Refried Beans

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.

Homemade refried beans

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.

Refried beans recipe ingredients

How to Make Refried Beans

You can make this refried beans recipe in two ways:

  1. with dried pinto beans that you cook from scratch
  2. 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.

Cooking dry pintos in large pot

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.

Adding pintos and cooking liquid to skillet with onion

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.

Recipe Tip

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.

Mashing refried beans in skillet

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.

Refried beans recipe

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.

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Refried beans

Refried Beans

rate this recipe:
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
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.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

*Note: If you prefer to use canned beans, skip Steps 1-3. Replace the cooked dry beans with 3 (14-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed. Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¾ teaspoon sea salt, and ½ teaspoon dried oregano to the skillet with the beans in Step 4. Add water or vegetable broth instead of bean cooking liquid as you mash to your desired consistency. Before serving, season to taste with more salt as needed.

19 comments

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  1. Carolyn
    02.17.2024

    Jeanine, is this recipe a revised version of your Refried Beans that you posted previously?

    I have a Refried Bean recipe from you dated 6/15/2022 that I saved.

  2. I made your refried beans last night for the first time. They were delicious. I am trying to follow Dr. Michael Greger’s How Not To Die plant based diet so I need to eat 1 1/2 cups of beans a day. I made 2 whole wheat tortillas topped with 1 C. Refried beans plus roasted broccoli and cauliflower. I topped with Trader Joe’s hot salsa. It was creamy, crunchy, and spicy. I didn’t miss meat at all! I love your blog,.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      12.01.2023

      Hi Terri, I’m so glad you love the blog and loved the beans! Sounds like a delicious meal. 🙂

  3. Cheryl
    01.16.2023

    Have you tried making a big batch from dried beans and freezing?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      01.20.2023

      Hi Cheryl, we haven’t tried freezing the refried beans, though I think it would work well! Regular cooked beans freeze perfectly.

    • jude
      05.08.2023

      we freeze refried beans all the time. we store in small glass containers (labelled) and defrost in the fridge. just perfect.

  4. Anne
    06.15.2022

    Looks amazing, per usual. Do you think it would lose much without the onions? I cannot have them at all, post-COVID.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.18.2022

      Hi Anne, I think it would be fine without the onion – you could add a little more of the other seasonings, to taste, if you felt like it needs more flavor in the end.

  5. Sandra
    06.10.2022

    5 stars
    Absolutely love the refried beans! I sauteed a chopped jalapeño with the onion. It worked. My very fussy granddaughter asked me to make them ever week.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.11.2022

      I’m so glad you both loved it!

  6. Karrie
    02.22.2022

    5 stars
    I made the version using canned pinto beans. They were so easy and delicious! Unfortunately the end product was quite runny for our liking. I think next time (yes, these will be the only refried beans I will eat from now on!) I will reserve the liquid from the canned pintos and add as needed to reach our desired thickness. So happy to have found your site and I can’t wait to try more!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.23.2022

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them! If you cook them a little longer, they’ll thicken up.

  7. Sara
    01.21.2022

    Would I follow this same recipe if I were to use black beans? Also, I made the seven layer vegan dip and it was delicious!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.22.2022

      yep! You can use black beans with the same recipe.

  8. Lexi Scoggin
    05.25.2021

    I didn’t see in the recipe how many cans of pinto beans to use for this recipe. To keep the ratios right, can you post that?

  9. Nikki
    05.01.2021

    What would you recommend as an alternative oil in place of the avocado oil?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.01.2021

      Hi Nikki, you can use olive oil or any other neutral cooking oil. The only one I wouldn’t use is coconut.

  10. Tricia O'Connor
    04.29.2021

    On the canned beans, I’ve always found they give us too much gas if we don’t rinse the liquid from the fan off the beans. You recommend keeping the liquid?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.29.2021

      Hi Tricia, yep, the liquid makes them creamy and I haven’t had any issues. You might be able to drain them and add fresh water or broth for the extra liquid. I haven’t tested it that way, so I don’t know the specific amount.

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.