Refried Beans

Refried beans are so easy to make, and they are so healthy when you make them from scratch. You can get the flavor from dried beans without using lard.

a bowl of refried beans and tortilla chips on a platter

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What are refried beans?

Refried Beans are not beans that are actually fried. Frijoles refritos as they are known in Spanish really means “well-fried beans”, not “fried-again beans”. This dish is after beans are boiled and then mashed.

Refried beans are sometimes baked, sometimes fried, but most often they are simply served without second cooking. The name is pretty much a complete misnomer.

I like to make my own refried beans from scratch, they taste so much better than canned beans. You can make a good amount of beans for very little money.

You can use this as a side dish or you can make very tasty bean burritos, breakfast tacos, tostadas, and so much more.

What types of beans should you use for refried beans?

Typically in the US, we use pinto beans. Pinto beans are a bean that has a creamy texture when mashed and a lovely flavor. These are often sold in many different ways.

You can buy these in bulk in many produce sections of grocery stores. They are also sold in bulk bins in many stores. They can also be purchased in bags at most grocery stores.

Black beans are also used in some regions of Mexico. The beans are smaller, a little harder, and they take a little longer to mash.

You can also use some more exotic beans, I like to purchase beans from Rancho Gordo. You can get some heirloom beans from them that are uncommon and full of flavor.

Dried pinto beans, chopped onion, cilantro, and more to make refried beans.

The Aromatics

One of the characteristics of these beans is their wonderful aromatic flavors. We aren’t just talking about boiling some beans in water. You may want to add onions, garlic, cilantro, or even epazote.

Epazote is an herb that is common to Mexico. The flavor is hard to explain, but to me, it has a medicinal flavor, it goes well in the beans, but personally, I love cilantro.

You will want to use fresh onions and garlic. I like to use white onions for this recipe, as I think they taste sweeter than yellow onions.

You could also add oregano if you like, oregano would taste good in the beans as well.

The Fats

The fats in these beans help marry the flavors of the beans, the aromatics, spices, and salt. I think that you need to have some fat to help carry the flavor, but you have a lot of options here.

I have seen recipes with lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil, and even butter. Most grocery stores sell lard, it is sold near the Crisco or solid vegetable shortening.

Bacon drippings can be made when rendering bacon, I love to save my bacon drippings when I bake bacon. You can use vegetable oil or even butter.

My personal preference tends to be for bacon drippings. The lard you can usually buy at the store is solid white and often void of the flavor that can make lard wonderful. I always have bacon on hand, but I have also used vegetable oil when I want to make this vegetarian style.

Mashing the Beans

Do you like them thick or thin? This is up to you. Some people make their beans thin, these are great when you make breakfast tacos and start by smearing a bit of the bean across the tortilla. Other people like to serve up a thick serving of the beans.

One of the things that help to determine the thickness of the beans is how much water you leave in the pot when you mash the beans. You may want to start by draining and reserving the water from the beans and adding the water to the beans until you get the right consistency.

You can mash the beans in many ways, you can use a potato masher, a food processor, a stick immersion blender, or a Mexican bean masher. The potato masher works well, but you will be mashing the beans for a while.

I think the food processor obliterates the beans and turns them into mush. I love my KitchenAid KHB1231ER 2-Speed Hand Blender. I can control how much I want to mash up the beans. I like to leave some a little chunky so they have a nice texture.

Spices for Refried Beans

You can add spices if you like. I like to add a touch of cumin and some chipotle powder. I think cumin has an earthiness that adds so much to the beans. I also really like the chipotle powder adds just the right amount of heat.

Some people may like to add some jalapenos, or other chilies when they make refried beans.

I also like to add a bit of salt, but only after the beans are cooked. Some people think that when you add salt to the beans while they are cooking they can turn tough.

I think it is better to taste the beans, and then see how much salt they needed by adding a small amount at a time, and then stopping when they taste perfect to you.

refried beans, tortilla chips, cheese, and cilantro

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a bowl of refried beans and tortilla chips on a platter

Refried Beans

Make flavorful restaurant style refried beans in your Instant Pot or on the stovetop.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Instant Pot Recipes, Refried Beans
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 134kcal


  • 2 cups dried pinto beans rinsed and sorted
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup bacon drippings
  • 1 bunch cilantro stems only chopped – this is the portion below the leaves.
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 3 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons salt


Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker Directions

  • Put the beans, bay leaves, water, bacon drippings, cilantro stems, chopped onion, and cloves of garlic in the pressure cooker. Stir to combine.
  • Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, and bring the cooker up to high pressure.
  • Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes in a stovetop pressure cooker or 36 minutes in an electric pressure cooker.
  • Turn off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and discard the bay leaves.

Stovetop Directions

  • Put beans into a pot and cover beans with at least 3 inches of water – about 3 quarts for 2 1/2 cups of dry beans.  
  • Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer, covered, for about 2½ hours. The cooking time may vary, the beans are done when the skins just begin to burst.
  • Saute the bay leaves, cilantro stems, chopped onion, and garlic cloves with the bacon drippings. Saute until the onions and garlic are softened, and the onions are translucent.
  • Discard the bay leaves and add the mixture to the beans.

Mashing the Beans

  • Use an immersion blender to mash the beans. Pulse gently until you have the consistency you desire.



Note about Cilantro Stems:
This is the portion just below the leaves. Often when you buy it, it has leaves and the stalks the leaves grow on. Typically for recipes, I like to use the leaves only, as the stems/stalks can be a little woody. When cooked for this long the stems break down, and if you are using either a food processor or an immersion blender this will process those stems.


Calories: 134kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 312mg | Potassium: 205mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 0g | Vitamin A: 15IU | Vitamin C: 1.6mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1.1mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Sandy W.

    5 stars
    Realize this is a late comment, however…just wanted to say when you grew up in the South, you pretty much learned how to cook dried beans at your mama’s knee (our school cafeterias also served them!) Anyway…I learned to wash them, pick out dirt and stones,rinse well, cover with water and soak overnight. We were also taught to toss soaking water (to reduce gas) & add fresh B4 cooking. Also, i read a few years ago to add small amount of epakote (& it can be found dried) to cooking beans to help reduce the gas. I also add salt after cooking, as some have said. Have cooked pintos and other dried beans and black-eyed peas all my life and I’m old! I use leftovers if any, in a small pot of chili. We were taught not to throw away food, i.e. “use all of the pig but the squeal”, etc. and I have saved bacon grease for seasoning as long as I can remember. And my stepmother called Beans, Potatoes and Cornbread (no meat) Poor Man’s Supper. She was brought up in the Depression.

  2. Runswithscissors

    5 stars
    Made these a few days ago. LOVED them. Great flavor and just the best refried beans I’ve ever had. I froze the leftovers. My only issues was that I soaked a bag of pinto beans overnight. So I was a bit confused as to how much of the beans I should use and if I should use the water they soaked in. So I ended up cooking the entire batch for 2 1/2 hours, then using a little over 2 cups with the cooking water. Is this right?? I’ll follow the recipe more closely next time. But it did end up being delish!

    • Stephanie

      It doesn’t matter how much water you add to soak the beans in. You are going to toss that water anyway. Most people soak beans for several hours.

  3. Leah Bening

    Would you also have a restaurant copy cat recipe for the instant rice and the shredded salad with salsa the beans and rice plates typically include?

    I’m not a fan of rice typically but I love Mexican “American” style rice. I love the refried beans, thin, and mix them the rice, Yum!! A the shredded simple salsa/salad too!

    • Stephanie

      So I live in Texas, we don’t typically serve a salad with beans like this. Is there a chain restaurant that serves it this way so I could look it up.

  4. Lynette Kleve

    Hello everyone!

    I’m making my first batch of Homemade frijoles, don’t really know what I’m doing but It seems to be going good so far. My question is, do any of you use corn oil, for the fat whe frying the beans?

  5. Mickey

    “Frijoles refritos” are fried, by definition. Otherwise they’re just mashed beans. And don’t be afraid of lard. Zero trans-fats, and low cholesterol. Crisco is the real killer. In fact, any vegetable-based fat that is solid at room temperature will kill you. All things in moderation EXCEPT hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Eat butter, not margarine. Etc.

  6. sashi

    this is an awful recipe. if you don’t add salt as the beans are cooking then they will be band the bean soak up the salt….. authentic? I think not. your recipe is trash.

      • Nikki

        I appreciate the time you took to post this recipe! Some people weren’t raised right and our very rude, like sashi ???????? I’ll be trying this soon!

    • Charles

      Salt toughens beans and prolongs the cooking process. You salt after the beans are cooked. Any cook knows this. And this recipe is definatly not trash. I’Ve lived in Phoenix my whole life eating Sonoran Mexican food on both sides of the border and hands down, this recipe is authentic.

  7. John

    I tried these in my new electric pressure cooker last night. I followed the 36 minutes cook and 10 minute rest and It did not work, not even close…way too much liquid with 6 cups of water from just rinsed raw beans.

    I ended up tossing in the chopped bacon I had left from the drippings and turning it into a soup which was delicious in it’s own right. Next time I might try with 4 cups or cooking with 6 cups and then draining a bunch off and adding back as required.

    It could be that my new electric pressure cooker is jus that much faster than older ones, it’s an “Instant Pot” brand.

  8. Sherry

    I just made this in my Instant Pot on high for 36 minutes as you said. Then let the pressure come down naturally, about 10 minutes. Very watery still just set it for another 15 minutes on high lets see what happens

    • Jim

      You want liquid left on them. When you mash them, you need that to get them to the proper consistency. Also be aware, when you cook legumes like this in general, they thicken up and absorb quite a bit of water still after cooked. So if they were nice and creamy when you make them, the next day they will have hardened into a firm clump and you’ll need to add water to loosen them up to the desired consistency again. Same thing when you make hummus. If you plan not to eat them all at once as soon as they’re done, it’s a good idea to make them on the loose side to start with. Tip from someone who’s cooked dals and and other legumes regularly over the years.

  9. Marie

    I just made these beans.. I used pinto beans, and added cumin and chopped jalapeño peppers. Salt and pepper afterwords to taste. They are the best beans I’ve ever tasted!!!

  10. Carrie R

    These look so good! I just love refried beans, but only usually get them at the Mexican restaurant. I would love to try making them at home- thank you for the recipe! 🙂

  11. Cindy Harvey Coffman

    I cook them in the crock pot and also cook mexican rice then mix the two together put on top of tortilla chip and eat so yummeh

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