Quick and Easy Refried Beans

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Make the most delicious and creamy refried beans in less than 10 minutes! Turn a can of pinto beans into creamy, flavorful refried beans that are ready to serve as a side dish with all your favorite tacos and burritos.

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Making Mexican Refried Beans at home couldn't be easier. These fast and easy refried beans taste so much better than canned and are ready in less than twenty minutes. Serve them with some shrimp tacos or chicken tostadas for a meal that tastes like takeout.

I never ate refried beans, or beans really, until I moved to California and finally tried the real thing. Before that the only beans I would eat were homemade, New England style baked beans and that was on a very rare occasion. They just weren’t my thing, until I tried my first real, authentic homemade refried beans. They were creamy, rich, and full of flavor something entirely different than the dry, canned varieties I had tried.

However given that many of the restaurant versions are loaded with lard and a homemade version can take 8-10 hours to make, I wanted to find a quick way to create delicious refried beans at home. This recipe is the result. Canned beans that are doctored up with some onions, garlic, and jalapeno and then mashed to the perfect consistency. Personally, I like mine with some texture, but for a smoother version just pop everything into a food processor or blender.

In case you are wondering, refried beans are traditionally made with pinto beans. (Make your own with this slow cooker pinto bean recipe.) Pinto beans get creamy and mash really well, which is why they are the number one choice for refried beans. However, you can also make refried beans with black beans or another bean from the pantry.

Refried beans made from cooked pinto beans in a bowl with shredded cheese and green onions.

How are refried beans made?

Traditionally refried beans are made by cooking dry pinto beans for hours on the stovetop or a slow cooker. Once the beans are tender, they are drained of the excess liquid and added to a hot pan with some kind of fat, usually lard. Some recipes call for some onion, garlic, or spices as well. Then the beans are cooked and mashed with some water or broth. Not difficult but time consuming.

This shortcut version uses canned pinto beans but tastes just as delicious. Start by building flavor with some sauteed onions, garlic, and jalapeno pepper for a hint of spice. Then once these are nice and tender, add the drained canned beans and broth. Use a wooden spoon or potato masher to mash to your desired texture. Season with salt and pepper as needed. 

What to eat with refried beans?

There are endless options when it comes to how to eat refried beans and around here we eat them everything from eggs to chips to all the tacos and burritos. With that said, here are some favorites:

  • Make quesadillas using refried beans in place of regular canned beans. This boosts the flavor of the quesadilla and helps it stay together since the refried beans act as a binder. You can also serve the refried beans on the side as a dip or spread them right on top of the quesadilla before serving.
  • Serve these alongside some tacos like these Easy Fish Tacos, Chicken Soft Tacos, or Steak Tacos.
  • Try making your own burrito with a layer of refried beans, cooked rice or quinoa, leftover cooked chicken, salsa, and cheese. 
  • Tostadas are basically a crispy tortilla topped with refried beans and all the toppings. Try making these Shrimp Tostadas for an easy, quick meal.
  • For something unexpected, make a quick veggie wrap starting with a thin layer of refried beans. This adds protein and fiber to your wrap and also will help hold it together. 

Recipe Ideas, Tips, and Easy Swaps

  • This recipe will work with black beans as well, but they won't mash quite as well so you may need a little extra liquid. Other canned beans can also be used but pinto beans result in the creamiest refried beans.
  • If you don't want a spicy bean dish, then just leave out the jalapeno pepper. If you want a spicy option but don't have a jalapeno, you can add some chili powder, cayenne pepper, or canned adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers. For a smoky flavor, add some cumin.
  • Make sure to dice the onions, garlic, and jalapeno nice and small and cook them completely. They should blend seamlessly into the beans.
  • My favorite way to serve these beans is with melted cheese and a few big spoonfuls of pico de Gallo. This is the perfect side dish in my opinion.
  • To add more flavor, cook the beans in bacon fat or large instead of olive oil. This will give it a more traditional taste. Finish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • If you prefer very creamy frijoles refritos, use an immersion blender until they reach your desired consistency, or use a blender. 

Homemade refried pinto beans in two bowls with cheese and chips on the side.

How to make pinto beans from scratch?

If you prefer using homemade beans instead of canned, here's how to cook the dried beans.

  1. Wash and soak: Start by washing the dried pinto beans and removing any debris. If you have time, soak the dried beans in water overnight. Soaking the beans helps remove some of the phytic acid, which can make them easier to digest and cause less gas. Soaking also helps the beans cook more quickly and more evenly. 
  2. Stovetop: Add the dried beans to a pot and cover with at least 3 inches of water. Add chopped onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, oregano, and a good sprinkling of salt. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours until tender. Drain and the beans.
  3. Pressure cooker or instant pot: Add one pound of beans to the pressure cooker along with 8 cups of water, onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, and salt. Cover and cook for 35 minutes and then let naturally release.

Pro tip: Old beans will take longer to cook than new beans. If you find your beans aren't getting soft, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to the pot or pressure cooker. Then cook for an additional 30 minutes on the stovetop or 10 minutes in the pressure cooker.

Ideas for Using Refried Beans

  • Use the refried beans as a delicious bean dip by adding a touch of cumin and either chili powder or cayenne powder. Top with pico de gallo, cilantro, and shredded cheese. Serve it with some baked tortilla chips.
  • Use your leftover refried beans to make enchiladas (the beans can be the filling) or enfrijoladas, just thin the beans with vegetable broth. 
  • Use refried beans to make hearty nachos with your favorite veggies, protein, and melted cheese.

Traditional refried beans tend to be made with a large amount of lard or oil so they aren't always the healthiest choices even though beans on their own are normally healthy.

This version made with heart-healthy olive oil is a much better option with lots of fiber and plant-based protein.

Traditionally refried beans are made with pinto beans since they have a creamy texture. With that said, you can also make refried beans using black beans, white beans, or other soft bean varieties if you like.

Refried beans should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-4 days. You can also freeze leftover refried beans. once they have cooled to room temperature, freeze them in freezer-friendly Ziploc bags or containers. Defrost and reheat in a skillet with a touch of oil or in the microwave.

Frijoles refritos is the Spanish name for refried beans and actually means "rehashed." Traditionally frijoles refritos were a way to use up leftover cooked beans and the beans were "rehashed" into another use. 

Refried pinto beans made with canned pinto beans, onion, and garlic in a wooden bowl with shredded cheese on top.
The Recipe
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Quick and Easy Refried Beans

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  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 15 oz. canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • Salt and pepper

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Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.

Olive oil being added to a skillet.

Add the onion, garlic, and peppers if you are using them. Cook for 4-5 minutes until onion begins to soften.

Onions, garlic, and jalapeno cooking in a skillet.

Add the beans and broth. Cook for about 5 minutes until beans are warm.

Pinto beans and vegetabe broth being added to a skillet.

Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Mash the beans using a spoon or potato masher (preferred method) or pulse in a food processor/blender to your desired texture.

Refried beans in a bowl being topped with green onions.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 151
Calories from Fat 25
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 3g
Saturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 383mg
Total Carbohydrate 25g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 1g
Protein 8g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
1 Comment
On Quick and Easy Refried Beans
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Machel Morton
March 18, 2017 - 12:43
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These refried beans are delicious!! Even my kids love them. Definitely a staple in my house. It's so nice to know exactly what is in the food we are eating.
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