Refried Beans are a delicious and flavorful Mexican side dish made when boiled beans are cooked and mashed (or re-fried) in oil, spices, and onion. Learn how to make refried black beans in this easy to follow recipe!
Homemade Refried Black Beans
I don’t know about you guys, but for forever I literally had no idea what it meant to be a refried bean versus a regular bean. I knew that I liked the taste of refried beans better, but I had no idea what made them that way. I mean, what are refried beans, anyway? How would one go about making them? Are refried beans vegetarian, vegan, or even healthy?
I clearly had a lot of questions.
So I took things into my own hands and I made my own.
Here’s what I learned.
What are Refried Beans?
In Spanish, refried beans translate to frijoles refritos. The word refritos means “well-fried” and frijoles means “beans”. So, translated literally, these beans would be called well-fried beans, not refried beans.
In other words, refried beans are simply boiled and then mashed, often into a paste. Sometimes the mashed beans will then be baked or fried (just once) with onion, garlic, and lard. Obviously, this just confuses things further because yes, sometimes refried beans are fried- but only one time.
You’ll typically find two types of refried beans – pinto and black beans.
- Pinto Beans. Refried pinto beans are definitely the most popular. At least this can be said of Tex-Mex cooking here in North America and that in Northern Mexico. Cooked Pinto beans are creamy, soft, and mild, thus producing some pretty amazing beans.
- Black Beans. The second most popular and the beans I used here. Unlike cooked pinto beans, cooked black beans are smaller, firmer, and harder to mash. This makes it a little more difficult to mash cooked black beans with a potato masher. It will absolutely take a little more effort to get those silky smooth refried black beans when compared to mashed pinto beans. However, if this does not bother you (I prefer mine thicker and lumpier), then black beans are just for you.
Are Refried Beans Vegan?
Better question- can refried beans be vegan?
Yes. absolutely. In fact, it is your lucky day because these beans are totally, completely, 100% vegan.
In order to turn your refried beans into a non-vegan or non-vegetarian dish, this would require frying the beans in something like butter, bacon fat, or lard. Of course, if you’re ordering a plate of refried beans somewhere in Mexico or you’re at an authentic Mexican taqueria, then there’s a pretty good chance that those beautiful, delicious, creamy refried beans have at least one of those animal products.
But, if you are making your own version at home, then you can simply leave those (delicious) elements out and substitute with olive oil.
Ingredients in Refried Black Beans
Let’s get started by gathering our ingredients:
- Dry black beans
- Olive oil
- Chili powder
- Lime juice
Super simple ingredients, right?
Feel free to modify the recipe to suit your own personal tastes and preferences. Add additional onion or cumin, or leave them out altogether. And, of course, let’s not forget the option to swap the olive oil for lard, butter, or bacon fat.
For the full list and amounts of ingredients, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
How to Make Refried Black Beans
Now to make your beans:
1. Soak your beans. Either soak your beans in water overnight or place them in a bowl of boiled water for one hour.
2. Cook the beans. Drain your soaked beans and return to a large pot filled with water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Allow your beans to cook for approximately 2 hours. Uncover, add some stuff like cilantro and salt, and simmer until beans are soft and tender.
3. Fry. Once your beans are tender, add the olive oil (or lard, bacon grease, butter) to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Fry the onions with the spices. Add the beans and the liquid and mash, mash, mash.
4. Continue to mash and season until desired consistency is reached.
When I originally made this recipe I was literally SO CONFUSED that there wasn’t more frying. For some reason, I always thought that making refried beans would be some huge production that required a whole bunch of special ingredients that I could only purchase from special markets.
In reality, refried beans are literally just fried beans that are mashed.
Serve these beans with all your favorite Mexican-inspired recipes including,
Can You Use Canned Beans?
Yes, you can absolutely use canned beans. In fact, if you’re short on time, you may have to use canned beans. Preparing dry beans and then boiling them just so they are soft enough to be fried and mashed is a serious business. I used dry beans simply because whenever I try something new, I like to do the whole process start to finish without any shortcuts at least one time. Next time, however, I can almost guarantee that I will use canned black beans because,
- It’s faster.
- It requires fewer dishes.
- Definitely easier.
Just remember to drain and rinse canned beans because, well, salt.
More Mexican Recipes,
If you try making this Refried Black Beans Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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How to Make Refried Black Beans
TO COOK THE DRY BEANS (first round)
FIRST PREPARE THE DRY BEANS
- Overnight Soak- if you remember to soak your beans the night before, do it. Place your dry beans in a large bowl and cover with water by at least two inches. Let beans sit overnight.
- Short Soak- If you’re like me and usually forget to soak your beans overnight, place the dry beans in a bowl and cover with boiling water for one hour.
TO COOK THE DRY BEANS (round one)
- After soaking, drain the beans. To a large heavy-bottomed pot add two teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for approximately 3-4 minutes, or until softening and turning translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the drained pre-soaked beans and 2 quarts water to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cover partially. Reduce heat to medium-low, maintaining a low simmer. Simmer for two hours.
- After two hours, add the cilantro and additional salt, to taste. Allow the beans to continue to cook, uncovered, until soft and tender, 30-60 minutes more.
TO RE-FRY THE BEANS (second round)
- In a large pan or skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the minced onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the chipotle chili powder and ground cumin and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked black beans AND the liquid from the pot to the skillet and mix well to combine. Use a potato masher to mash the beans in the pan until desired texture is reached.
- If the beans are too thick, slowly add additional water until desired consistency is reached. On the other hand, if the beans are too soupy, continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped green onion and cilantro.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)