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!
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 refried beans? 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?
First, and most important, refried beans are not beans that have been cooked, fried, and then fried over and over again. I know, oh I know. The name is very misleading.
- In Spanish frijoles refritos (aka refried beans), the word refritos means “well fried” and frijoles means “beans”. So, if this were to be translated literally, these beans would be called well-fried beans, not refried beans.
- In other words, refried beans are simply boiled and then mashed 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.
- Depending on geographical location, refried beans may be cooked with pinto beans, black beans, or other bean variety.
What Kinds of Beans Can be Used to Make Refried Beans?
There’s no hard and fast rule on the best kind of bean to use for refried beans. After all, refried beans are just beans that are cooked for a long time and sometimes fried with delicious spices.
- Pinto Beans. Refried pinto beans are definitely the most popular of all the refried beans. 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 refried beans.
- Black Beans. Refried black beans are 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.
Ingredients in Refried Black Beans
- Dry black beans
- Olive oil
- Chili powder
- Lime juice
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 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.
How to Make Refried Black Beans
- First and foremost, you need to pick your bean. Will it be black beans or pinto beans? I know this is a recipe for refried black beans, but pinto beans would work just as well.
- Prepare your beans. You can either soak your beans in water overnight OR you may soak them in a bowl of boiled water for one hour.
- Drain the pre-soaked beans and cook the dry beans. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the beans. Cover and simmer for at least 2 hours. Uncover, add some stuff like cilantro and salt, and simmer until beans are soft and tender.
- To a large skillet, add the olive oil (or butter or lard) and fry the minced onion with the spices. Add the beans and the liquid and MASH.
- And then mash some more.
- Until desired consistency and texture 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 as simple or as complicated as you make them out to be.
CAN YOU USE CANNED BEANS TO MAKE REFRIED BEANS?
YES. A million times yes. In fact, if you’re short on time, you will have to use canned beans. Preparing dry beans and then boiling them just so they are soft enough to be fried and mashed is 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.
- Requires fewer dishes.
- Definitely easier.
- Tastes the same.
Just remember to drain and rinse those bad boys because, well, salt.
If you try making these Refried Black Beans, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
For more Mexican recipes check out,
- Spicy Mexican Stewed Shrimp (Shrimp Camarones)
- Slow Cooker Harissa Lamb Tacos
- Drunken Beans with Poblanos
- Chopped Shrimp Salad Recipe with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
- Instant Pot Shredded Salsa Chicken Tacos (+ Video)
- Mango Guacamole
- Chicken Mole with Homemade Mole Sauce
- One Skillet Mexican Quinoa with Chipotle Lime Crema
- Salsa Verde Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos
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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.