Refried Beans Recipe

refried beans recipe

As much as I love to cook, when summertime rolls around, I find myself spending less and less time in the kitchen.

Summer is so short here in Wyoming, that I feel the need to soak up of nice weather that I can!

I generally turn to very, very simple meals during the summer months. We eat a lot of tacos and nachos, and I’ve found that incorporating beans into these meals helps to stretch our grassfed beef even further.

I love making refried beans from scratch. They are incredibly frugal, taste infinitely better than the canned version, and if you start with previously cooked beans, they are quick and easy for those evenings when I’d rather be outside than in my kitchen!

This refried beans recipe makes decent sized batch, but even with my small family, we never have trouble using them up. They are wonderful as leftovers, and can also be frozen for future use.

Refried Beans Recipe

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  • 4 cups cooked pinto beans (or 2 pint jars of your home-canned beans)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, lard, or coconut oil (where to buy coconut oil)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (my fav salt)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Milk, as needed (water or bean broth can be used if your family is dairy-free. However, I prefer the richness that the milk adds.)

In a large saucepan or pot, saute the onions and garlic in the butter until they are soft and tender.

Add the beans. If your beans are completely dry, you may need to add some liquid (milk or water) at this point. I generally leave some of the cooking broth in with my beans when I freeze them, etc, so I usually have plenty of liquid to get me started.

Add all the seasonings and spices. Mix well.

Bring to a slow simmer and allow everything to cook on a low heat for 10-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning and sticking. This simmering period allows all of the flavors to mingle.

At this point, you will need to decide what consistency you are looking for in your beans. If you like a smoother, runnier texture, slowly add some milk (or water), mixing as you go. I don’t have any exact measurements for this part of the process, since it really depends on your preferences!

how to make refried beans

Once the beans have cooked down sufficiently and aren’t too thick or runny, mash them with a potato masher, fork, food processor, or stick blender (love, love my stick blender!). I like to leave some chunks to avoid a total “baby food” consistency.

Kitchen Notes:

  • This recipe is a little more on the “flavorful” side. I wouldn’t exactly call it spicy, but if you have delicate tastebuds in your family, try starting with a lesser amount of spices at the beginning. You can always add more if needed.
  • Yes, I realized this isn’t the “authentic” way to make refried beans. But we love ’em and so do a LOT of other folks.

A flavorful, real food meal, minus the hot kitchen!

Serve up your refried beans in a warm, homemade tortilla, serve them as a dip, or plop on top of a plate of nachos. You’ll NEVER go back to the bland canned beans again. Promise.

How to Make Homemade Refried Beans


  • 4 cups cooked pinto beans (or 2 pints home-canned beans)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, lard, or coconut oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Milk (water or bean broth can be used if your family is dairy-free)


  1. In a large saucepan or pot, saute onions, garlic and butter until soft and tender.
  2. Add beans, and additional liquid (milk or water) if necessary
  3. Add seasonings and spices mixing well
  4. Bring to a slow simmer and allow to cook on low heat 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. If you like a smoother, runnier bean texture, slowly add some milk (or water), mixing as you go
  6. Once beans are cooked and not too thick or runny, mash them with a potato masher, fork, food processor, or hand blender, leaving a few chunks for texture

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  1. Jenny says

    I love to stir them into rice and use this as a burrito filling or side dish. This makes for a very filling burrito with just a little meat and cheese.

    I’ve never tried making my own before, but I should soon. My favorite store brand used to just be beans and water, but now they are full of salt/fat/seasonings as well. I liked being able to add my own flavors to them, but now I can’t find any that don’t have all the stuff added in.

  2. Prepared teacher says

    If you are short on time you can use store canned pinto beans, just watch the salt. If the beans have salt in them omit salt in the recipe. Tonite I also did a quick use up cans of refried beans ( given for free from a family member) that were going to expire. I took two cans of refried and a can of plain whole pinto beans heated up, added spices of my choice ( didn’t measure just added and tasted then added more) mashed with potato mashed ( little chunks look more
    Home made) then stirred and served. My husband hates refried beans in a can so I trick him by using whole pinto beans and spices! I’m not
    Going to toss canned defied just because he hates them, they were free and gosh darnet I will use them!

    • Jill says

      Yes, you can definitely use canned if that is all you have! Still better than storebought. :)

  3. says

    This sounds fabulous and I think I’ll try it tonight. I was thinking about making burritos, and your recipe is just in time. Thank you!

  4. says

    I made these yesterday and they were fabulous! Refried beans is now on my ‘Never have to buy’ list. Thanks for sharing this great recipe.

  5. Carly says

    Made these and am never going back to store bought! I had them on a bun with a fried egg and salsa – awesome breakfast that held me over until lunch. Thanks!

  6. Lanna says

    There are often chemicals or sugar added to store bought beans so I try to be careful if I buy them. I have found that the ones that dont have the chemicals in them often have the plastic coating on them… Soooo homemade is better for sure.

  7. Cathy says

    Love this! Can’t wait to try it. I’ve made this once before and used coconut oil instead of the butter, but I will try butter next time around. We just got a pressure canner at the end of the summer, and I am wondering if you pressure can at all? I’ve had on my to do list to research pressure canning cooked beans for a quickie use later. I love the idea of using home soaked dried beans, but sometimes the schedule just doesn’t work with planning ahead. However, using store canned, (while very easy) is expensive, and comes with added crap as well as the BPA in the can lining. (yuck) I am thinking if I could lay in a store of home-canned, cooked and pre-soaked beans, that would make things so much easier. Might be a good winter project, too. Your thoughts??? :)

    • Jill says

      Oh yes, I definitely agree! I don’t have a pressure canner yet, but it’s high on my list. Like you, the thought of homemade beans ready-to-go at a moment’s notice is very, very appealing.

  8. Cathy says

    Oh man, you are going to love having a pressure canner when you get one! Besides the feeling of having a steam locomotive chugging away on your stove, it’s actually pretty cool. I’ve just started using mine, but I’ve canned some beef stew so far, and am getting ready to can some beef and chicken stock, which takes a bunch of space in the freezer at this point. Also looking forward to doing the beans, some chili, and also ready-to-eat baked beans. I thought I’d can green beans, but I don’t like the consistancy of canned green beans nearly as much as blanched, frozen green beans- which still taste fresh when I cook them. Pressure canning gives a lot more freedom for storing meat, especially when you have an over-abundance.

  9. Cathy says

    On idea I got from a friend for when you have do canning (either pressure or bath) during the summer or fall when it is hot outside is to use a outside stove burner if you have one. I am lucky enough to have a gas burner as part of our BBQ unit right outside of our kitchen on our deck, but I think a camp stove would also work in a pinch, if it was turned up all the way. Now that it is cold out, canning indoors is super cozy and it’s nice to have the additional heat in the house. I actually froze all of my berries that I had set aside or bought for making jam until I had time to do it later this fall when the garden was done (all the tomatoes where processed in one way or another!) and it was cold out. Nice to have the option to do that if possible, because it seems like August and Sept are crazy enough with harvesting/storing/processing all of the garden’s bounty. Back in the day people used to have outdoor kitchens for cooking in the summer- such a smart idea! If your house is old, (I thought I read that it was built in 1910?) It might have had such a set up at some point or maybe still does.

  10. Tracey says

    Great recipe! Used some of my homemade pink beans (from last night) to make tasty refried beans for lunch. Hubby said they were YUMMY!! They were too spicy for me but I’ll play around with the spices next time. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Jill says

      Pink beans? I’ve never tried those. Sounds interesting though! What is their “official” name?

    • Jill says

      Oooh, and if they are too spicey, try decreasing or eliminating the chili powder. My brand of chili powder is fairly mild, but the heat greatly depends on the manufacturer!

  11. Tracey says

    Ummm, I don’t know their “official” name. The bag says Pink Beans. I use them because it’s what my Mom always used. :) And I used cayenne pepper instead of chili powder which might be why they were so spicy for me! My hubby and sons thought they were the best ever so I’ll probably have to make two batches in the future…gringo and spicy. 😉

    • Jill says

      Well “Pink Beans” it is! Will have to look for them next time I’m at our health food store. Thanks for the heads up! :) Yeah, I generally don’t like super spicy things, either. A little bit of zing is ok, but I do not enjoy having my mouth on fire!

  12. Lofton says

    I just made these and they are fabulous! (Adding the milk makes a huge and delectable difference) However, I have a ton leftover. Does anyone know if these freeze up well?

  13. Lisa says

    I just made these this evening and I have to say they are delicious! This is a great recipe. Thank you for posting it! I also just discovered your blog today and have been spending some time looking around. There is some great info on here for sure! I just bookmarked it. :)

  14. Hydee says

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful recipe! I just made my first batch and can’t wait for my kids to sit down to the table tonight.

  15. says

    I’m going to try this recipe this week. My husband doesn’t really like bean burritos and as cheap a meal as they are, I’m really hoping to change his mind! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Patty says

    Just wanted to say thank you to Cathy for the canning info website — and I use bacon grease for the “fat” in my recipe. It gives a great taste. I tried using milk with my last batch instead of just bean liquid and they turned out fabulous!!! Thank you both so much!

  17. Meggin says

    Thank you again for another amazing recipe. I made these ahead of time for a meal tomorrow, but I may have them all eaten by then! My husband & I spent a week in Costa Rica, & they use black beans in their refried beans, so I did, too. They are fantastic. I’m wondering if there is a way to pressure can these. Looks like I’m off to do some research. Thank you!

  18. says

    I am a missionary to Honduras and here they use red beans. They look like a mini kidney bean. They are definitely my favorite refried bean. I like them in baleadas. That’s a flour tortilla (homemade, of course) refried beans, scrambled eggs, cheese and cream (or sour cream) . You can put other things into it but that is the basic and it’s delicioso.

    • Jill says

      Sounds delish Susan! I’ve seen red beans here and there around here- but pintos seem to be the most common.

  19. says

    @Cynthia (Jan 24) After you make the above beans, you are really supposed to fry them in a frying pan and that’s what makes them refried. It’s done always in Central American where I live.

  20. Jackie says

    So…I just made this recipe today (from your March 2012 post over at The ingredients are basically the same,it seems like just the spice amounts are a bit different. My question is: I only ended up with two cups of refried beans when it was all said and done–did I do something wrong? :-( 4 cups of coked pinto beans only equals 2 cups of refried beans?? (the flavor is GREAT though)

  21. Britny says

    I was taught to make refried beans by my grandmother, with just fresh pinto beans (made in crock pot with fresh garlic cloves), sea salt and a little bit of oil, mashed and fried. This is much fancier than my grandmas, but definitely sounds worth trying out. Thank you!

  22. says

    I just made a batch up! I used half without mashing it for my enchiladas and mashed the other half for burritos tomorrow :-) Thanks for the great recipe Jill! Delicious!

  23. Kim Kauffman says

    These are the best refried beans. I’ve tried other homemade versions before and they always tasted off to me. I think the fact that the onions and garlic are sauteed first makes a huge difference. Thanks for the great recipe!

  24. Cindy Hinds says

    We have been making our own homemade refried beans for a long time in the crock pot and they truly are amazing. I have have been buying the gallon size pinto beans from Sam’s Club and starting that way, however pre-cooked beans you make yourself would be equally as well… just make sure you hang on to some of the bean water.

    How to do it:
    1. Head extra virgin olive oil or oil of your choosing for 1 hour on high in your crock pot with the lid on. I have an oval crock pot and I add oil to the crock pot until it is approx. 1/8 of an inch or so from the bottom.
    2. Drain a gallon can of pinto beans and reserve liquid.
    3. After the hour, dump the beans into the hot oil, cover and cook on high for 1 hour. No need to stir.
    4. After an hour, give the beans a stir and season with salt and pepper (we also add cumin–approx. 1 -2 tsp). Cover and allow to cook for an additional hour.
    5. Add a couple cups heated reserved bean water. Stir and mash beans. I usually do a rough mash leaving some chunkyness to the beans. Allow to cook for another 30 minutes.
    6. Depending upon the consistency you have at the end, you may want to leave the lid off for a bit just to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.
    These beans turn out amazing on their own seasoned with only salt and pepper, but you could add any variation of seasons that appeal to you.

    • Cindy Hinds says

      sorry… I meant to say I buy the gallon sized precooked beans from Sam’s Club. They only cost $4.00 here in the Carolinas. I should have proofread my post… 1. “Heat” extra virgin olive oil.

  25. sam says

    I live in a small town in Ill. I was a working mother and made most meals from scratch. I would make Chili, Soups and stews on the weekends for fast weekday meals. I often forgot to soak beans ahead of time so I started to soak them ad freeze them to use in recipes. I never worried as I always have soaked beans in the freezer when the urge to make soup hits.

  26. donna says

    I have just made these for me and my boyfriend and we both agree they are bloody lovely and far better than shop brought.

    Thank you so much for sharing :-}

  27. Carrie La Mar says

    Oh my gosh, these beans are amazing! The best I’ve had by far. Thank you for such a delicious recipe…. I never want to eat canned refried beans again. I only wish I had this recipe years ago! Thanks again!

  28. Vera Williams says

    Do you think I could pressure can a couple of batches of refried beans using your recipe? I wouls love to have them already made up on some nights when I just have to little time. Thanks Vera

  29. Bernice Vanover says

    I grew up with beans at least twice a day and all my mom used in her beans was salt and lard. Nothing else was added for flavoring. To this day that is how I like my beans. Just salt,lard and water. Delicious in my book.

  30. sherill says

    I volunteer to cook once a week for 30 developmentally delayed adults at a rooming house. It is their only home cooked meal all week so I try to make it tasty but at $2.00 a head for full meal, dessert and drink, I use lots of things like beans and was so happy to get tip to pre soak and freeze beans for instant readiness. I will check in more to see what can help from week to week, I never know what I am cooking as I glean from food banks, etc only the day before. Always looking for fast economical recipes for 30.

  31. Becky says

    I know this is an old post, but I spent the day canning beans and had leftovers that wouldn’t fit into my canner, so I thought we’d try these – they are amazing! I did tone down the spices a bit since my 5yo doesn’t like things too spicy and they were perfect! He ate 3 tacos with just these beans, sour cream and cheese! Thank you for sharing this recipe!!

  32. says

    Great to see others make homemade. I got the recipe I use. Unfried Refried Beans, from Taste of home, I cook them in slowcooker, then I don’t have liquid to drain.I just mash them a little. I make extra, and freeze. I measure out amount I need for Wet Burritos. The recipe has no fat. Much better then what you but in can in store. We don’t go out for Burritoes anymore.

  33. Connie Smith says


    Just a few notes from an “old Canner”.

    “PINK BEANS” are named just that– pink beans. They are hard to find in the USA, but well worth looking for !

    To pressure can any dry bean. :
    I cut up a half or whole ham, into jar-sized chunks, small pieces included ;set aside.
    Save the skin, cut into about 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

    Take the bones, fat and all trimmings ( NOT the skin pieces or the meat) from the ham,
    2 onions,chopped ,
    2 chilis if you like things spicy
    and throw it all into a huge pot. Add water to 2 inches above everything and get it to a medium boil. You want to literally boil all the good out of this. When it’s at that point; strain everything out, and taste for salt…add more salt and water if you need it. What you want is a not-too-salty ham broth.

    Get your quart canning jars ready. Add 1 ham chunk, several skin pieces and about 2 tb chopped onions to each jar. Then add 1 and 1/2 cups of washed, dry beans to each jar. Add broth to fill jar to the neck. add lids and rings as usual. Process in a PRESSURE CANNER ( ONLY) at 10 lbs pressure for 90 minutes.
    The beans cook up melt-in-your-mouth-tender and no broken skins ! Yum ! Use these for refried beans IF there’s any left overs.

  34. Connie Smith says


    * These are how refried beans are made wayyyy down in Mexico where I lived for 5 years !

    Start with dry beans ( your choice of bean) , cooked with onions, chilies etc. However you normally like them. (Note; meat cooked with these will only get in the way of re-frying)
    You need:
    Beans and their liquid
    Hand potato masher
    Cast Iron Skillet
    NO salt yet…
    Melt about 1/4 cup real lard in skillet over medium heat. When melted, put beans and some liquid into fat ( watch the sizzle!) You will use the potato masher to mash beans in the hot skillet, mixing in the liquid as you go. Keep adding beans and liquid, mashing as you go. Until you have a skillet 3/4 full or run out of beans. By now they should be well mashed, and bubbling.
    Using a flat-ended spatula, stir the frying beans CONSTANTLY…as the liquid evaporates…the lard kicks in, frying them at the end. Reduce them to the thickness you like your refried beans. You can always add more bean soup for re-heating later. When they’re like you want…THEN taste for salt…add it if you need to.

  35. Clara says

    Hi Jill,
    I’m in Australia and did NOT grow up with a Mexican flair to our cooking… So please excuse the ignorant question… But… Your recipe calls for cooked pinto beans and I buy mine dry. So how should I cook them (I’m really dumb when it comes to beans) and for how long? Do I soak them before cooking them (like you soak your beans in your chili recipe – which is the first chili recipe I’ve made that I’ve actually enjoyed – no, even LOVED, by the way!! Big fan of your chili – in fact I can’t wait to make them again!! 😉 )? Looking forward to trying your refried beans – another food I have never liked before… Although I’m fairly confident I’ll love your recipe because I’ve yet to come across one of your recipes that I didn’t like!! :)
    Thank you!

    • Clara says

      If Jill is busy, is there someone else who can answer my question??? Please?! I have tried another recipe for cooking beans and they were not soft and good. :(

      • Carol says

        Clara, I am sorry no one has answered your question. I just found this site so I hope you see this post or have already found the answer. We cook all dry beans the same way except maybe the seasoning. They cook faster if they are soaked before cooking. If you have a problem with beans causing gas you can (instead of soaking) put the beans on to boil then remove from heat and sprinkle a little baking soda on them. Doing this in the sink is best because they will foam a lot. Then rinse the beans and put back in to cook. I hope this helps.

  36. Wendy says

    Oh my gosh Jill, these are the best tasting refried beans I have ever had! I have never even had them this tasty in an authentic mexican restaurant.
    As I type this…..I have to add….I am in the midst of finishing canning my pinto beans…..25# = 45 quarts. Should have studied up ahead of time. This was obviously a weekend project but so worth stocking my shelves. And cannot beat the price!

  37. Megan says

    I see that pressure canning dried beans is an option, wondering if you could can the refried bean recipe too? Or is freezing better? I love to make big batches of recipes and keep some for later use. I just inherited a pressure canner so will be experimenting with that this year – actually never water-bathed before either! Should be an interesting year!

  38. dgb says

    I like to add crushed tomato to my refried beans. It adds flavor and nutrition, plus the sweetness of the tomatoes can make the spiciness easier to handle.

  39. katie says

    hi! this recipe is amazing.. and I must be super slow right now b/c I cannot figure out the measurements. I have 2 2 lb bags of dried beans, I intend to soak them both overnight, however I can’t figure out how much cooked beans this will make.. 4 cups? is this exactly what I need?
    thank you!

  40. Laurel says

    I just made these, and oh my gosh – they are so delicious! Even my husband from south Texas thinks they are amazing. Glad I made a double batch. Thanks for the amazing recipe!


  1. […] not go ahead and make that batch of refried beans?”  So I started that after looking up this recipe.  I did used canned pinto beans this time because it’s what I had though I aim to use dried […]