 2-3 seconds each. You’re not actually cooking the tortilla. You’re making the tortilla more pliable and flexible.

2. Drain the oil off the tortilla using the paper towels. Immediately add two tablespoons of refried beans to the middle of the tortilla followed by about 2 tablespoons of cheese. Roll the tortilla like a cigar and set aside on a plate with the seam side down. Repeat until all the bean mixture is gone, about 8 to 12 enchiladas.

3. To serve, portion out however many enchiladas you’d like on a plate and pour salsa roja on top. I’d use about 2 tablespoons of the salsa per enchilada. If serving for a group you can put all of the enchiladas into a casserole dish and cover with all of the salsa roja and serve that way.

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