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Refried Sea Island Red Peas

Small but mighty—in this case, mighty good.

3½ cups


Overnight to soak the peas and about 1½ hours to cook and “refry” them


Poor refried beans, always last on a plate and first to hit the garbage. And frankly, as a steam-table staple, they often deserve the rebuke they receive. But great refried beans, occupying territory between spicy bean gravy and creamy bean casserole, take their memorable texture—along with layers of smoke and allium—in a gesture of undying fidelity to the love of their lives: rice. Black, pinto, New Mexican red, or other beans notwithstanding, Sea Island Red Peas, cooked in this style, deepen the rice and pea romance. Maybe it is because the two grow together in the field, or maybe it is because Sea Island Red Peas have uniquely sweet and savory qualities. But taken together on a fork with our Mexican Red Rice, all we can say is, “Wow.”

Cooking Remarks

Though tiny, these peas have an improved finished texture with overnight soaking.

A richly resonant homemade stock, whether chicken or vegetable, is crucial to producing the kind of flavor impact refried beans deserve. Once the peas are finished, count on the myriad garnishing options suggested below to make the dish all the more appealing.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a heavy-bottomed large saucepan, a 12-inch skillet, and a potato masher or flat wooden spoon.

    • 1
      quart spring or filtered water
    • 10.5
      ounces (1½ cups) Anson Mills Sea Island Red Peas, covered by at least 1 inch of water, soaked overnight in the refrigerator, then drained
    • 1
      small Turkish bay leaf
    • 3
      tablespoons avocado oil
    • 1
      small yellow onion, minced
    • 4
      garlic cloves, minced
    • ½
      teaspoon chipotle powder
    • ¾
      teaspoon Mexican oregano
    • ¾
    • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • for the garnishes:

    • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    • Sliced pickled jalapeños
    • Thinly sliced or finely diced red onion
    • Sliced avocado
    • Crumbled cotija cheese
    • Lime wedges

    In a heavy-bottomed large saucepan, bring the water to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the drained peas and add the bay leaf. Return the liquid to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender (fig. 1.1), 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, until the peas cool in their broth to room temperature.


    In a 12-inch skillet, warm the avocado oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chipotle powder, and oregano and sauté for about 5 minutes to enliven the aromatics. Add the cooked peas with their broth, along with the stock, and bring to a simmer. Begin mashing the peas in the skillet using a potato masher or flat wooden spoon, stirring all the while. As the peas simmer and with continued mashing, they will thicken. Continue mashing and stirring until the liquid surrounding the peas is thick and the peas are creamy but not completely smooth (fig. 2.2), 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot with any or all of the garnishes.

    1. 1.1
    1. 2.1