Gluten-Free Frugal South American Cuisine: Vegan Vegetarian Black Refried Bean Recipe

October 21st, 2008 yum Posted in Hide your Veggies, South American, Soy Free, Vegan, Vegetarian, beans, frugal 2 Comments »

When I posted my recipe for Green Chili Corn Arepa biscuits, one of my readers recommended that I try Venezuelan black bean refried beans as they contain more antioxidents and are just as tasty as pinto beans. I thought that was an interesting idea. Personally, I love vegetarian refried beans made from scratch. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found those cans of refried beans where the contents are all mushed into an unidentifiable copper-colored block like canned kitty food all that appealing. I want to see and taste all of my ingredients- and I definitely don’t want to taste the can that they were stored in. And what is more economical than dry beans? I can get a whole pound of dry beans for the price of a can, but using dried beans, I can make get enough for a huge batch of refried beans AND beans to freeze, and enough beans for another recipe besides. I also like my beans a tad softer than when they are canned, and soaking overnight and simmering in my slow cooker results in soft, melty beans that I just can’t resist. Some time back I developed a recipe for Perfect Refried Pinto Beans (scroll down), but I’d never tried making them with black beans. When I went to Whole Foods this weekend, I picked up a bag of black beans to try making a version with black beans, also known as turtle beans. I looked at various recipes online, and then started experimenting. Carrot might be an unconventional ingredient, but we have a huge bag of lovely organic carrots in our refrigerator, and I like the unexpected sweetness it added to the recipe. The DH was a big fan of the green chilies that I added to the recipe on a whim. He said “it’s the perfect degree of spiciness- flavor without too much heat.” I have to agree- I could eat this stuff like candy. Is that weird? Although this recipe is vegan, I used it in a quesadilla “lasagna” lunch for my non veg hubby, layering a corn tortilla with black refried beans and then cheese, covering it with two corn tortillas and adding another layer of cheese and tortilla. Although the refried beans take a little time to make, once it was made it was a matter of minutes to assemble and microwave the quesadilla. These quesadillas would also be tasty made in a cast iron pan. For me, I was perfectly happy with a vegan taco filled with refried beans. You can take a vegan taco to the next level by topping it with homemade pico de gallo, guacamole, or even avocado cubes. And now, if you don’t mind, I think me and my spoon will be heading for the refrigerator to eat some of this refried bean stuff cold…. because it is THAT good.

Oh yes, and about those antioxidents… According to the World’s Healthiest Foods web site,

“When researchers analyzed different types of beans, they found that, the darker the bean’s seed coat, the higher its level of antioxidant activity. Gram for gram, black beans were found to have the most antioxidant activity, followed in descending order by red, brown, yellow, and white beans. Overall, the level of antioxidants found in black beans in this study is approximately 10 times that found in an equivalent amount of oranges, and comparable to that found in an equivalent amount of grapes or cranberries. ”

Not to mention that black beans are high in protein, folate and magnesium. Sounds like a good excuse to make some yummy refried black beans to me! Got any other great ideas for using this black refried bean recipe? Tell me in the comments!

Vegetarian Refried Black Bean Recipe
3 or 4 cups black beans, homemade or canned
1 tbsp. peanut oil (or favorite oil)
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 medium carrot, diced
1 can mild green chilies (4 oz) or roasted, diced anaheim peppers
1 tsp or more cumin seeds
1 tsp oregano
generous amounts of salt, pepper
dash of apple cider vinegar
fresh cilantro, to taste
Prepare beans and rinse. If using homemade black beans, you can reserve some of the cooking liquid.

Heat oil in a cast iron pan to medium and saute your onion until almost translucent. Add garlic clove and diced carrot and continue cooking until carrot softens slightly. Toss in your cumin seeds and oregano, letting them heat and release their fragrance. Mix in your can of chilies and season with salt and pepper. Take out 1/2 cup or so of the onion mixture and combine in blender either with reserved cooking liquid (1/2 to 1 cup) or water. Add your beans to the cast iron pan and combine thoroughly. Add extra cumin and/or oregano if you think it needs it after tasting. Let beans heat and flavors permeate. After at least 10 minutes fold your blended liquid into the other ingredients in the pan. Let cook for another 10-20 minutes (adding extra water or cooking liquid if it gets too dry) and then taste again, adjusting seasonings- you may need more salt. Sprinkle in a dash of apple cider vinegar and fold in some fresh cilantro. A few minutes later, take the pan off the burner and serve.

DH loved this recipe!
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Gluten-Free Arepa Corn Green Chili biscuit Recipe

September 4th, 2008 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Colombian, Corn, Dairy, South American, Vegetarian, Venezuelan, cheese 15 Comments »

I first encountered the Arepa in a lovely post at Gluten-free Heaven. The author Karen learned this naturally gluten-free recipe from a Venezuelan friend and happily decided to share her experiments online. I was so intrigued I had to go to a local Latin American market and buy my own PAN pre-cooked corn flour. I made those first ones with fresh refried beans as a filling and homemade guacamole as a topping, and they were absolutely delicious. Some time later I enjoyed reading Shauna’s Ode to arepas at her Gluten Free Girl blog. Since then, several gluten-free bloggers have jumped on the arepa bandwagon and shared their take on this treat. Recently I decided to follow up my initial experiment with a new version of green chili arepas, inspired by the tasty green chili cheese tamales at Trader Joe’s and some green chili cheese corn muffins I used to make. I enjoy arepas, but sometimes they can be bland or dry, depending on the preparation. This recipe is anything but bland. I served mine with my favorite homemade refried beans recipe (see below). Topped with pico de gallo and guacamole (if you want to go full out) and maybe a dab of sour cream or yogurt, they are sublime. If you haven’t experimented with arepas, there’s no time like the present. These delicious, self contained corn biscuits make a great breakfast (reheated), lunch, or dinner- as well as being wonderful appetizers for a South-American themed party.

Still wondering what an arepa is?
According to our friend Wikipedia,
“The arepa was the corn bread of the Timoto-cuicas, a native American nation that lived in the northern Andean mountains of Venezuela who learned how to grow maize from the Quechuas (Peru) and Mayas (Mexico), where the crop originated. The larger native American nations of Venezuela (Arawaks in the central plains and Caribes in the East and in the rain forests, from Argentina to the Islands named for them) widely used the form of bread called Casabe, made from Yuca roots. With the colonization process the maize (corn) bread was widely spread throughout the country and into Colombia, then named Nueva Granada or Santa Fe.”(

Now the arepa has become a traditional national food of both Colombians and Venezuelans, with slight variations in the respective arepas available in each country. Here’s an interesting History of the Arepa and PAN flour

How do you make arepas?
Arepa made from pre-cooked PAN mix are prepared by being boiled in water, baked in the oven, fried (or pan-browned) in hot oil, or being grilled on charcoal. Some cooks combine methods by browning them briefly on a hot griddle and then baking them in a 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.

The arepa is cut in half for filling, and many people scoop out the soft dough in the middle. You can discard the corn filling or enjoy it with butter or cheese.

How do you buy arepas?
In Venezuela Arepas are sold at areperas and as ubiquitous as the common hamburger in the states. Customers choose fillings from a cafeteria-style hot table such as “shredded cheese, stringy meat cooked in spices, chicken salad with avocado, egg scrambled with onion and green peppers, diced sausage,” and others. Surprisingly, grated American cheese is an extremely popular filling.

“The arepa is split open like a hamburger bun (by the person behind the counter), some of the steaming moist corn meal is scooped out and discarded, and the filling is added. The arepa is wrapped in a square of slick paper, like butcher paper, and handed to the purchaser to eat standing up. . . Arepas are also made smaller and served in the bread basket at restaurants.” (Source: International Recipes dot Net If you disagree with any of this, take it up with my source.)

Here in the states, you have some options, although of course you will want to check with each to confirm the gluten-free status.

Napa, California: Pica Pica Kitchan at the Oxbow Market
*Note that their menu indicates which dishes are GLUTEN-FREE!!!*

New York City, New York: Caracas Arepa Bar
*Their menu mentions wheat-free status but not gluten specifically. Recommended on Celiac boards, but please check gluten-free status as YMMV.

(Any other arepa restaurants you can recommend for gluten-free arepa dining? Share in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!)

Interested in other gluten-free corn dining experiences? Try

Los Angeles, Ca: Tamara’s Tamales
Reported to have 30+ gluten-free tamales, with half dairy-free… Check with them.

But exactly how many types of (veg) Arepas are there?
* Corn flour arepa (Arepa blanca or Viuda)
* Sweet arepa (Arepa dulce)
* Cheese arepa Recipe (Arepa de queso)
* Coconut arepa (Arepa de coco)
* Manioc arepa (Arepa de yuca)
* Arepa viuda (“widow” arepa) – an empty arepa accompaniment to soup
* Small arepa appetizers topped with garnish or enjoyed as a mini-biscuit.
* Sometimes a little sugar is mixed in with the dough to form sweet arepas (arepas dulces).
Note that there is one Wheat flour arepa, called Preñaditas in Venezuelan slang.

Looking for filling ideas?
Here are some vegetarian version of some traditional fillings:
* Reina Pepeada (non-traditional veg-style): chopped baked tofu cubes, avocado, and mayonnaise mashed together.
* Arepa de Dominó: black beans and crumbled white cheese.
* Arepa de Perico – Filled with perico Caribbean-style scrambled eggs
* Colombian Arepas: larger than Venezuelan arepas, and are not baked)
Topped with butter and melted cheese.
* Other veg ideas for fillings: grated white or cheddar cheese; guasacaca, hard-boiled quails eggs. (Based on fillings found at Whats4Eats)
Fried Arepa Con Huevo Recipe
Cooking Light Lowfat Arepa Recipe with Savory Topping
Enjoy Kate’s nontraditional Arepa-based Healthier Egg Benedict Recipe at Gluten-Free Gobsmacked

Green Chili Cheese Gluten Free Arepa Recipe
3/4 cup yellow PAN pre-cooked masa harina
1/3 cup grated organic white cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup boiling water
1 4 oz. can roasted green chilies, drained
Combine Pan masa harina with cheese, 1 tbsp. butter, and salt. Slowly add in enough boiling water to make a batter and then stir in your drained green chilies. Knead the dough a little or stir it so that it is thoroughly combined and then let it rest for a few minutes.

Shape balls of the dough into little patties in your hand, making sure there aren’t any cracks around the edges, and place them on a plate.

Heat griddle or large skillet over medium heat with some of remaining melted butter. Working in batches, place patties on the skillet and cook until golden brown and cooked through, turning after about 3-5 minutes. Some people then serve them right away.

Others brown them on a skillet, but then place them on a baking sheet and bake at high heat (the highest your oven will go) for between 10-20 minutes, or until the arepa sounds hollow when you tap it.

Perfect Refried Beans
Slow-cooked bean base:
1 lb. dried organic pinto beans
9 cups water
1 dried chili (lg)
3 cloves peeled garlic
1 sm. onion, chopped
2-3 tsp salt
2 tbsp peanut oil (or your favorite oil)
1/2 sm. onion, diced
1 pressed garlic
3 cups or more of the above slow-cooked peans
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse the beans and then cover them with water and let soak for overnight (at least 8 hours). Drain and add all ingredients for slow cooked beans except salt and cook on high in your slow cooker for at least 4 or 5 hours. Make sure the beans are completely covered during the entire cooking process. When the beans seem fully cooked but not over-cooked, add salt and remove the dried chili. Let them cook a little longer and let cool, placing in containers with the cooking liquid. You can freeze a portion or two if desired.
Heat oil in cast iron skillet and add onion. Add garlic a few minutes later. When the onions are translucent, add the beans and simmer for a long time, mashing with a potato masher as seems appropriate. Let the refried beans thicken. Finally add salt and take off burner. Enjoy!
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