Before being ruthlessly cut from their menu, Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza was one of my all-time favorite meals. Despite being wildly inauthentic to both pizza and actual Mexican cuisine, there was something beautiful in the simplicity of refried beans sandwiched between two crispy tortillas, topped with melted cheese and tomatoes.
I could try to recreate it at home, but I get hit with a wave of nausea every time I see refried beans schlorp out of a cold aluminum can. The gelatinous tube of brown sludge that kind of smells like dog food is not, as the kids say, cool beans.
How to Make Canned Refried Beans Taste Better
According to food blogger Abi Cowell, there are a few ways to spice up the refried beans themselves. “To make one can of refried beans taste better really fast, add 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt or garlic salt,” she tells me. “Then stir in about 1/4 cup of water to thin the mixture, since canned refried beans are always too thick and need to be thinned.”
For those whose “spice rack” is mostly a few half-empty bottles of hot sauce in the fridge, those will work just fine, too. “You can definitely add a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce,” Cowell explains. “I recommend Cholula or chipotle Tabasco.”
Adjust the seasoned refried beans to taste, then heat them up either on the stove or in the microwave. Taste them again and fine-tune the seasonings, as needed. “Heat the beans in a small pan on the stove over medium low heat, stirring frequently — or, heat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between,” Cowell says.
Once you’ve made your canned refried beans taste better, they’re the perfect addition to meals in need of some quick and convenient protein. Forget using them for a layer in taco dip — add vegetables and broth to your newly-improved beans for a great refried bean soup, or stir them into your morning egg omelet.
“Canned refried beans are a staple in our house,” Cowell says. “We add them to tacos, nachos, tostadas or any Tex-Mex meal, like creamy spinach enchiladas.”
Canned Refried Beans Dip Recipe
Finally, if you want to highlight this underrated beacon of bean flavor, here’s nutritionist Amy Lippert’s recipe for a delicious canned refried bean-based dip. “As a busy mom of three, I’m always looking for a quick and easy way to make convenience foods better,” she begins. “This is how I level up refried beans for our family — and my kids love to add some shredded pepper jack on it and eat it straight with corn tortilla chips or fresh veggie sticks.”
Step #1: Over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of pork or bacon fat in a medium pot.
Step #2: Dice 1 to 2 green onions, separating green from white ends.
Step #3: Sautee the white ends in the bacon fat for 3 to 5 minutes until softened.
Step #4: Add ¼ cup of your favorite salsa, 1 tablespoon of green chilies, 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1 teaspoon of chili powder.
Step #5: Add 2 cans of refried beans and heat over low-medium until hot, stirring frequently.
Step #6: Season with sea salt to taste and top with the greens of a diced green onion.
Step #7: Serve with tortilla chips for a hearty, protein-rich taco dip all thanks to canned refried beans.
So long as you don’t gag too much when initially scooping the lukewarm brown mush out of the can, all you need is some spices and hot sauce to transform it into a delectable dip. Canned refried beans aren’t the most glorious item in the cupboard, but if such a recipe for tastier canned refried beans can bring my beloved Mexican Pizza back to life, then they’ll always have a place in my heart.