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Easy Refried Beans

This easy refried beans recipe is a favourite dish of mine, and one I’ve cooked for many years. I combine protein rich beans with smoky chipotle chilli paste, fresh jalapeno, cumin and paprika, for a meat free dish that is just packed full of flavour.

Two black plates with a flour tortilla topped with refried beans garnished with pickled red onions, cheese, sliced red chillies, coriander leaves and a wedge of lime.

With my best refried beans recipe you really don’t miss meat based protein, here it’s all about the creamy texture of beans. I always have a variety of canned beans in my stores at home, perfect for when you want and quick and delicious meal without too much hassle.

Refried beans are commonly served as a side or accompaniment to Mexican dishes. However, they make a great healthy lunch or light dinner option.

My favourite way to serve homemade refried beans is on top of a soft tortilla (you can use flour or corn), with some quick pickled red onions (I include the recipe for those here too), crumble over some cheese and finish with a squeeze of fresh and zingy lime.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Add the pickled onions and you have the perfect balance of flavours spicy, smoky, sweet and sour.
  • Make ahead earlier in the day and heat up when you are ready to enjoy.
  • Feed a crowd as this recipe is easily doubled or tripled depending on numbers.
  • Ready in 30 minutes making this a great mid week dinner option.

Refried beans ingredients

Refried beans recipe ingredients in individual bowls.
  • Red onion – I use red onion both for the quick pickle to serve with the beans and in the beans themselves. Shallot or a regular onion would work here too.
  • Pickling liquid – I use red wine vinegar and caster sugar in the pickling liquid.
  • Oil – I use olive oil to saute the onion and beans, you could also use rapeseed, sunflower or vegetable oil.
  • Garlic – for the best flavour I use fresh garlic, although garlic puree can work in a pinch.
  • Chili – I use a fresh jalapeno pepper, along with chipotle chilli paste in this recipe.
  • Spices – I use both ground cumin and smoked paprika in this dish for depth of flavour.
  • Tomato – I add tomato puree (paste) to the beans.
  • Beans – I used both pinto and black beans in this recipe. You can use a combination or just use the pinto beans.
  • Fresh herbs – I add chopped coriander for a burst of fresh herb flavour.
  • Stock – I’ve used vegetable stock, ensure it is gluten free if serving to coeliacs or anyone following a gluten free diet.
  • Optional toppings– top the beans as you like them. Along with the picked red onions, I like to add some crumbled Wensleydale or Cheshire cheese and a spoon of sour cream.
  • Lime – I like to serve the beans with a wedge of wedge of time for a burst of fresh citrus zing.

How to make refried beans

  • Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno chilli and chipotle chilli paste and saute for 5 minutes until soft, taking care soften and not to colour the onions.
  • Add the cumin and paprika to the pan and continue to fry gently for a further minute then add the tomato puree and mix well.
  • Add the beans to the pan, along with the vegetable stock and coriander leaves and cook until the beans soften. Depending on the beans you use this will take 15-20 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and using a potato masher, mash down the mixture to the consistency you like to eat.
  • Serve immediately with some warm corn or wheat tortillas, sprinkle over some cheese and the pickled red onions.

How to pickle red onion

If you wish to top your refried beans with pickled red onions it is very easy to prepare. Simply add all the ingredients in a small bowl, stir to combine then cover and allow to sit for a few hours or overnight if time allows.

Two black plates with a flour tortilla topped with refried beans garnished with pickled red onions, cheese, sliced red chillies, coriander leaves and a wedge of lime.

Recipe variations

  • I’ve used a combination of pinto beans and black beans, as I like the texture once cooked. However, feel free to substitute in other beans like haricot beans (navy beans), cannellini beans, or kidney beans.
  • Canned beans are a quick and easy option, but you can use dried beans if you prefer. You will just need to soak them overnight in cold water, then boil and cook them the following day before you can start preparing this recipe.
  • This dish has a mild chili heat, but if you really don’t like chilli you can always leave out the jalapeno.
  • If you can get your hands on it I recommend serving the beans with some Mexican cojitas cheese. I can’t buy that anywhere locally so I substitute with a crumbly white cheese like Wensleydale or Cheshire cheese.
  • If following a dairy free or vegan diet, swap the cheese for a dairy free alternative or leave the cheese off the finished dish. 
  • For a gluten free diet, ensure you use gluten free vegetable stock.

What to eat with refried beans?

This recipe will serve 3/4 easily for lunch or a light dinner option, with some warm tortillas, sour cream, I also like to add a topping of pickled red onions for crunch and to add a little acidity to the beans.

The recipe serves 6/8 as a side or accompaniment, as fried beans feature heavily in many traditional Mexican dishes like tostadas and chimichanga. Load some onto my Chicken Tacos with some Easy Guacamole and/or Tomato Salsa. It also works well with my Smoked Chilli Beef.

You can also blitz the beans to a smooth consistency, perfect as a dip with a side of crispy tortilla chips.

A black plate with a flour tortilla topped with refried beans garnished with pickled red onions, cheese, sliced red chillies, coriander leaves and a wedge of lime, with coriander, a whole lime and 2 jalapeno chilli peppers set alongside.

Useful hints and tips

  1. Texture? If you like a rough texture to the beans use the wooden spoon or a potato masher to break down the beans. If you prefer a smoother mixture, place the bean mixture into a food processor and blitz to a smooth consistency. It is entirely your preference.
  2. Make your own chipotle chilli paste by soaking dried chipotle morita chillis in warm water and allowing them to soften for a couple of hours. I then placed them in a food processor with some of the soaking water and blitzed down into a paste. This paste freezes really well and can be added to other dishes as and when needed.
  3. Swap the cheese and sour cream for dairy free alternatives and this dish is suitable for dairy free and vegan diners.
  4. Allergy advice: gluten free, egg free, soya free and nut free. For comprehensive and detailed allergy advice go to Allergy UK.
Two black plates with a flour tortilla topped with refried beans garnished with pickled red onions, cheese, sliced red chillies, coriander leaves and a wedge of lime, with coriander, a whole lime and 2 jalapeno chilli peppers set alongside.

FAQs

What are refried beans made of?

In Mexican cuisine, refried beans are traditionally made with pinto beans. I like to use a combination of both pinto beans and black beans as I like the texture. However, you can also use haricot beans (navy beans) or kidney beans.

Are refried beans healthy?

Yes, beans are a great source of protein, rich in dietary fibre, and make a filling and nutritious meal. Traditional refried beans are cooked in animal fat, so higher in saturated fats. I’ve decided to cook the beans in olive oil, which makes this a healthier option and also means you can serve to meat free diners too.

How to store leftover refried beans?

Store leftover beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When ready to enjoy, warm up in a small saucepan over the stove or in the microwave.

Can you freeze refried beans?

Yes, refried beans freeze really well, so I will often make a double batch and freeze half. Although the beans will break down a little during the freezing and defrosting process. Place the cooked and cooled beans into an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then warm up in a saucepan on the stove.

Pin the recipe

Pinnable image with recipe title and two black plates with a flour tortilla topped with refried beans garnished with pickled red onions, cheese, sliced red chillies, coriander leaves and a wedge of lime, with coriander, a whole lime and 2 jalapeno chilli peppers set alongside.

Additional recipe suggestions

Canned beans are a great store cupboard staple, try some of my other recipes using beans:

Two black plates with a flour tortilla topped with refried beans garnished with pickled red onions, cheese, sliced red chillies, coriander leaves and a wedge of lime.

Easy Refried Beans

Refried beans, combining a mix of beans with smoky chillies and fresh herbs. A great vegetarian or vegan main dish alongside guacamole and tomato salsa.
5 from 4 votes
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 314kcal

Equipment

  • medium saucepan
  • silicone/wooden spoon
  • sieve
  • chopping board
  • knife
  • potato masher

Ingredients

Pickled Red Onions

  • 1 small red onion (diced)
  • 2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp caster sugar

Refried Beans

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chilli (finely diced)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp chipotle chilli paste
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 400 g tin black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 400 g tin pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 bunch coriander leaves (chopped)
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper

Optional toppings for serving

  • 50 g wensleydale or cheshire cheese (crumbled, to serve)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (optional, to serve)
  • 1 lime (cut into wedges)

Instructions

Pickled Red Onion (Optional)

  • Add all ingredients to a small bowl, cover and set aside in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight if time allows.

Refried Beans

  • Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno chilli and chipotle chilli paste and saute for 5 minutes until soft, taking care soften and not to colour the onions.
  • Add the cumin and paprika to the pan and continue to fry gently for a further minute then add the tomato puree and mix well.
  • Add the beans to the pan, along with the vegetable stock and coriander leaves and cook until the beans soften. Depending on the beans you use this will take 15-20 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and using your wooden spoon, or a potato masher, mash down the mixture to the consistency you like to eat.
  • Serve immediately with some warm corn or wheat tortillas, sprinkle over some cheese and the pickled red onions.

Notes

This recipe will serve 4 as a side dish. However you can serve 2 easily for lunch with some warm tortillas, sour cream and guacamole.
The refried beans are vegan, but if following a Vegan diet you will need to swap some of the toppings. Replace the cheese and sour cream for a dairy free alternatives or leave off the finished dish altogether.
I used a jar of chipotle chilli paste, but you can make your own by soaking dried chipotle morita chillis in warm water and allowing them to soften for a couple of hours. We then placed them in a food processor with some of the soaking water and blitze down into a paste. This paste freezes really well and can be added to other dishes as and when needed.
I like to leave the texture quite rough, rather than blitzing to a puree. If you like a rough texture to the beans use a wooden spoon, or potato masher to break down the beans. If you prefer a smoother mixture, place the bean mixture into a food processor and blitz to a smooth consistency. It is entirely your preference.
Nutrition Facts
Easy Refried Beans
Amount Per Serving
Calories 314 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Sodium 860mg37%
Potassium 787mg22%
Carbohydrates 42g14%
Fiber 14g58%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 12g24%
Vitamin A 1229IU25%
Vitamin C 14mg17%
Calcium 112mg11%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

• Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only •

Course : Canape, Starter, Side, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine : Mexican
Keyword : best refried beans, Easy, healthy refried beans, homemade refried beans, Simple
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Recipe Rating




Chloe

Friday 16th of February 2024

I eat lots of mexican food but don't often include refried beans but I will be from now on, I made next level burritos with these!

Lesley

Friday 16th of February 2024

Thank you Chloe, they also make a great filling for quesadillas.

Janice

Wednesday 31st of January 2024

I love Mexican food so had to try this. It's so tasty and a great meat free alternative.

Lesley

Thursday 1st of February 2024

Thank you Janice, I'm glad you enjoyed the beans.

Anna

Monday 29th of January 2024

Absolutely loved this recipe i made quesadillas with the refined beans and cheese it was delicious.

Lesley

Monday 29th of January 2024

Thank you Anna, that's one of my favourite ways to enjoy these beans too.

Cat

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

I made this to go in burritos and they were so tasty! I mashed mine so they were quite smooth and they were perfect.

Lesley

Wednesday 24th of January 2024

Thank you Cat, they work a treat in burritos and also in quesadillas too.