Leftover Makeover for Refried Beans: Huevos Rancheros

I adore huevos rancheros.

And until breakfast yesterday, I’d never bothered to make them at home.

I’m not sure why except for whatever reason I never had leftover refried beans in the refrigerator at the same time as eggs and freshly made salsa at a time that coincided with a desire to eat huevos rancheros.

Or, perhaps, until yesterday, I had simply been too lazy to bother making them myself since I can go downtown and get a really nice version of the dish made for me at the cosy little locavore haven, Casa Nueva.

I’ll cop to being lazy, so maybe that should just be the answer.

But yesterday, I wanted huevos and couldn’t just haul off and wander downtown because I was waiting for the dishwasher repair guy, so I looked in the fridge and lo and behold! There were refrieds, made the night before from Rancho Gordo’s Eye of the Goat beans, there was Calico Salsa made freshly the night before from heirloom tomatoes we grew in our very own garden, there were fresh local eggs, there was smoked goat cheddar from Integration Acres, and some whole wheat tortillas left over from burritos from the week before.

So, it only made sense to get in front of the stove and make myself a plate of huevos.

For the initiated, huevos rancheros is a dish from the cowboy days, born along the border of Mexico and the American Southwest, and today you can find it in restaurants, truck stops, diners and dives all through that area, all with slight regional variations, especially when it comes to what kind of salsa is featured with the dish. But the basic idea for “eggs, ranch-style” is always the same–one or two corn tortillas are layered with some warm refried beans and cheese, then the plate is put under the broiler to heat it all up nicely and melt the cheese. Two over-easy fried eggs are laid gently atop this bed of leguminous love, a bit of salsa is poured over, cheese is sprinkled again and then under the broiler the plate is put to melt the cheese and warm the salsa.

Then, out it comes to the diner who presumably tucks in gleefully, drinking copious amounts of black coffee which tastes mighty fine alongside the plate of eggs, beans and salsa.

Turns out, if you have the ingredients already prepped up and on hand, making huevos rancheros is a simple matter of warming some stuff up, frying a couple of eggs and melting some cheese, which really, truly, anyone can do in the morning, even if one hasn’t had coffee.

I’d say the trickiest part is frying the eggs. I’m not sure I can really teach someone how to cook over-easy fried eggs online, but I can at least describe the process. But, truly, it just takes practice to get the hang of it. I got good at it working breakfast shift when I was in culinary school. Breakfast shift in a diner or another quick-serve establishment will really teach a person how to cook eggs.

But here’s basically how to go about frying some over-easy eggs–which would be eggs that are fried until the bottom of the egg white is set, then are gently flipped over to set the white on the top. The yolk is only partially set–it is mostly just thickened slightly to a rich, smooth golden liquid. (Over hard eggs are cooked until the yolks are completely set and firm, but not rubbery.)

First, pick a good pan. I use a non-stick pan, but a good, well-seasoned cast iron pan is just as good, if not better. Heat it over medium heat and put a little bit of whatever fat you want to use in it: olive oil is good, butter is better and bacon drippings are the best. THE best. But, if you are watching your weight or are a vegetarian, by all means, use either olive oil or butter. When the oil is dripping, crack your eggs carefully by opening the shell less than an inch from the pan. (Using the freshest eggs possible will not only result in the tastiest eggs but also the most compact egg whites–older egg whites run a lot and spread out over the pan more. Fresher eggs are less likely to result in broken yolks as well.)

Cook the eggs until the whites are set–opaque white–with maybe a little bit of browning on the edges, and just a clear sheen of uncooked white on top. Then, using a thin but sturdy spatula, slide it under an egg, and without lifting the egg clear out of the pan, just gently roll the egg over so that the yolk goes down on the hot surface of the pan, hopefully without breaking the yolk. (The first few times you do this, you’re likely to break the yolk. The egg will still taste good though, so don’t despair and just keep cooking eggs until you get them right.) The closer to the pan you keep the spatula and the egg, the less likely you are to actually break the yolk, and the more gently you roll the egg, the better.

If you are cooking one egg at a time and you have a quick wrist and a strong intestinal fortitude, not to mention the courage of your convictions, you can flip the egg in the air. BUT, from personal experience, I can tell you that it takes about a dozen and a half eggs destroyed to get this advanced technique right and it never works if you’re cooking two eggs or more in the same pan.

Anyway, once you turn the egg over, let it cook for about thirty seconds or so more, just until the white on the bottom is set, and voila! It’s done!

So, that’s how you fry over easy eggs.

The recipe below will teach you what to do with them once you have them. Give making huevos rancheros a try–your taste buds will thank you.

Huevos Rancheros

(For one serving)

2 fresh corn tortillas
1 cup refried beans
2 tablespoons shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Chile Colorado Sauce or salsa (optional)
2 cooked over easy eggs, fresh from the pan
2 more tablespoons shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
Fresh salsa to taste
cilantro for garnish (optional)


Put your two corn tortillas on a serving plate. Spread the beans evenly over them and sprinkle with the cheese. Run under a broiler or microwave until heated through and the cheese is melted. Spread the Chile Colorado or salsa over the beans, then put the eggs on top of that, and sprinkle with the second bit of cheese.

Run under the broiler or microwave for a few seconds, just until the cheese melts and everything is bubbly and nice.

Serve with fresh salsa on the side and sprinkle with minced cilantro. (If you had no fresh corn tortillas, then skip them and spread the beans right on the plate, then serve with a nice freshly steamed whole wheat tortilla for scooping up cheesy-eggy-beany goodness.)


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  1. Delicious and we are in the same boat… i have never made these, order them often (in those dives you talk about). terrific post. Now I have a yen for these!

    Comment by Dave at eRecipeCards — August 21, 2011 #

  2. Barbara,
    Love your site. Just wanted to pass along a technique I learned watching a short order cook. If you don’t want to flip the eggs for fear of breaking the yolks, then place a skillet lid just wide enough to cover them on top of the eggs. The steam will set the whites on top while the bottoms cook. Works great for me.
    Take Care

    Comment by Ken B. — August 23, 2011 #

  3. Yummy sounding recipe for Huevos Rancheros!!!

    I much prefer over medium eggs, there’s just something about gelatinous egg whites that squicks me (husband cooks his own eggs in our house since he likes his scrambled eggs “wet”)

    To practice flipping, use a slice of bread/toast to get the motion right, and if you want to get really fancy with flipping chunky things like sautee’s, try cubing toast and flipping that. 🙂

    Comment by Magpie — September 10, 2011 #

  4. Its been a while since I visited your space. Hope you have been doing good.

    I follow Zen’s method to cook the yolks. Hats off to you for your patience is explaining how to cook eggs in a very detailed manner. Your posts reflect your love for cooking and appreciate your explanation of cooking techniques. I have learned a lot from your blog, Barbara. Thanks. 🙂

    Comment by Sailu — September 12, 2011 #

  5. For the last year or so, including last fall with “the freshest dried beans” I find I can never get them soft, even after hours of cooking. Has this happened to you? Remedies? Thanks in advance.

    Comment by GayJ — September 12, 2011 #

  6. Gee, I’ve been absent from the interweb for a while and it is so nice to find your posts. Now I have a hankering for huevos rancheros, and since the weather has turned cooler I am sure there will be leftover beans in the ‘fridge soon.

    Comment by Mardel — September 18, 2011 #

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