Loco for Tico Refried Beans

Refried Beans
Photo credit: Emmanuel Hessler

Lucky, lucky, lucky me, lucky son of a gun! I vacationed in Costa Rica for Christmas and had a shit load of fun! The heat hit me the moment I got off the plane. All I could think about were the fresh fruits and vegetables that must grow in this heat. And truly, they were incredible. It would be two weeks of picking through a fruit stand’s ripe mangos, of twisting the tops off of fragrant pineapples, of getting a local vendor to slice off the thick husk of a coconut so that I could sip its generous quantities of coconut water, and then eat the gelatinous coconut skin. I even got to taste a juicy Guanábana (Soursop) fruit we discovered at a small roadside market – I felt like a real Fruit Hunter. Glorious!

Also, I picked up a little breakfast ritual from my sister-in-law, Anaolga, who is originally from Guatemala, and therefore knew exactly how to cook with local produce. The first breakfast she made consisted of a pile of freshly diced tomatoes, avocado, scrambled eggs, and yet another pile of refried beans. This was accompanied by freshly toasted corn tortillas, cilantro, and hot sauce. A communal plate sat in the middle of the table as we each reached in to assemble our own breakfast tacos. I was totally enchanted by the fresh and simple flavours of the meal. That is why I am presenting my very own recipe for refried beans and instructions on how to assemble this delicious Tico, aka Costa Rican, style breakfast.

Yield: serves 4 to 6 people.

Refried Beans
1 can of drained black beans
Olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 large Spanish onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
A handful of chopped cilantro
1 tsp. paprika
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
6 cups warm water


  1. Heat up 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a pot on medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and a 1/2 tsp. of cumin. Cook onions till translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the beans plus 6 cups of warm water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.
  4. After 2 1/2 hours, the water should have sufficiently reduced. If not, keep cooking until it is almost gone. Take off heat, and using a hand blender, purée the beans until you get a coarse paste. Stir in the chopped cilantro and let sit.
  5. In a frying pan, heat up 1 tbsp. of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the paprika and a 1/2 tsp. of cumin and heat till fragrant.
  6.  Add the onions and diced chipotle. Cook till brown.
  7. Add the pureed beans to the onions and mix well. Set aside until the rest of the breakfast plate is ready to be served.

Refried Beans
Photo credit: Emmanuel Hessler

For the Rest of the Breakfast
2-3 tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, diced
6-8 eggs, lightly scrambled. Cook last so that they can be served warm and fresh.
3-4 corn tortillas per person. (Important note: Heat the corn tortillas in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, no oil necessary. Heat them until they get a  little crisp but before they become too rigid and won’t bend without breaking, about 1 or 2 minutes. This step is mega important. If you do not heat the tortillas this way, you will probably find them gross-tasting and will go back to wheat tortillas, which is really not the same thing!)
A mild red or green hot sauce
A bunch of finely chopped cilantro


  1. Place each item on a communal plate so that you can all share this delicious breakfast. Enjoy!

I would like to give credit to Elise Bauer from Simple Recipes for helping me figure out quantities with a very helpful recipe she posted about refried black beans.

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4 thoughts on “Loco for Tico Refried Beans

  1. Hey my name is Danny and I have been living in Costa Rica for 3 years now and I agree with everything you have said in your post! Everything is amazingly fresh here!

    This is a typical breakfast but you forgot the most popular breakfast here in Costa Rica, Gallo Pinto which is re-fried beans and rice usually served with “Natilla” which is sort of a sour cream and eggs any style you want. There is also fried plantains and if you wish “Carne con Salsa” which is stewed beef in a sauce.

    This is as typical as it gets here in CR, but your breakfast experience is also as popular! 😀

    Hope you will come back!


    • Katherine says:

      Hi Danny! Thanks for your comment and suggestion! We definitely ate tons of fried plantains but never tried the Natilla you speak of. All in all, we adored CR and look forward to discovering more this beautiful country has to offer! Keep in touch!

    • Amanda Piedimonte says:

      Oh man, I love casados with that carne con salsa! I visited Costa Rica twice, staying in Playa del Coco on the Pacific coast, and would have casado daily – either with the carne or perscado.
      Never had natilla either, but I guess I’ll have to visit again to try it 🙂

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