How to make delicious homemade refried beans from scratch. We’re showing you how to make refried beans using dried pinto or black beans as well as how to make refried beans from canned beans.
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Related: We love this cheesy bean dip!
Making Refried Beans at Home
I love refried beans or “frijoles refritos” and this homemade version tastes as good, if not better, than what you get out of a can or when out at restaurants. For the creamiest, most flavorful refried beans, start with dried beans. You can use pinto beans or black beans in this recipe.
Canned beans do work and we’ve used them plenty of times in our own kitchen when we don’t have the time to start from dried (we’ve shared how below). If you have the time, though, try the full recipe and start from dried beans. You won’t regret it!
How to Make Refried Beans
I love making refried beans at home, here’s why:
- Refried beans are easy to make. You just need a little extra time to cook dried beans, but most of the cook time is hands off.
- Refried beans are the perfect make-ahead side. In fact, we think they get better overtime.
- Homemade refried beans are delicious and since you are making them yourself, you get to control the salt and fat content.
To make refried beans from scratch you are looking at four basic steps:
Step 1, Cook dried beans (pinto or black beans) in water with onion, garlic, and spices until soft and creamy in the middle. By cooking the beans with aromatics, they become extra tasty. The beans will take 1 to 2 hours and can made in advance. We drain the beans, but save the cooking liquid.
We either cook the beans on the stovetop or use our pressure cooker (we have an Instant Pot). I’ve added a mini section below sharing our tips for making refried beans using an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker.
Step 2, Cook onion, garlic, and spices in a skillet with a little fat — olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, lard, and bacon fat are all options. Oil will be neutral in flavor and lets the beans shine. Butter adds a creaminess and lard or bacon fat will add a meaty, smoky flavor to the beans.
Step 3, Add the cooked beans and some of the bean cooking liquid to the skillet. When the beans and liquid are warm, mash them into your desired consistency, adding more liquid to thin the beans out as needed.
Step 4, Season to taste and add your favorite toppings. In our photos, we added chopped onion, tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, Mexican queso fresco, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
Substituting Canned Beans
Canned beans dramatically reduces the cook time for this recipe so if you are in need of a fast side, here’s how we adapt our recipe for canned beans:
You will need two 15-ounce cans of beans or about 2 3/4 cups of canned beans. We prefer to drain and rinse them, which removes a bit of starch and salt. Then simply substitute the canned beans for the cooked beans called for in our recipe below.
You will still cook onions, garlic, and spices in a skillet and then add the canned beans. Since you will not have any bean cooking liquid for thinning out the mashed beans, use water or broth, instead. We love this homemade chicken broth as well as this vegetable broth from scratch, but boxed broth work, too.
Making Refried Beans Using a Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)
The beauty of this refried beans recipe is that no matter how you cook the dried beans, you do not need to soak them. If you’ve seen our recipe for how to cook chickpeas, you may have noticed that we call for soaking the chickpeas overnight before cooking them. Well in this refried beans recipe, soaking isn’t necessary, which cuts our prep time drastically.
When cooked on the stovetop, pinto or black beans will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours, possibly a little longer if your beans are older. (Older beans take longer to cook.)
When cooked in a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), the total time for cooking the beans is around 1 hour. This includes the time for the pressure cooker to reach pressure, the actual cook time, and the time it takes for the pressure to naturally release.
When using our 6-quart Instant Pot, we use the manual pressure cooker setting and set the cook time for 30 minutes. With the time it takes for the Instant Pot to reach pressure, the 30 minutes of cook time, and the time required for the Instant Pot to naturally release, the beans take about 1 hour.
How to Serve Refried Beans
I love having a container of refried beans in the fridge and serve them with lots of meals. Here are a few of our favorites:
On tostadas — Simply spread some refried beans on top of a tostada (fried tortilla) and top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, avocado, pico de gallo, and hot sauce.
Inside burritos or on top of burrito bowls. One of our go-to meals is a burrito bowl topped with whatever we have in the fridge. I love a base of cilantro lime rice, and then add lots of vegetables like shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and corn. We also love making burritos and freezing them for easy meals another day (see our veggie burritos).
Eat them with eggs — Make huevos rancheros (corn tortillas topped with refried beans, fried eggs, and warmed salsa) or add some refried beans to these breakfast tacos.
Make a dip — Top refried beans with shredded cheese and serve with tortilla chips, try our easy bean dip recipe, or make a seven layer dip. Simply layer the following: refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa (I like pico de gallo), cheese, chopped onion, and olives.
More Easy Bean Recipes
- Coconut Black Beans — Easy creamy coconut black beans made completely from scratch. See how to make the creamiest black beans ready for any meal.
- Easy Chickpea Salad — With lemon, fresh dill, crisp cucumber and tomatoes that’s quick to make and you can make it in advance.
- Lemony White Bean Salad — This Mediterranean inspired bean salad has creamy white beans, salty prosciutto, parmesan cheese, peppery arugula, and a punchy lemon dressing.
- The Best Veggie Burgers — These veggie burgers are packed with black beans and vegetables! See how to make homemade veggie burgers that are hearty, flavorful and full of vegetables.
- Utterly Delicious Chipotle Bean Chili — Make this easy and delicious vegetarian bean chili with dried beans or canned. You can make it in the slow cooker or on the stove.
Refried Beans (Better Than Store-Bought)
For the creamiest, most flavorful refried beans, start with dried beans. Cooking the beans from scratch gives us the chance to add flavorful aromatics like onion, garlic, and cilantro to the cooking liquid. The dried beans can be cooked on the stovetop, which takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours or in a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), which takes about 1 hour total.
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.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will NeedCook Dried Beans
1/2 pound dried pinto beans or 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 tasteMake Refried Beans
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
3 cups (470 grams) cooked pinto or black beans, warmed, see notes for canned
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
- Cook Dried Beans -- Stovetop Method
1There is no need to soak the beans for this recipe. Rinse the dried beans then add to a large pot. Add the onion half, garlic cloves, bay leaf, and cilantro sprigs. Cover with at least 3 inches of water. Place 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 1/2 to 2 hours. If during cooking the beans look dry, add a splash more water.
2Remove the onion, garlic cloves, bay leaf, and cilantro sprigs, and then discard them. Season the beans and liquid with salt. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and go from there based on your tastes.
3Drain the beans, but do not discard the cooking liquid. We will use some of the liquid for making the refried beans. You will need about 3 cups of the beans to make refried beans. If you have more than 3 cups, reserve the rest for another recipe.
- Cook Dried Beans -- Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot) Method
1There is no need to soak the beans for this recipe. Rinse the dried beans then add to a 6-quart pressure cooker (we have an Instant Pot). Add the onion half, garlic cloves, bay leaf, and cilantro sprigs. Add about 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).
2Seal the lid and cook on High Pressure for 30 minutes, and then allow the cooker to naturally release (you can tell when it is safe to open the cooker when the steam release valve drops). We recommend you read the user manual of your specific pressure cooker before using this method.
3Remove the onion, garlic cloves, bay leaf, and cilantro sprigs, and then discard them. Season the beans and liquid with salt. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and go from there based on your tastes.
4Drain the beans, but do not discard the cooking liquid. We will use some of the liquid for making the refried beans. You will need about 3 cups of the beans to make refried beans. If you have more than 3 cups, reserve the rest for another recipe.
- Make Refried Beans
1In a large, skillet — a cast iron pan is perfect here — heat the oil (or butter/lard/bacon drippings) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it smells sweet and is starting to brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes.
2Stir in the minced garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3Add 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.
4If, as you are mashing, the beans seem a little dry, add a splash more liquid. The beans do dry out over time, so it’s a good idea to keep the cooking liquid near by to maintain the best consistency, especially if you are making them in advance.
5Taste 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 (15-ounce) cans of pinto or black beans. Two cans will be approximately 2 3/4 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. Instead 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 1/2 cups.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Store refried beans in an airtight container up to 4 days and in the freezer up to a month.
- The type of fat you use to cook the beans is up to you. Oil is pretty neutral, lard and bacon fat will taste meaty and a bit smoky, and butter makes the beans taste creamy and rich.
- Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.