If there is one food worth learning to make from scratch, it’s refried beans. This simple, frugal recipe will show you how!
Guest post from Jill of The Prairie Homestead
Why you’ll love this Homemade Refried Bean Recipe
1. Homemade refried beans are healthier — Canned, store-bought beans are usually full of hydrogenated oils and preservatives.
2. Homemade refried beans are cheaper — I can buy a 25-lb. bag of organic pinto beans from Azure Standard for around $40. That means I’m only paying about $1.60 per pound of dry beans… which makes as much as 4 cans of beans from the store.
3. Homemade refried beans taste much better — To be perfectly honest, I despised refried beans for the longest time. It wasn’t until I learned how to make them myself that I discovered I actually love them! Homemade refried beans have a much better texture and are full of flavor.
For reasons like that, you have to give these beans a try, at least once!
What are Refried Pinto Beans?
Refried beans are traditionally Pinto Beans that are soaked and cooked in water (to soften) then mashed and mixed with a variety of spices and seasonings.
They are rich in protein and fiber and pair well with many Hispanic foods.
Why are they called refried beans?
“Refried” doesn’t mean the beans have been “fried twice”. In fact, refried beans aren’t ever “fried”!
The word “refried” comes from the Spanish name, “frijoles refritos” — or beans that are “well fried”.
Ingredients to Make Refried Beans From Scratch
- 1.5 cups dried pinto beans (roughly 4-5 cups cooked beans)
- water to cover the beans
- 3 Tablespoons healthy fat for sauteing
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 3 t. cumin
- 2 t. paprika
- 2 t. sea salt
- 1/2 t. chili powder
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- Milk, as needed (or water or bean broth)
What beans are used for refried beans?
Refried beans are traditionally made with pinto beans, but black beans or even kidney beans can be substituted.
Refried Bean Recipe Substitutions and Additions
Homemade refried beans are a very forgiving recipe — so feel free to use whatever you have in your pantry, or whatever your family’s taste buds prefer!
Substitute black beans for pinto beans.
Try shallots or scallions instead of onions.
Mix up the spices and seasonings to spice things up, if that’s your style.
Add more milk to make them creamier or broth to thin them out.
Top the finished beans with a variety of cheese for extra flavor and protein!
How to Make Refried Beans from Scratch
1. To prepare the beans, place dry beans in a large bowl, cover with an ample amount of water, and allow to soak overnight. (Keep in mind that 1 cup of dry beans equals approximately 3 cups of cooked beans).
2. The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Cover them generously with fresh water and simmer for several hours or until tender. A slow cooker works wonderfully for this as well!
3. In a large pot or saucepan, saute the onions in fat until they are soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
4. Add the cooked beans. If your beans are without liquid, you may need to add extra water or milk at this point. (I prefer to leave a little of the bean broth in with the beans when I freeze them.)
5. Stir in cumin, paprika, salt, chili powder, and black pepper.
6. Bring to a slow simmer and allow it all to cook on low heat for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If the mixture is dry, you may need to thin it with a splash of milk or water at this point. However, if you started out with extra liquid in your cooked beans, you may not need to add anything.
7. Once the beans have cooked down and the flavors have had time to incorporate, mash them with a potato masher, fork, or my personal favorite: an immersion blender. I prefer slightly chunky beans, versus a super-smooth “puree” consistency.
8. Serve with tacos, burritos, or alongside chips as a dip.
How to serve this recipe for Refried Beans
- Refried beans make for an easy lunch or after-school snack — simply wrap them up with some cheese in a tortilla and serve them as a bean and cheese burrito.
- We love using homemade refried beans in this easy layered nacho dip with chips.
- Southwest roll-ups are another tasty treat and a wonderful way to use homemade refried beans.
- One of our favorite ways to eat refried beans is to make simple bean and cheese quesadillas with homemade tortillas, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. YUM!
Storing Refried Pinto Beans
The beauty of using dried beans is that they are self-stable for years!
Once cooked, however, you can keep your pinto beans refrigerated for up to a week, or freeze them for longer storage (see notes below).
Similarly, you’ll want to refrigerate your prepared refried beans in any food storage container or glass jar for up to a week or freeze them for later.
Freezing Refried Beans
Cooked pinto beans freeze surprisingly well. I like to freeze them in 2-cup containers and use 4 cups whenever I’m ready to make refried beans.
You can also freeze fully-prepared refried beans and simply defrost them whenever you want a fast and easy side dish.
Making refried beans from scratch transforms a rather boring side dish to a flavor-packed feature that just might end up being the main event on your menu. It’s worth giving them a try!
Homemade Refried Beans FAQs
Nope — that’s a popular traditional recipe though. You can use any type of “fat” you have in the house. I prefer butter, coconut oil, beef tallow, or lard. Olive oil isn’t stable at such high temps so I usually avoid that fat for this recipe.
This depends on what you want the finished product to taste like!
I always like lots of onions and garlic. Also, salt and pepper are a must for homemade beans.
Cumin, paprika, and chili powder are my go-to spices, but you can also add cayenne pepper if you want a little extra heat!
Milk is thought to make the beans creamier… but if you have any dairy intolerances, you can easily substitute water, bone broth, or even some of the liquid from cooking the beans.
I suppose this is an opinion… but I’d say a resounding YES! Homemade refried beans have so much more flavor and a much better texture too!
Yes, you can add all the ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on high for 8 hours, checking after 5 hours to make sure there’s enough liquid. We’ve used this slow cooker recipe many times and LOVE it!
More recipes you’ll love:
Refried Pinto Beans
- immersion blender
To Soak The Beans
- 1½ cups dried pinto beans
- 4 cups water or enough to cover the beans
To Prepare Refried Beans
- 4 cups cooked beans you may have more, that's OK
- 3 Tbs. butter
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. chili powder more or less, depending on how spicy you want your beans
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- milk optional if you want to thin the beans
To Soak The Dried Beans
- In a large bowl, cover dried beans with cold water and let soak overnight.
- The next day, drain and rinse beans.
- Place soaked beans in a large stockpot, cover with water, and simmer for several hours, or until tender (you may also do this in a slow cooker for 6 hours on high)
To Prepare Refried Beans
- In a large saucepan, saute onions in butter until they are soft.
- Add minced garlic and saute for 2 minutes longer.
- Add the beans and a little bean broth or milk.
- Stir in cumin, paprika, salt, chili powder, and pepper.
- Cover pot and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occationally.
- Mash the beans with a potato masher or immersion blender until smooth.
- Add a bit of milk or broth if you want a thinner consistancy.
- Serve as a side dish to your favorite Mexican food, or freezer for later!
Jill writes from the homestead she shares with her husband, 3 children, and an ever-changing assortment of animals. When she’s not in the kitchen preparing traditional foods, you’ll find her outside riding horses, growing vegetables, milking her cow, and killing rattlesnakes. She blogs at The Prairie Homestead, where she enjoys encouraging readers to return to their roots, no matter where they may live.
Money Saving Mom® Comment Policy
We love comments from readers, so chime in with your thoughts below! We do our best to keep this blog upbeat and encouraging, so please keep your comments cordial and kind. Read more information on our comment policy.