I always try to straighten the freezer while putting groceries away after each shopping trip. Doing so, keeps it from becoming a monumental job once or twice a year. Last week, I discovered that I didn’t have any more packages of cooked pintos beans. That meant it was time to break out the slow cooker.
I usually put 2 cup portions of the cooked pinto beans in freezer bags and freeze them flat on a baking sheet. When we would have a Mexican food meal, I’d thaw out a package and then make up refried beans.
While I was rinsing and draining the dry beans to make a fresh batch for the freezer, I had a “Duh” moment. Instead of making the refried beans from scratch each time, why not make a whole pot full and freeze in 2 cup portions, which is a little more than a standard can. That way, I would basically have ‘heat & serve’ refried beans in my freezer, once the package was thawed slightly.
Brilliant! If I say so myself.
Slow Cooker Refried Beans
(printable recipe card at end of post)
These refried beans only have 4 ingredients, plus a salt and pepper. They don’t have any strange ingredients that you can’t pronounce and you can adjust the salt content, if you need to do so. The price is right, at only a 25¢ a package…which is an ounce or two more than a can from the grocery store.
(2# of dried pinto beans will make about 13 cups of cooked beans)
- 2# dry pinto beans: sorted, rinsed & drained
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4-5 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 10 cups water
Stir everything into a large slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 6 hours.
Mash the beans to desired consistency. Stir in another cup of water if too dry. (I find a potato masher works best for me, because we like our refried beans on the chunky side.)
Let cool before filling freezer bags. Flatten bags before freezing.
When you need some for dinner, thaw a package slightly before heating. If the beans are too dry, add a bit of water to the desired consistency.
How to Freeze Beans
This is the easiest way for me to fill quart freezer bags. First I pre-label as many bags as I think I’ll need with the contents and date. I open the bag inside a wide mouth pint canning jar, then cuff the bag over the edge to keep the ‘zipper’ clean.
Fill the bag with the cooled beans. Pull the bag out of the jar, and then carefully push the beans to the bottom of the bag to fill the corners, plus push the air bubbles out. The middle photo above shows a bag straight out of the jar on the left, while the second bag shows a side view of the refried beans pushed to the bottom of a bag. Carefully flatten and push the beans toward the top of the bag. When the beans are almost to the zipper, carefully close the zipper.
Lay the bean bags flat on a baking sheet. It’s better to have a single layer per sheet, but no more than 2 layers. Pop into the freezer until frozen solid. These stack nice and neat in the freezer, or will stand up straight for easy organization.
Note: It’s important that any cooked food going into the freezer be totally cool. Put the food in the fridge (if need be) to cool completely. The condensation that forms inside the bags or containers of warm food put into the freezer is what causes ice crystals inside.
Super easy, freezer friendly, healthy and cheap…that’s a winner in my book!
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