Easy Refried Beans Recipe

Taco night is not complete without a refried beans recipe — at least, this is the firm belief of Maren Epstein, a chef and healthy eating expert who blogs and shares delicious and nutritious recipes at Eating Works. "I love serving these beans as the staple of my taco nights," she told Mashed. One recipe to try to mix up Taco Tuesday is her tostadas. Meanwhile, Epstein also told us about when she likes to enjoy this easy recipe: "I make these refried beans during the week when I want something vegan and satisfying for dinner."

We couldn't help but wonder why one would go to the trouble of making refried beans at home when you can simply buy them pre-made at the store. Epstein's explanation made us converts right away, with the New Jersey native saying, "Refried beans are filled with preservatives and lard. While lard is traditional, I don't find it appealing." Um, we hear you! Epstein added, "I make my own, cleaner version with health-supportive ingredients." Sounds like a plan to us!

Gather some simple ingredients for your refried beans recipe

Epstein's refried beans recipe is super accessible, as it requires purely household staple ingredients likely found in your kitchen cabinets. Grab olive oil, an onion, garlic, and some spices like cumin, onion powder, and chili powder — you likely have a lot of this stuff at home anyway. This recipe also calls for two cans of pinto beans and a lemon

Wait, a lemon? We asked Epstein about this citrusy addition, and as she explained about her ingredient selection, "All of these flavors help show off the beans and enhance their flavor." Case in point is the lemon, about which she told Mashed, "The lemon juice brightens up the flavor of the beans a bit." She further noted, "Refried beans always taste better with a little splash of acid from lemon or lime." So, if you happen to have a lime on hand, feel free to mix things up and substitute that for your lemon.

Sauté your onion and garlic for this refried beans recipe

Your first step to bring this simple and satisfying refried beans recipe to life is to heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. While you wait for your oil to get nice and hot is the ideal time to dice your onion — a smallish one works fine here — and press your two garlic cloves with a garlic press. Alternatively, for the more patient cook, you can mince your garlic by hand. Or, pre-minced garlic from a jar works as well (but doesn't taste as good).

The next step is simply to add that minced onion to your pan. You will sauté the onion all by its lonesome for about ten minutes. Don't add the garlic yet, because garlic will burn far faster than onion. Still, keep an eye on your onion here, stirring it often so it doesn't burn — and burnt onion would make for a crummy base to this delicious recipe.

Add your spices to this refried beans recipe

Wait until the onion is translucent to add the garlic, being sure to lower the heat on the stove so you don't burn the fragrant combination. Also, at this point, you can add your spices — the cumin, onion powder, and chili powder. Continue to sauté the onion, garlic, and spices for about five minutes, and enjoy the yummy scent filling your kitchen. The next step will be to add in the beans.

Both the beans and the liquid from the cans goes into the pot for this refried beans recipe. Nope, you do not dispose of the liquid. This is essential to achieve the right consistency for this dish. Go ahead and stir all of the ingredients to combine, and then simmer everything together, uncovered, for about 25 minutes. Ultimately, you want a third of the cooking liquid to evaporate before moving onto the next step — which is the last step before you can serve up and enjoy this savory, scrumptious dish alone or as an accompaniment to tacos

Blend the bean mixture to perfection for this refried beans recipe

To get the beans for this refried beans recipe just right, Epstein recommends transferring your bean mixture to a blender and processing it until it's creamy and smooth. But she also told Mashed, "If you want more texture, you can actually mash the beans with a fork." Another way to go is to "blend half of the beans and then stir in the rest." She notes about this compromise, "This is one of my favorite ways to make refried beans." Ultimately, Epstein notes, "Refried beans are traditionally smooth, which is why I blended the beans for this recipe."

Of course, you can always perfect your preferred version over time. Or, try blending half of the recipe and mashing the other half, serving the versions in different bowls, and polling your family or friends to see what they like best. 

No matter if you blend, mash, or meet halfway, you will season the beans to taste with the lemon juice and salt, and then, that's right, serve 'em up!

Serve up your delicious refried beans recipe

If you are serving this refried beans recipe to a crowd (or just want to make them look even better), Epstein has some serving suggestions to complete this recipe. "There really isn't anything attractive about a blob of brown mush," she admitted to Mashed. To avoid an unappetizing plate, the chef recommends spooning your beans "onto a pretty plate." Also, adding "some green vegetables can go along way to help improve the presentation of refried beans." A few sprigs of cilantro and some slices of avocado work well to keep with the Mexican food theme.

Finally, we wanted to know how long the beans keep, but Epstein joked to Mashed, "There are never leftovers when I make this recipe." She wishes they would last in her house. "But if there were some, I would store it in an airtight container in the fridge for six days," she advised.

Easy Refried Beans Recipe
5 from 13 ratings
Taco night is not complete without a refried beans recipe — at least this is the firm belief of Maren Epstein, a chef and healthy eating expert.
Prep Time
Cook Time
refried beans recipe plated
Total time: 35 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, small diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  1. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. While the oil is heating, dice the onion and press the garlic with a garlic press or mince it by hand.
  2. Add onions to the pan and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring often to make sure they don't burn.
  3. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic, cumin, onion powder, and chili powder to the pot and sauté for another 5 minutes. Lower the heat so the garlic doesn't burn.
  4. Add the beans and liquid to the pot. Stir to combine the sautéed onions with the beans and liquid. Simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes or until a third of the cooking liquid evaporates.
  5. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Season to taste with lemon juice and salt.
Calories per Serving 215
Total Fat 6.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.9 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 31.6 g
Dietary Fiber 8.5 g
Total Sugars 1.6 g
Sodium 344.7 mg
Protein 10.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe