Feb 1, 2024
Learn how to make refried beans! This easy recipe works with dried or canned beans. Creamy and flavorful, it’s a delicious, healthy side dish.
This homemade refried beans recipe is delicious and easy to make. It calls for just 10 basic ingredients, and it’s creamy, flavorful, and bright. If you’re used to eating canned refried beans, get ready—these homemade ones are SO much better!
Refried beans, or frijoles refritos, are a staple of Mexican and Tex Mex cuisine. Their English name is a bit misleading, because they’re not re-fried at all. Instead, cooked beans are added to a skillet with onion, garlic, and spices and then mashed until thick and creamy.
Packed with fiber and protein, they’re a delicious, healthy side dish for tacos, enchiladas, and more. I even love them as a dip with tortilla chips! I hope you enjoy them too.
How to Make Refried Beans
You can make this refried beans recipe in two ways:
- with dried pinto beans that you cook from scratch
- with canned pinto beans
The first method is traditional, and I think it has the best flavor, as you get to season the beans as they cook. The second method is still tasty, and it’s much quicker. The beans will be ready in just 20 minutes!
You can find both versions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. For now, I’ll give you an overview of the method with dried beans.
Start by rinsing the beans. Sift through them and discard any stones or debris. Transfer them to a large pot and add water, onion wedges, cumin, salt, oregano, and several grinds of pepper.
Next, cook the beans. Bring the water to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender. This could take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on the freshness of your beans.
If you’d like to shorten the cooking time, you have three options:
- Soak the beans overnight. Rinse and sort the beans. Then, place them in a large bowl and add cold water to cover. Let soak overnight. The next day, drain and rinse the beans and proceed with the recipe as written.
- Use a pressure cooker. Make a double recipe of these Instant Pot Pinto Beans instead of cooking the beans on the stovetop.
- Use canned beans. No cooking required! Skip ahead to the next step.
When the beans are tender, fry them. Sauté onion and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. When they’re soft, reduce the heat to low. Add the cooked beans along with 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid.
Finely dice the onion, and cook it until it’s tender. The small, soft pieces will meld into the refried beans, making them really creamy and flavorful. If the onion is too large, or if it’s undercooked, it’ll stay crunchy, which I personally don’t love.
Cook, mashing the beans and adding more liquid as needed, until the mixture is thick and creamy. I like fairly smooth refried beans, so I typically add 1 to 1 1/2 cups bean broth and mash them well. If you prefer a chunkier texture, feel free to mash them less.
For really smooth refried beans, pulse them in a food processor.
Season to taste with salt and fresh lime juice before serving!
How to Store Refried Beans
Store leftover refried beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. They reheat perfectly on the stove or in the microwave!
Tip: To get ahead, cook the pinto beans in advance. Store them in their cooking liquid in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze them for up to 3 months before making the refried beans.
How to Use Refried Beans
I love to use these creamy refried beans in burritos, taquitos, and quesadillas. They’re also fantastic in my homemade bean dip!
Of course, these refried beans are a delicious side dish too. Garnish them with fresh cilantro, jalapeños, and Cotija cheese or queso fresco. Serve them with Mexican-inspired dishes like tacos, enchiladas, and chilaquiles.
Want more side dishes to round out the meal? Try my cilantro lime rice, Spanish rice, or Mexican street corn salad.
Serves 6 to 8
This easy refried beans recipe is a delicious, healthy side dish for Tex Mex and Mexican food! I love to make it with dried beans, but canned beans work too—see the notes below. Feel free to use black beans instead of pintos if you prefer.
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Place the beans in a colander and sort through them to remove and discard any stones or debris. Rinse well.
Place the beans in a large pot and add the water, onion wedges, cumin, salt, oregano, and several grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the water’s surface, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Check the beans. If they are not fully tender, continue simmering, checking them every 15 minutes, until tender, up to 90 minutes more. Add water to the pot as needed if it begins to dry out.
Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Drain the beans into the strainer, reserving the cooking liquid in the bowl.
Heat the avocado oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Stir in the beans and reduce the heat to low. Add ½ cup of the bean cooking liquid and use a potato masher to mash the beans until they reach your desired consistency, adding more cooking liquid, ½ cup at a time, as needed (I typically use 1 to 1½ cups). For smoother refried beans, blend the beans with an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the lime juice. Taste and add more salt and lime juice as desired. (I typically add another 1 teaspoon salt and ½ tablespoon lime juice at this point.)
Serve as a side dish or try one of the serving suggestions in the blog post above. Store leftover refried beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. They also freeze well.