Refried Beans

published Apr 29, 2024
Refried Beans Recipe

No one will guess they were canned to begin with.

Serves2 to 4

MakesMakes 2 cups

Prep5 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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An overhead view of refried beans in a cast iron skillet.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Refried beans are the fatty, velvety, savory heart of Mexican cuisine. Typically made from the leftovers of a hearty pot of brothy beans, they get a second life in Mexican homes by frying them in the pan with a good amount of fat. Afterwards, they’re smashed to achieve its recognizably velvety and slightly chunky texture. Traditionally, this dish is served as a side and paired with Mexican red rice, but you’ll want to also spread them on crunchy tostadas, or dab them into a warm loaded burrito.  

Why You’ll Love It

  • Say goodbye to planning ahead! By grabbing cans of beans at the grocery store, you’ll save loads of time and have delicious refried beans on your table on the fly. 
  • Fry the pinto beans in sizzling onions and your favorite broth to boost the flavor — no one will guess they were canned to begin with. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Key Ingredients in Refried Beans

  • Canned pinto beans: All you need is two cans of pinto beans. 
  • Garlic and onion: To spruce up these canned beans, fry them in garlic and onion using your favorite frying oil to imbue the fattiness necessary, and, of course, fry the beans. 
  • Serrano pepper: The serrano adds an herbaceous zest with very little heat.
  • Broth: Its addition creates more depth for a super tasty batch of refried beans. You can pick between low-sodium mushroom, vegetable, and chicken broth. 

How to Make Refried Beans

  1. Fry your aromatics. First, you’ll fry the onion, garlic, and serrano until the alliums are golden and slightly starting to brown. 
  2. Add canned beans. Next, add the drained beans, stir to combine, then add the broth and bay leaf.
  3. Simmer the beans. Once the liquid starts to boil, add the salt, combine, and continue boiling until the liquid is thick and reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 
  4. Mash it up. At this point, begin to fully mash the beans. Let them sit for a few minutes, and serve hot. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Helpful Swaps

  • This recipe calls for a serrano pepper. However, feel free to swap with your favorite fresh or dry pepper. Keep it whole so that it imbues its flavor, and not much of its spiciness, to the beans.
  • Instead of a vegetable oil like safflower, avocado, or olive, feel free to use butter, vegetable shortening, or lard. And like the fat, feel free to use your favorite broth in this recipe. 

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

You can drain the beans ahead of time and refrigerate them in an airtight container. Similarly, to store the refried beans, keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to about 5 days. 

What to Serve With Refried Beans

Refried beans are the perfect side with Mexican red rice. You can serve it alongside any masa-based dish like tacos, savory tamales, tetelas, tlacoyos, stews, and grilled veggies or meat. 

Refried Beans Recipe

No one will guess they were canned to begin with.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Makes Makes 2 cups

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2

    (about 15-ounce) cans pinto beans

  • 1/4

    large white onion

  • 2

    large cloves garlic

  • 1/4 cup

    vegetable or safflower oil

  • 1

    serrano pepper

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium mushroom, vegetable, or chicken broth

  • 1

    dried bay leaf

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper


  1. Drain 2 (about 15-ounce) cans pinto beans (do not rinse). Thinly slice 1/4 large white onion (about 1/3 cup). Smash 2 large garlic cloves with the flat part of a chef’s knife and peel.

  2. Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 whole serrano pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 pinch kosher salt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are starting to brown around the edges and the pepper is blistered in spots, 3 to 4 minutes more.

  3. Add the beans and stir to combine. Add 2 cups low-sodium broth and 1 dried bay leaf. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the broth is thickened, reduced, and darker in color, 12 to 15 minutes.

  4. Turn off the heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Remove and discard the bay leaf and serrano (and garlic if desired).

  5. Mash the beans with a fork or potato masher until they are thick and lumpy visually, but taste smooth and velvety. If you want a thicker consistency, let sit for a few minutes, it will thicken more as they cool.

Recipe Notes

Fat options: Instead of vegetable oil, you can use the same amount of butter, avocado oil, vegetable oil, vegetable shortening, or lard.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.