Refried Beans With Chipotle Chilis

vegan refried beans
Back home in India, a rectangular two-burner stove would stand in almost every middle-class kitchen. Fom one end a green pipe would run through a hole in the soapstone countertop to a bright-red metal cylinder.

In the ’90s when I got married and first set up house, those cylinders were precious. You often had to wait months if not years to get one from the government-run oil and gas companies, and once you did it was like winning the lottery. Because the only option to a gas stove in those days was a kerosene one that took ages to start up, or one of those square electric hotplates that burned the food before they cooked it.

The cylinders — about three to four times the size of the little white ones you can buy for outdoor grills here in the United States – would last about a month after which you would call the supplier and they would send over a replacement in a few days.

The cylinder-wallah would arrive in a loud, clanging contraption that looked like a bike dragging a metal cart piled precariously with the cylinders. At the foot of the apartment building, he would hoist one of the heavy cylinders over a sweat-drenched shoulder, walk up a few flights of stairs if the building didn’t have an elevator (and many in Bombay didn’t), snap the new one into place and take away the old one.

Figuring out when to call for your replacement was a science. If you called too early, it was possible the new one would come in before you actually ran out. If you called too late, it was back to the kerosene stove until you got your replacement.

Last year, when we traveled to Leh in north India, one of the most delightful sights we saw was when a truck crammed with cylinders would make the rounds of the homes and monasteries perched steeply on craggy hills in the lap of the Himalayas. The monks would negotiate narrow stairs to get their replacements, cylinders on shoulders. In the villages down below, men, women and children would line the streets, waiting patiently for the truck.

Here in the United States we are used to the luxury of piped gas. You don’t have to worry about the gas ever running out or about red cylinders and cylinder-wallahs, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes think fondly of those old days when I knew the value of this precious natural resource and used it more reverentially than I probably do now.

When we bought our house four years ago, it came fitted with an electric stove. Although the electric stoves here are quite sophisticated, I am not a big fan (although many cooks might disagree). So I was really thrilled when, finally last week, we replaced it with a gas range.

I find gas stoves cook more gently and evenly than their electric counterparts. For instance, the banana nut bread I made in my new oven, with my own often-tried-and-tested recipe, took many more minutes to cook at the same temperature in the gas oven, but it also browned more evenly.

As I re-cook some favorites that I’ve blogged about, I shall be going back to those posts, especially the ones with recipes that needed baking, and add in in any differences in cooking times and temperatures for the gas oven.

Now finally, here’s a little bit about today’s recipe: basic but heartily delicious Mexican refried beans fired up with some smoky chipotle chilis in adobo sauce.

Refried beans aren’t really fried, just simmered in water until they are done. So despite the unhealthy-sounding name that makes one picture two vats of boiling oil (one to fry and the other to re-fry!) these are actually tremendously healthy.

I used black beans, but pinto beans are also often used to make refried beans, and if you can’t find those where you live, just go with any old bean you can lay your hands on.

This one goes out to It’s A Vegan World: Mexican, the second in our vegan world cuisine series. Do send in your entries before the 31st. Remember, you don’t have to know a whole lot about Mexican food to enter, and you certainly don’t have to have only Mexican ingredients. The staples– beans, rice, corn and vegetables — can be found anywhere in the world. Just improvise, innovate and create. In fact, isn’t that how the best dishes get made?
Enjoy, everyone!

Refried Beans With Chipotle Chilis
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8 servings
  • 1 cup dried black beans, soaked for a few hours and then cooked until tender enough to mash (can substitute with about 2 cups of washed and drained canned beans)
  • 1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (use less or more if you like yours milder or spicier)
  • 2 cups of water or the bean-cooking liquid
  • Salt to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.
  2. Add the onions and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until they are richly golden brown. It will take about 8-10 minutes. Don't burn the onions.
  3. Add the minced garlic and stir for another minutes.
  4. Add the chipotle chilis, finely chopped, and stir in. Then quickly add the beans.
  5. Use the back of your ladle or better still, a potato masher, to mash the beans. I don't mash mine completely because I like the texture.
  6. Add the water or liquid, bring to a boil, and allow the beans to simmer away for another 10-15 minutes until the liquid has reduced.
  7. The beans should still have some liquid when you take them off the heat because they will thicken up on standing.
  8. Top with a dollop of vegan sour cream or soy yogurt and serve hot or cold with some tortilla chips. You can also roll 'em up inside of a burrito, heap them on a taco, or eat them as a terrific side dish with some guacamole and rice. These are very versatile.


For an original Tibetan recipe straight from Ladakh, try my artichoke-stuffed vegetarian momos.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    Compared to India living in US is so easy and all the comforts are taken for granted by our children who are born and raised here! I remember red gas tanks too! :)

    Lovely chip and dip, love the blue Tortilla chips. I made something for you too, will post next week at Foodie’s Hope! :)

  2. says

    My dear lady…u look young..ur post sounded ancient..u write pretty chick..and ur tag line…”I dont mix the 2″ very “in”..
    Im kinda confused bout u as a person. Though quite clear bout how u think and write.. absolutely neat. 10 on 10. :-)

    I’d like to include u in my ‘small but building up’ list of rocking bloggers. Wud u like to go ahead with that ?? Lemme know. Id be glad to. It’s free ofcourse.

    Check out the site I’m talkin bout.

    I’ll visit u more.
    Anand. :-)

  3. says

    U re absolutely right about the comfort we have here. But about electric stove, past 10 years I only had eletric, in my home we couldn’t install gas, well that is another story (old house – 20 years old and no gas pipeline) But I replaced with new electic range, all my cooking to baking is simply perfect and amazingly fast. (i guess it is depend how old the range is)
    Love the refried beans and Blue corn tortilla in the background.

  4. says

    Agree with you about the electric stove. Gas stove cooks more fast and with even heating..Miss those..
    Love those refried beans and blue corn tortilla..

  5. says

    yes Vaishali i agree, In US we all enjoy the comfort life.Last week when i read in a newspaper that India is still facing chronic under nutrition i was hurt.We have to be happy about what comforts we are enjoying and try not to overuse the same.

    Creamy and yummy dish..yes i have gas stove here and i love it.Yeah it will take longtime to bake though :)

  6. says

    Its one of those things that absolutely follows Murphy’s law. The gas will always run out on a busy school day morning. I wouldn’t dare to go near my mom at that moment 😉

  7. says

    Lolz…and we are still using the same old red cylinders,the only thing changed(and a drastic one) is that now we can subscribe to 2 cylinders per Ration card(hope u still remember how much use this card is of,in all the govt. related procedures)So now after one cylinder is exhausted,we book for another one.
    But it was nice to know tht u prefer stove top to that electric range….
    And hey the recipe sounds super delicious,i simply love beans,and this one looks so creamy ..and hey never tasted those PURPLE chips…are they better than usual ones??

  8. says

    You write so well that I went back to India for a while. We used to have electric stove at our old apartment, but now I am used to the gas stove. Didn’t experience much difference between those! :)

    Refried beans look so gorgeous with those yummy tortilla chips.

  9. says

    The new buildings here do supply piped gas … but cylinder delivery does exist too. And yes … the booking part is always an experience that I can happily do without. Love the sound of the beans with chips. :-)

  10. says

    Yeah i loved this post, when i tell aobut the culinder in India to my friends here they are like my itis like dark ages ……. i remember my mom having two cylinder, and still it was like winning a lottery.

  11. says

    Im with you on this,I totally agree!There is nothing like cooking and baking with real fire!Sometimes I wish I could learn and experiment with even earlier methods of cooking on(and under!) the ground!I hope I still will!At a certain point in my life I also had a gas stove and oven and it was pure heaven!Even In Ayurveda it is said that the Life-force(Prana)that is transferred to the food once cooked with real fire is very important,and it sounds so right to me.Unfortunately,it is not always possible today and sometimes dangerous…
    The beans look lovely and I really feel like digging in..yum!

  12. says

    I live in Malaysia and we use the gas cylinders, too, though it’s easy to get your hands on one. Not quite as easy when you need a replacement, though, as you have to wait for the “gas man” to come along your street and catch him. So we have two cylinders so that we don’t have to wait for our backup.

  13. says

    Loved those pics, yeah and wasn’t getting a cylinder a hassle until they started allowing 2 cylinders per family. I had a cute Clix shiny red gas stove when I first started working

    I too like gas ranges better, haven’t had to use an electric one here ever

  14. says

    Memories!!! I remember that cylinder saga. But luckily 2 cylinders per households were allowed and now we have gas pipe line in our building in Mumbai. but good old days! loved your pictures too.

    chip & dip looks delicious!! Gracias!!:-D

  15. says

    Vaishali, this post really made me smile, and yes, say a silent thanks for the comfort of piped gas. Those pictures are precious! A colorful photo that says so much about day to day life in those remote hilly places.

  16. says

    Like you said things have been very comfortable in the US…there was one time in India when we ran out of gas and there was no cylinder available and we had to finish our meals in the office itself but I feel I was using the gas rather conservatively in India than here…This is a lovely dip with the chips…does it work well with regular chili too?

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