Classic Refried Beans

4.89 from 27 votes

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These rich, creamy refried beans are exactly what your taco night needs. Whether you slather them inside a hearty burrito, serve them atop some steaming rice, or eat them as they are, you’re in for a real treat. With only five ingredients and a few simple steps, this is one of the easiest side dishes you can make!

Authentic Refried Beans


Refried beans is one of those dishes that always seems to taste better at a restaurant. After some trial and error, I’ve landed on a recipe for Mexican refried beans that is delicious and definitely restaurant-worthy! 

When it comes to great Mexican eats, the side dishes always steal the show. I love making my own queso, guacamole, salsa, and of course, beans. While they taste great in a restaurant, there’s something satisfying about making these dishes at home. They’re inexpensive and easy, and I like knowing exactly what goes into the food I eat. So, what goes into these easy refried beans? Very few ingredients! 

Authentic Refried Beans in a pan

All you need are dried beans, some garlic, onion, pepper, and one secret ingredient. In the end, you’ll wind up with a thick, creamy, savory pot of the best beans you’ll ever taste. Say goodbye to store-bought beans and treat your tastebuds to something great!

Authentic Refried Beans in a pot with onions

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Pinto Beans – You’ll need to use dry pinto beans for this easy refried beans recipe, not canned beans. I also like to use pinquinto when I can find them — they’re smaller than regular pinto beans, so they mash better and make for a creamier dish overall.
  • Onion – Use one white or yellow onion for this recipe. White onions have a slightly less pungent flavor, but they are pretty much interchangeable.
  • Guajillo Chili Pepper – These peppers aren’t crazy spicy, but they add the perfect amount of bold flavor to this dish. You could swap for ancho chilis for an even more robust flavor, just be sure to remove the stem and seeds.
  • Garlic – One large clove of garlic is all you need. Ensure that it’s crushed, not minced. You don’t want an overpowering garlic flavor, and you’ll be removing the garlic clove before the beans are served.
  • Lard – Here’s where the secret ingredient comes in. Use lard to add a rich, savory thickness to the beans, or, use bacon fat like I do. Leftover bacon fat is extremely rich in salty, savory goodness, and it adds an entirely new depth of flavor to these Mexican refried beans — I can’t recommend it enough!
clear bowl with beans

How to Make Refried Beans

  1. Prep Your Beans. Sort through the beans to ensure that there are no rocks or debris. Then, pour them into a stock pot and cover them with 2 inches of water. Add a quarter of your onion, the dried chili, and your crushed garlic.
  2. Simmer The Beans. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for about 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until they are tender.
  3. Remove From Heat. Remove the pot from the stove and discard the onion, garlic, and chili. 
  4. Melt Lard. Cook the lard in a large skillet over high heat until it’s melted.
  5. Drain Beans. Drain your beans, reserving about 1 cup of water. Add them to the melted lard and cook for several minutes, stirring as you go.
  6. Mash Them Up. Use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to mash the beans. Add some of your reserved bean water and keep mashing until you reach the consistency and texture you’d like. If you want them extra-smooth, feel free to use a food processor. 
  7. Season & Serve! Once finished, sprinkle some salt and black pepper into the beans and serve while hot. I recommend adding some crumbled cotija or queso fresco on top!
stirring refried beans with a wooden spoon

Is it necessary to soak beans before cooking?

I used to be in the “soak your beans first” camp, but no longer. I used to think it made a difference in speeding up the cooking time, but it didn’t. I thought it helped to remove some of those indigestible sugars that cause gas. That is not necessarily the case, but soak away if you think or feel it does!

I have also read that adding baking soda to the water when soaking dried beans before cooking decreases the content of the sugars that may cause gas. Again, up to you.

I have made these three different ways, and each result was the same. One stovetop, slow cooker, and pressure cooker (soaked and unsoaked) later, I decided that since most people forget to soak the beans before cooking them, why bother making them now? It will take too long.

No! It really should take no more than 1 1/2 to 2 hours total time on the stovetop!

How to use them

I even use refried beans in my Ground Beef Enchiladas, but if serving as a side, I like to crumble Cotija or Queso Fresco cheese on top when serving.

For other Mexican and Tex Mex recipes, try my Carne Adovada, Barbacoa Beef, Tex Mex Stuffed Peppers, Mexican Black Beans and Corn, Real Chili con Carne, Authentic Mexican Rice and a site favorite, Mexican Pickled Carrots. Enjoy!

overhead shot of refried beans

What are Refried Beans Made of?

Since they’re so tasty, people often think that Mexican refried beans contain meat or some other special ingredient. As you’ll see from this recipe, this dish doesn’t contain much more than just beans! Beans are the main component and aromatics like garlic and other vegetables and seasonings add extra flavor.

What to Eat With Refried Beans?

The possibilities are almost endless. I like to use them in tacos or burritos, or I simply roll them up in warm tortillas with a sprinkle of cheese. They’re great on their own as a side dish and can even be eaten like a dip with tortilla chips.

Do You Have to Soak Beans Before Cooking?

Many people choose to soak their beans before cooking, but I don’t think that it is necessary for this refried beans recipe. Soaking them adds a lot of extra time to the process, and I have found that they come out perfectly rich and creamy without soaking before!

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Authentic Refried Beans

Classic Refried Beans

4.89 from 27 votes
Make these ultra-simple thick, creamy refried beans to elevate your next meal. They’re easy, inexpensive, and better than store-bought!
Servings: 6 cups
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 35 minutes
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb dry pinto beans (See Note 1)
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 1 guajillo chili pepper (or Ancho, stem and seeds removed)
  • 1 large garlic clove crushed only
  • 1/4 cup lard (See Note 2)

Instructions 

  • Pick through dry beans for any rocks or debris. Cover beans with 2 inches of water in a stock pot. Add a quarter onion (save remaining for other use), dried chili and crushed garlic.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Remove and discard the onion, chili and garlic. You should have about 5 cups of cooked beans.
  • In a large skillet over high heat melt the lard.
  • Drain beans, reserving about a cup of the bean water. Add the beans to the skillet. Fry for several minutes, stirring.
  • Mash with the back of a spoon or potato masher. Add enough bean broth and continue mashing until your desired consistency. I like mine a little chunky and never purée in a food process. If you do, then by all means do it.
  • Season with some salt and black pepper if needed. Serve with crumbled Cotija or Queso Fresco cheese on top.

Video

Notes

  1. I also enjoy the pinquinto beans if can find them. Rancho Gordo is the brand. They are small than pinto beans and creamier when mashed I feel. This recipe makes six cups cooked beans, drained. If each serving is 1/2 cup it can feed 12 as a side dish. Although serving sizes vary per person!
  2. We are actually frying the beans and my little secret and why I really don’t add much salt at all to my beans is that I use bacon fat that I save. That stuff is liquid gold people. Save it! It delivers a wonderful level of flavor to the beans. BUT if you don’t like or eat bacon then use regular lard.

Nutrition

Calories: 119kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 372mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 230IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 2mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex Mex
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
Refried beans are a staple on most Mexican lunch and dinner plates. My Authentic Refried Beans will make you realize that the canned version no longer need be on your shopping list. Easier to make than you think, and I’ll share with you my secret flavor weapon, too!

Kevin

Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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89 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    glad to hear you use Rancho Gordo. Best beans ever. Have you tried just cooking them in a crockpot and letting them go long enough to “refry” in the pot? It works pretty well. Use less water and you can soak and cook in the crockpot and not have to drain them. Just smash in the crockpot. Although I use bacon instead of lard, that’s just a taste preference. I too love lumpy beans.

  2. 5 stars
    I called my husband at work after making these and informed him that he may now call me the refried bean king. Absolutely delicious. I used black beans because I love them and I doubled the pepper, garlic, and onion and did add salt at the end. Better than my favorite Tex-mex restaurant. This is especially good because beans are one of the few sources of protein that I can tolerate while pregnant so thank you!!

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is the best I’ve tried for authentic refried beans!! I did not have the dried peppers on hand this time but ordered some for later batches. I used 2 lbs of beans, a whole onion halved, one whole head of peeled garlic, and 2 habanero peppers. Started with one habanero and added the other later. I like a little more spice than the one was giving. Took about 2 1/2 hours to cook the beans down. Veggies were pretty much mush so only removed a few little pieces. Left the rest to be mixed in. Had 12 cups of cooked beans and divided into 4 3 cup batches. Used about a 1/4 cup of bacon grease per batch and more reserved liquid than the recipe called for as they were coming out a little dry. Side note, always use cast iron!! I put all 4 batches in one big bowl after frying and mashing. Used my hand blender to smooth it all a little more but left it a little chunky. I like the texture. Ended up having to add some salt. The habaneros gave it an excellent spicy kick!! Thanks a bunch for this recipe. I will be making it often and will change up the the peppers each time for different flavors😊

  4. 5 stars
    I live at 8500 ft. elevation, so a pressure cooker is a MUST for beans. Makes the job really easy. I usually cook up a pretty good sized batch and freeze portions (either refried or de la olla) for later use.

  5. 5 stars
    Love these beans! Mine cook in 1 1/2 – 2 hours and I don’t soak them. They freeze well too. I have to make a lot of these – my family can’t get enough. Thanks for a great recipe Kevin!

  6. 4 stars
    2 hours was definitely not long enough for me, gonna try another batch with a longer cook. Out of curiosity, why not just blend the onion, garlic and chili into the beans with a stick blender?

    1. Jason, sometimes I have found that the older dry beans are, the longer they take to cook. Maybe that could be the issue? As for the blended, by all means go for it. I prefer my method mentioned in the recipe card for texture reasons and basically, most flavor has been exhausted from the onion, garlic and chili at that point.

      1. 5 stars
        Altitude makes a difference in cooking time also. The higher the altitude the longer the cooking time. Just reading the refried bean recipe made my mouth water. Good ones are heaven.

      2. 5 stars
        I like to add a can of small diced tomatoes with jalepenos when frying them instead if the bean juice for more flavor

      3. 4 stars
        I have had to make a study using dried beans. I have about 50 pounds that are at least 40 years old. If I soak them for about 10 hours with a small amount of backing soda, they will cook up just fine. Without the baking soda, they can cook for 3 hours in a pressure cooker at sea level, and still not be soft enough to make refried beans. My Japanese Daughter-In-Law uses seaweed for the same results. She told me they always use it in cooking beans in Japan.

    2. Hi Jason – I can’t speak to this method for black beans, but I can tell you I used to soak the heck out of my split peas for split pea and ham soup. They still took like 3+ hours just to start to get tender! Then I consulted the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, and they recommended adding 1/2-1 whole teaspoon of baking soda per pound of simmering peas. It was incredible. They got so tender, so quickly (about an hour) that I am not going back to overnight soaking. I imagine this could apply to other legumes as well. In another cookbook I used to have that was all about beans, they said adding salt early in the cooking actually makes the beans harder, so it’s best to wait until after they’re tender before adding your salt.

  7. 5 stars
    This is a good recipe for *authentic* Mexican beans and are very close to how my mom makes them. The key here is to keep it simple. If you don’t eat pork/lard or are trying to cut down on fat, just use olive oil when frying the beans. I also recommend throwing a whole jalapeño into the oil/lard and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the beans to give it even more of a flavor boost. You won’t regret it.

  8. 5 stars
    Hi, I’m on a cooking marathon tonight! I just made your refried beans to go into your Enchilada recipe.. this is my first time making homemade refried beans.. simple ingredients and it taste really good! I saw the comments below and my cooking time was 2 hour. Can’t wait to try it in the Enchilada – with homemade sauce! I’m also making your Borracho Beans (I thought if I’m cooking beans from scratch ..might as well make more!!). Thanks for the authentic recipes.. just what I’m looking for.
    Chris

    1. I am so glad you are finding recipes to try! I hope you keep trying more! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  9. 5 stars
    Do I remove the stem and seeds from the Guajillo chili or only if I use the other kind of chili mentioned in the recipe

  10. 5 stars
    These are bangin’!

    I have never been able to stomach the canned version of refried beans from the store and always felt it was a hassle to make them at home…I was wrong. Thanks Kev!

    1. I am so happy to read this! So glad you tried this recipe! I hope you find more to try! Thanks for sharing!