Frijoles is the Spanish word for beans. The term frijoles is often used loosely to refer to frijoles refritos, or refried beans, which is a traditional variety of cooked beans common to Mexican cuisine, especially Northern Mexican and American Tex-Mex. There are many regional variations in the preparation of refried beans throughout Mexico, Texas, and other southwestern areas of the United States.
The name refried beans is largely a mistranslation of the Mexican Spanish frijoles refritos, since the Mexican Spanish prefix re- does not suggest the repetition inherent in the English language re-. This mistranslation is presumably a result of a lack of familiarity with the Mexican variety of the Spanish language since, as in English, the old world Spanish re- also indicates repetition. As a result of this mistranslation, many English speakers assume that refried beans are fried twice instead of simply well-fried.
Preparing refried beans may involve soaking the beans in water overnight, which is optional, and then stewing the raw beans — either soaked or not. The cooked beans are then drained and mashed into a paste with a masher, fork, or spoon, or pressed through a sieve. Vegetable or chicken stock, or simply a small amount of the water drained from cooking the beans, is often added to the mashed beans to prevent over-drying. Next, the mashed beans are fried in either vegetable oil or lard and seasoned during the frying process. Salt and other spices are commonly used to season the bean paste during frying.
In general, the main variant in different types of regional frijoles refritos is the type of beans used. Pinto beans are most commonly used in Tex-Mex and Northern Mexican refried beans, as well as Southwestern American Mexican cuisine. In different regions of Mexico, both black and red beans are often the base of frijoles refritos. Some varieties of refried beans also combine two or more types of beans for a more complex flavor.
Frijoles are a common meal in Mexican homes due to ease of preparation and flexibility in terms of serving. They can function as the main portion of a meal, fill a burrito, or serve as a flavorful side dish for other entrees. In Tex-Mex or Southwest American Mexican cuisine, refried beans are often served alongside rice as side dishes for a wide variety of entrees. They also work well as a dip for chips or paired with seasoned meats, such as ground or shredded beef, chicken, or pork, in burritos.