Perfect Refried Beans

My family loves these incredible refried beans. In my easy recipe, I’ve shared how to make them completely from scratch as well as a shortcut for using canned beans. Both are delicious!

Refried Beans Recipe Video

Refried beans, or “frijoles refritos,” are cooked and mashed beans popular in Mexico, Latin America, and Tex-Mex cooking. My homemade refried beans are super flavorful and creamy. It’s definitely better than canned refried beans! I love it with a side of our family’s favorite Mexican rice.

For the creamiest, most flavorful refried beans, start with dried beans. It’s easy, I promise. If you are short on time, start with canned beans. I’ve shared tips for both dried and canned beans below.

Homemade Refried Beans From Scratch

Key Ingredients

  • Beans: Use pinto beans or black beans in this recipe. I love cooking my beans from scratch for this recipe since it allows me to add extra flavor. If you are short on time, use canned beans.
  • Fat: You’ll need fat to “refry” or double cook the beans. Authentic refried beans call for lard, which makes them absolutely delicious. Bacon fat, butter, and oil are also good options.
  • Onion and garlic: I can’t help but add some extra onion and garlic to the skillet when cooking the beans. They add a little texture and flavor.
  • Spices: I use cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt to keep the seasoning simple. 
  • Toppings: My favorite Mexican restaurants serve refried beans topped with melted cheese. You can add more toppings like sliced or diced jalapeño, crumbled Mexican queso fresco, white onion, tomato, and fresh cilantro.

How to Make Refried Beans

If you plan on cooking your beans from scratch for these refried beans, you’ll need to place dried beans into a pot with water, onion, garlic, and spices and cook until soft and creamy in the middle.

Stovetop beans take 1 ½ to 2 hours. You can cut the cooking time slightly if you have an Instant Pot. I have shared how to cook the beans using a pressure cooker in the recipe below. As a side note, you do not need to soak pinto or black beans before cooking them in this recipe. This is true for my homemade black beans recipe, too.

Cooking pinto beans for homemade refried beans

When your beans are cooked, you will drain them, but save the cooking liquid. We will use the cooking liquid when mashing the beans.

Grab a wide skillet and onion, garlic, and spices in a bit of fat (remember that this can be oil, butter, bacon fat, or more authentic lard). Now add your cooked beans and some of the cooking liquid. This is where you would substitute canned beans in our recipe. Instead of bean cooking liquid, you can use liquid from the can or broth.

Mashing cooked beans into refried beans.

Mash the beans until your desired consistency, adding more liquid as necessary. They soak up the liquid, so I usually end up adding more than I think I’ll need. Finally, serve with your favorite toppings!

Homemade Refried Beans

What to Serve with Refried Beans

I love having a container of homemade refried beans in the fridge. My most made meal is refried bean and cheese quesadillas for my son (he loves them). I also love them with tostadas, tacos, inside burritos, and homemade fajitas. I’ve also been known to dip homemade tortilla chips it to them!

Serve refried beans with other Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes like green chicken enchiladas or red enchiladas, my favorite crispy carnitas, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

Delicious Refried Beans

Perfect Refried Beans Recipe

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

For the creamiest, most flavorful refried beans, start with dried beans. Cooking the beans from scratch allows us to add flavorful aromatics like onion, garlic, and cilantro to the cooking liquid. You can cook the dried beans on the stovetop, which takes 1 ½ to 2 hours, or in a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), which takes about 1 hour.

If you are short on time, you can also make refried beans using canned beans, which takes less than 20 minutes. We’ve shared all of these cooking variations in the recipe below.

Makes 3 cups

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

Cook Beans from Scratch

1/2 pound (226g) dried pinto beans or dried black beans (about 1 cup)

1/2 medium onion, peeled and left whole

2 medium cloves garlic

4 sprigs fresh cilantro

1 bay leaf

Salt, to taste

Homemade Refried Beans

3 cups (470g) cooked pinto or black beans, see notes for canned

3 tablespoons olive oil, butter, lard or bacon drippings

1/2 cup chopped onion (1/2 medium onion)

1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 medium clove)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, optional

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

2 to 3 lime wedges

Optional toppings: sliced or diced jalapeño, crumbled Mexican queso fresco or shredded cheese, diced white onion, diced tomato, or fresh cilantro

Directions

  • Cook Dried Beans
  • 1There is no need to soak the beans for this recipe. Rinse the dried beans, and then add them to a large pot.

    2Add the onion half, garlic cloves, bay leaf, and cilantro sprigs. Cover with at least 3 inches of water.

    3Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the beans are extremely tender (almost silky inside), 1 ½ to 2 hours. If the beans look dry during cooking, add more water.

    4Remove the onion, garlic cloves, bay leaf, and cilantro sprigs and discard them. Season the beans and liquid with salt. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and increase to your taste.

    5Drain the beans, but do not discard the cooking liquid. We will use some of the liquid to make the refried beans. You will need about 3 cups of the beans to make refried beans. If you have over 3 cups, reserve the rest for another recipe.

  • Make Refried Beans
  • 1In a large skillet, heat the fat (oil, butter, lard, or bacon drippings) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

    2Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it smells sweet and begins to brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes.

    3Stir in the minced garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

    4Add the 3 cups of cooked beans, moving them around the pan for a minute or two so that they are heated through. Add 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid, and then use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans into your desired consistency.

    5If the beans seem a little dry as you are mashing them, add a splash more liquid. The beans dry out over time, so keeping the cooking liquid nearby is an excellent way to maintain the best consistency, especially if you make them in advance.

    6Taste the beans and adjust with additional salt, pepper, or spices. Serve with a squeeze of lime and your favorite toppings scattered on top.

  • Substituting Canned Beans
  • 1Use 2 (15oz) cans of pinto or black beans. Two cans will be approximately 2 ¾ cups of beans, which is close enough to 3 cups for this recipe.

    2Open the cans, drain, and then rinse the beans. Follow the recipe instructions in the section labeled “Make Refried Beans” above, but replace the 3 cups of home-cooked beans for canned beans.

    3Instead of using the bean cooking liquid for thinning the refried beans, you will need to substitute for another liquid. We recommend using a flavorful stock (vegetable stock or chicken stock), you will need 1 to 1 ½ cups.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Storing: Homemade refried beans last in an airtight container up to 4 days and in the freezer up to 1 month.
  • Instant Pot Beans: Add the dried beans and aromatics to a 6-quart pressure cooker. Add 6 cups of water, but do not fill past the “max fill line.” Add 1 teaspoon of neutral oil like vegetable or olive oil (this prevents the beans from foaming). Seal the lid and cook on High Pressure for 30 minutes, and then allow the cooker to naturally release. Season the beans and liquid with salt. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and go from there based on your tastes.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size About 1/2 cup / Calories 152 / Total Fat 5.7g / Saturated Fat 0.8g / Cholesterol 0mg / Sodium 150.3mg / Carbohydrate 19.8g / Dietary Fiber 4.7g / Total Sugars 1.3g / Protein 6.4g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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24 comments… Leave a Review
  • Dee February 7, 2024, 11:11 am

    The seasoning is perfect on these beans. Next time, though, I plan to blend in the onion I cooked the beans with. I think that would make for smoother beans than sautéed onions did.

    Reply
  • Cheyenne Vanhoozer January 30, 2024, 5:09 pm

    This recipe is DELICIOUS!! I’ve tried close to 10 different recipes, trying to find one that I like, and this is the one! I didn’t have cilantro and it was perfect even without it.

    Reply
    • Joanne May 22, 2024, 2:44 pm

      This is wonderful! Thank you so much for coming back and letting us know.

      Reply
  • Amber October 18, 2022, 9:07 am

    You’re seriously the best. I’ve been following you for about a year now and the novelty hasn’t worn off one bit! I love your tips and advice – what you say is the final word as far as I’m concerned lol. I trust and love your process and style and appreciate the health and balance you bring to my life. My family’s too. I appreciate you.

    Reply
    • Adam October 18, 2022, 2:47 pm

      Hi Amber, I think this is the nicest comment we have received in a while. Thank you so much and we are thrilled that you found us. Happy Cooking!

      Reply
  • Cindy September 13, 2022, 4:56 pm

    Can this be made in a crockpot? Thanks!

    Reply
  • Gwenn Farrell July 16, 2022, 10:26 pm

    Love how comprehensive this recipe is! I cooked from dried beans and ir turn out awesome! I didn’t have fresh cilantro so I subbed in a tsp of dried coriander, and I found the spices at the end a little lacking so I doubles the cumin and cayenne pepper and added a bit of Chipotle powder at the end. The lime juice really makes it all come together as well.

    Reply
  • Judith June 24, 2022, 10:05 am

    I eat so many canned refried beans that I thought it was time to make my own. I omitted the cilantro because I had none at home but wanted to make it NOW. It was delicious! I used canned bean.

    Reply

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