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Recipe: Refried Beans

By André de Mendonça

I learned this recipe from someone in the Venezuelan jungle many years ago. We didn’t speak the same language, so she just showed me the ingredients. I motioned to her, to ask if she mashed everything in a pestle and mortar but to my horror she whipped out a food processor!

Vegetarian, low GI and surprisingly tasty. This is for 4 people so vary the ingredients accordingly:


800g red kidney beans, cooked (Pinto or Black beans are lovely and creamy too)

1 red chilli 

2 cloves of garlic, chopped 

Half a red pepper, finely chopped,

1 onion, finely chopped (must be finely chopped)

4 tomatoes quartered (not tinned!)

3 tablespoons oil 

A little sugar (optional)

Salt and lemon juice to taste


I cook the beans from scratch but you can simplify it by replacing the first 2 ingredients with 2 tins of red kidney beans in chilli sauce which you can get from most supermarkets and which is not too spicy.

Fry the onion in the oil, add the red pepper and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients (except the lemon juice) and simmer for 10 minutes. Blitz in a food processor or mash with a potato masher. Adjust for seasoning with the salt and lemon juice. 

This is an imprecise recipe as it is difficult to judge the heat of the chilli, the size of your garlic cloves, the sweetness of your tomatoes and the sharpness of your lemon, but taste and readjust to suit your palate. I’ve omitted the fresh coriander as 1 in 10 of us hate the stuff, but please add some at the end if you want.

In Latin America this is eaten with a type of cream cheese and sometimes with corn tortillas, but you can serve with grated cheddar (lovely), or cream cheese with toast (best), or bread.