These easy homemade refried beans are ready in just over 10 minutes and are the perfect side dish for your favorite Mexican meal! This recipe will show you how to make refried beans from whole canned or made-from-scratch beans, plus this recipe includes variations for traditional and vegan options!
When you live in Mexico, you eat a lot of beans. While whole beans are great, sometimes refried beans (frijoles refritos in Spanish) are better suited for specific types of Mexican food. Like smearing on top of a tostada or sope for a quick meal. Or on top of crusty Mexican bread for delicious molletes. Of course, these beans make a necessary component tortas (a type of Mexican sandwich) or burritos. And what are huevos rancheros without a bit of refried beans?
So, if you have leftover whole beans, why not make them into these deliciously creamy refried beans to enjoy with your next meal? I promise that these home-cooked beans are far superior to the canned version. So next time you are in the mood for Mexican food, skip the refried canned beans at the store and make these instead! Ready to get started?
What’s in refried beans?
- cooked beans
Be sure to check the recipe card for specific quantities.
Substitutions and variations
Change the bean
Refried beans can really be made with any bean, but I like to stick with either black, pinto, bayo, or Peruvian beans for this recipe. Black beans are more common here in central Mexico where I live. Pintos and bayos are found typically further North. And Peruvian beans…well, these are my current favorite with their buttery, creamy texture.
Make these vegan
Traditional refried beans are made with lard. Not bland white lard, but a nice porky-tasting lard that is typically a bit darker in color than the supermarket variety.
If you are looking to make these beans vegan, however, simply replace the lard with your choice of vegetable oil.
Use canned or made-from-scratch whole beans
I usually have whole homemade beans on hand which work perfectly in this recipe! If you want to make these beans from dry beans, try this black bean or Peruvian bean recipe. Dry pinto beans can be substituted in the Peruvian bean recipe.
But don’t fret if you want to make refried beans without the hassle of making beans from scratch. Whole canned pinto beans or black beans will work just as well in this recipe.
Switch out the onion
I usually have white onion on hand and it is what I typically use for this recipe. You could substitute for yellow onion if desired.
Spice these up!
I usually make my beans mild because these are one of my kids’ favorite dishes. But you could spice these up by adding in chopped jalapeño peppers with the onions or stir in some finely chopped chipotle peppers towards the end of the cooking process.
If you want to boost the flavor without adding any heat, you could add some ground cumin for a bit of a smoky flavor, chili powder, a squeeze of lime juice, or chopped fresh cilantro.
How to make refried beans step-by-step
Start this recipe by heating the lard (or oil) in a large skillet. Let the lard melt completely or heat the oil until it starts to shimmer.
Add in the onion
What makes refried beans take on that extra flavor is the addition of fat and a bit of finely chopped onion. Here you don’t want the onion to get golden. You are looking for the onion to become just translucent. This will help the onion “melt” into the beans. This only takes 1 -2 minutes, so keep an eye on your pan.
Mash in the beans
Once your onion is translucent, add the beans to the pan (no need to drain the liquid off), and turn up the heat. Using a bean or potato masher, smash the beans in the pan, moving them consistently until they form a thick paste, about 5-7 minutes.
At this point, the liquid should be cooked off and the beans should have a creamy, thick texture, kind of like hummus. They should be spreadable, but not runny.
If there is still too much liquid keep cooking until the liquid is cooked off. If the beans look too dry, add a bit of bean broth, vegetable broth, or water and stir into the beans until you achieve your desired consistency.
Taste for salt and add if necessary. Now you are ready to enjoy your refried beans with your next meal!
Are refried beans gluten-free?
Beans are naturally gluten-free and these refried beans are no exception. So if you are following a gluten-free diet, this is a great option for you! If you want more information on gluten-free Mexican food, you can check out my article “Is Mexican food gluten-free?“.
Are refried beans vegetarian?
Refried beans are traditionally made with lard which would not make them vegetarian. But one of the beauties of making these at home is that you can control the ingredients! For a vegetarian or vegan version, simply switch out the lard for your choice of vegetable oil.
What can I use refried beans for?
Refried beans make a great side dish for your favorite Mexican dishes. But you can also use these as a component for other Mexican recipes, like tortas (a type of Mexican sandwich), burritos, bean and cheese quesadillas, tostadas, and sopes. Refried beans are perfect for making huevos rancheros or molletes. And of course, they could be used simply as a bean dip for tortilla chips topped with a bit of queso fresco, cotija cheese, or even shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese if you like!
Why are they called refried beans?
Refried beans in Spanish are called frijoles refritos, which actually means “well-fried beans.” The word refrito is mistranslated in English as “refried” which makes it sound like these beans are fried twice. That is not the case, however. The beans are only fried once!
How do I store leftover refried beans?
I store my leftover refried beans for future use in an airtight container in the fridge. They will last for 3-4 days in the fridge.
Looking for other great Mexican side dishes? Here’s a few of our favorites!
I hope this easy recipe becomes one of your favorites! Let me know how this recipe turned out for you in the comments below!
Easy Homemade Refried Beans (from scratch or canned!)
- 1 tbsp lard or oil
- 1 tbsp finely diced onion
- 2 cups cooked beans (black, pinto, or Peruvian) with liquid
- salt as needed
- Heat lard in a skillet over medium heat1 tbsp lard
- Once the oil is hot, add in the diced onion and fry until translucent and just beginning to turn golden, ~1-2 minutes1 tbsp finely diced onion
- Add the cooked beans and turn up the heat to medium-high.2 cups cooked beans (black, pinto, or Peruvian)
- Start smashing the beans in the skillet with a bean or potato masher by hand until you achieve a thick paste, ~5-7 minutes. At this point, most of the liquid should be cooked off and the beans should be spreadable, but not runny.
- Taste for salt and add if necessary.salt as needed
(The below nutrition label is included as a courtesy. Our terms and conditions explain our nutrition policy.)