A Mexican-style meal: Ruth’s Refried Beans, Guacamole and Salsa

Last night we had a couple of the Boyfriend’s friends staying over – giving me the opportunity to cook dinner for more than the usual two people. Given that we were abroad in the Southern Alps for the day there wasn’t much time for planning. I toyed with the idea of my usual, but easy and delicious, Chicken with Garlic and Lemon for dinner but a chance encounter with a menu in the café where we stocked up on caffeine while driving back from Lake Coleridge gave me the idea of doing a Mexican and cooking my cousin’s Refried Beans. So there was a quick dash to the supermarket to stock up on the ingredients for the side dishes – Ruth’s Refried Beans are tasty by themselves but half the fun of this meal is in piling your tortilla too high with guacamole, salsa and sour cream so that the beans start to fall out the bottom. Messy but fun! Some tortilla chips, if you have them in the house, are good for the purposes of trying to keep the food in the wraps or mopping up the excess afterwards.

This is a recipe that my cousin once cooked, in a whirl of activity, for me and her family at the end of a very long drive. After a bit of begging she emailed me the recipe and it’s since become a staple in my own collection. Since I’ve started cooking and freezing my own beans here, Ruth’s Refried Beans are never too far away. This time, as it happened, I had the kidney beans in the freezer and just had to supply the tins of white beans. Normally I – and my cousin – use black eyed beans but last night I only had one tin of cannellini beans and one of butter beans and it worked fine. If you’re making this for vegetarians then use vegie stock but otherwise you can use chicken stock. I never use real stock for the Refried Beans instead relying on powder. I’ve found Vegeta Chicken Stock to be good here in New Zealand but, if at home in Ireland, Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder can’t be beaten.

One word of advice, though. I once cooked this for eight people and had to use three pans so, unless the frying pan you have is ginormous then it’s easiest to stick for meals for two or four.

Ruth’s Refried Beans
Serves 4
Kidney beans – 2 tins
White beans – 2 tins
Onions – 2, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped
Stock – 400mls
Coriander – a handful, chopped
Chilli – 2 chillies, or to taste
Tortillas wraps – 2 to 3 per person

Heat a little oil in a large frying pan with deep sides and fry the onions and garlic until soft but not coloured. Mash the beans in a bowl and add to the onions with stock, coriander and chilli. Simmer until the mixture has reached the required texture. It usually takes about 20 minutes to become a sticky paste.

Serve with heated tortillas, guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

Avocados – 2, ensure that they are ripe
Garlic – 1 clove, finely chopped
Lemon or lime – 1, juiced

Mash all the ingredients together. Do not make it too long before eating. Although there is plenty of citrus juice in it, avocados have a nasty habit of trying to turn brown anyway.

Vine-ripened tomatoes – 6
Scallions – 3
Red pepper – 1

Chop all ingredients finely and mix together. If you have some coriander left over from the beans then add it to the Salsa. Best made at least an hour before you’re due to eat to allow the flavours to blend together.


Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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