Use your choice of dried or canned pinto or black beans in this easy refried beans recipe for the best creamy refried beans.
What’s better than a Mexican food classic like ground beef tacos that taste just like Taco Bell, chicken fajitas, or enchiladas? When it’s served with a scoop or three of these easy-to-make, super creamy refried beans.
Despite its name, “refried” beans don’t actually mean the beans have been fried twice. The name is derived from frijoles refritos, meaning “well fried.” Instead, refried beans are actually just beans that have been cooked until tender, then cooked again in small quantities of their own bean liquid—or bean liquor—while mashing them, adding more liquid as you mash—turning them into creamy spoonfuls of refried beans.
What’s in These Refried Beans
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Dried pinto or black beans—or use canned if time is an issue
- Bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil
How to Make Refried Beans
First, start with making a batch of cooked pinto or black beans. This easy master pinto bean recipe is mostly hands-off cooking. Plan on soaking the beans a day ahead and between 2 -2 ½ hours to cook until tender. If time is a concern, use high-quality canned beans for these refried beans instead.
Reserve the cooked beans liquor aka liquid. Instead of fats or lard to cook these beans, use the reserved cooking liquid by adding ½ cup of bean stock at a time while mashing the beans as the liquid cooks off.
Mashed Beans = Creamy Beans
Mash the beans as they cook down, adding more bean liquor as they cook. Depending on how soft the beans are will determine how long they take to cook and mash down. Plan on anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. Use water if you run out of bean liquor.
Mash to your preferred consistency. I like my refried beans with a little bit more texture and not too thick. The beauty of this recipe is you can make them as creamy or as thin as you like them.
Add oil, butter, or lard for even more creamy texture. Fat equals flavor, but It’s totally up to you to add some or keep these beans au natural.
Are Refried Beans Considered Healthy
When refried beans aren’t made with lots of salt and fat or smothered in cheese and sour cream, they’re actually pretty healthy for you. That’s because refried beans are a great source of fiber, folate, magnesium, and iron.
What Type of Beans Are Best for Refried Beans
Which bean variety you use for refried beans is totally up to you. Pinto beans and black beans are most often used for refried beans, and depending on my mood, I love them both. Choose good quality, fresh for the best results. I like the heirloom beans from Idaho’s own Zursun.
Tips for Making Refried Beans With Canned Beans
Drain the beans but reserve the liquid in the can. You’ll use the liquid to help thin the beans, adding water as necessary.
Sauté the onion and 2 cloves garlic in the oil before adding the canned beans. If you’re starting with my pinto beans recipe, the onion and garlic have already been cooked into the beans. If using canned beans, you’ll need to add these flavor enhancers before adding the beans to the skillet.
Refried Beans Flavor Additions
- Sprinkle with grated cotija cheese or top with Monterey jack or cheddar cheese.
- Stir lime juice into the cooked beans for tang.
- Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or chopped white onion
- Stir in 2 tablespoons of sour cream or Mexican crema for an even more unctuous feel.
What to Use Refried Beans For
- Mango Chicken Cheesy Nachos
- Cheesy Texas Trash Dip
- Sriracha and Lime Roasted Cauliflower Tostadas
- Game Day Chicken Nachos with Avocado
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How to Make THE BEST Refried Beans
- 1 pound dried pinto beans , rinsed in a colander
- 4-6 cups water
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion , chopped
- 4 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Use dried or high-quality canned beans for this recipe. If using dried beans, add them to a large bowl and cover with 2-3 inches of cold water. Soak the beans on the counter overnight or for 8-24 hours. Drain and rinse the beans then add to a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with 4-6 cups of cold water or so they're covered by about 3 inches. Add the chopped onion, smashed garlic, and bay leaves then drizzle with the olive oil. Season with kosher salt. Bring the beans to a boil. Skim off the foam that forms and discard. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours or until tender, cooking longer if needed. Add more water if needed to keep the beans submerged.
- Once the beans are cooked and tender but not breaking apart, remove them from the heat and discard bay leaves. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
- If using canned beans, reserve the bean liquid from the can for adding to the beans as they mash, adding water as needed.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a slotted spoon or strainer to add the beans to the skillet, reserving the bean liquid. Cook the beans until tender, stirring and lightly mashing with a wooden spoon as the beans soften, adding ¼ cup or so of the liquid at a time, cooking the beans so the liquid is absorbed. Don't let the beans dry out or they'll become pasty. If you run out of bean liquid, use water. Cook anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes until they're the consistency you like. Season with more kosher salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper.
If using canned beans for Refried Beans:Drain the beans but reserve the liquid in the can. You’ll use the liquid to help thin the beans, adding water as necessary. Sauté the onion and 2 cloves garlic in the oil before adding the canned beans. If you’re starting with my pinto beans recipe, the onion and garlic have already been cooked into the beans. If using canned beans, you’ll need to add these flavor enhancers before adding the beans to the skillet.
What to Serve With Refried Beans
- Easy Mexican Coleslaw Recipe
- Slow Cooker Mexican Pot Roast
- The BEST Carnitas
- Chopped Mexican Kale Salad
- The BEST Spanish Rice Recipe (Mexican Rice)
- Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
- The BEST Easy Chicken Fajitas
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