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The 4 Best Instant Bean Brands - Taste Test (&nbsp) Comments

We tested 4 brands of instant refried beans.

We purchased 4 of the best instant refried bean brands and recruited 4 tasters to blind test and score each brand.

Santa Fe Instant Southwestern Style Refried Beans received the highest average score, with 3 out of 5 stars for flavor. If you want the best tasting brand, this is the one we recommend.

The other three brands are not far behind. They all tied for second place with an average score of 2.75 out of 5 stars. None of them were particularly bad or exceptional.

While each brand contains the exact same ingredients - pinto beans, soybean oil and salt - there is considerable variation in flavor and texture from brand to brand.

Read on for our full review and our tasters' comments on each brand.

Top Pick: Santa Fe Instant Southwest Style Refried Beans

Overall, tasters liked the flavor and consistency of Santa Fe beans. Santa Fe's flavor averaged 3 stars, the highest of any brand, with very little variance.

"The consistency is good," wrote one taster, "and it has a good bean flavor."

"Very good, not too salty," wrote another." The more I ate, the better it tasted."

Santa Fe's beans are as easy to prepare as any other brand of beans. You simply bring the recommended amount of water to a boil, stir the contents of the package, cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes while stirring occasionally.

By hanging out in hiker forums and online communities, this seems to be the most popular brand among campers and backpackers. We don't seem to be the only ones who think it's the tastiest.

Ingredients: Pinto beans, soybean oil blend (with TBHQ to maintain freshness), salt. Note: Santa Fe also produces other varieties such as Instant Fat Free Vegetarian Dry Beans and Instant Fat Free Black Dry Beans.

Cookquik Instant Dry Beans

Cookquik's beans were described by several tasters as having a smoky flavor.

One person wrote: "Mildly smoky."

"Mildly smoky," wrote another.

Tasters also liked the brand's thicker texture and consistency. One taster thought Cookquik beans looked "most like real refried beans."

They averaged 2.75 stars for flavor, with all but one taster giving them 3 stars. Overall, the tasters thought they were decent.

Cookquik beans come in a huge package that contains 30 ounces of instant beans. Campers and backpackers who want a package that they can open and eat in one sitting should look elsewhere.

Ingredients: Pinto beans, soybean oil blend (contains TBHQ to maintain freshness), salt.

Herdez Traditional Instant Refried Beans

Unlike the other 3 brands, Herdez adds citric acid to their soybean oil to preserve the flavor.

Apparently, this was enough to slightly alter the flavor, as multiple tasters found Herdez beans to have a unique flavor.

"A different flavor," wrote one taster." It had a nice texture, but tasted like it had some other added ingredients."

"The beans don't have a strong flavor," wrote another, "and a little aftertaste."

I tasted all of the brands myself, and this was my personal favorite. But other tasters ranked it in the middle of the pack. It had an average of 2.75 stars out of 5 for taste.

Tasters liked its consistency and noted the "smooth and pleasant texture". Some other brands of dehydrated bean chips were not fully rehydrated, which resulted in them having a different texture when bitten. This was not the case with Herdez' beans.

One thing in favor of these beans is that they require the least amount of water, only 1.5 cups. If you're going on a backcountry trip and water (or backpacking stove fuel) will be in short supply, these may be the right instant beans for you.

Ingredients: Pinto beans, soybean oil (TBHQ and citric acid free trans shortening to protect flavor), salt.

Mexican Rose Instant Homestyle Refried Beans

Of all the brands, Mexicali Rose's beans require the most water, 2.5 cups.

As a result, these beans are quite diluted. If we were to recreate them, we would probably add only 2 cups of water.

Three tasters gave these beans two stars, while one liked them so much that he gave them five stars ------ This was the only perfect rating in the taste test.

Soup color, mild and pleasant bean flavor," he wrote. He also noted that the dish could be paired with rice or some other side dish that could absorb some extra moisture.

When we averaged the scores, Mexicali beans tied for second place with Herdez and Cookquik beans.

Ingredients: Pinto beans, soybean oil, salt


The following are the best instant refried beans.

  • Santa Fe Instant Southwest Style Refried Beans
  • Cookquik Instant Refried Beans
  • Herdez Traditional Instant Dry Beans
  • Mexicali Rose Instant Homestyle Refried Beans

Tips for preparing instant refried beans on the go

We decided to test out instant refried beans because they are a popular camping and backpacking food. They are flavorful, filling, high in fiber, high in calories, and can be paired with a number of other common travel foods.

There are 2 ways to prepare beans when camping or backpacking.

  1. according to the instructions on the package

If you want to cook the beans according to the instructions on the package, it helps to have a backpacking stove with an adjustable flame or a simmer ring. This way you can easily simmer the beans on low heat for 5 minutes, following the directions for each brand.

If you want to cold soak them, have a cold soaking container, such as a Talenti gelato jar. Start soaking them in water at least 30 minutes before you eat them. This will give them enough time to rehydrate so you don't end up having to eat cold and crunchy instant refried beans.

I used a Talenti jar to cold soak instant beans on a recent trip to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

How we tested

We prepared each brand according to the instructions on the package.

First, I prepared each brand of beans according to the instructions on the package.

Next, I scooped a small portion of each brand of beans into their own bowl and labeled them with a letter so that the testers would not know which brand was which. (They didn't even know which brands were in the running).

The testers only knew the letters of each brand. a: Santa Fe, b: Mexicali Rose, c: Herdez, d: Cookquik.

I then asked the 4 testers to blindly taste each brand and rate their taste on a scale from 1 to 5. They also wrote down any comments they had.

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