Old-Fashioned Refried Beans

Refried beans are one of my favorite comfort foods. They’re also cheap — dang cheap. And, they’re a tasty way to get lots of nourishing fats into you and your loved ones. The way I grew up, refried beans were one of life’s many mysteries. I ordered them at Mexican food restaurants, or my mom bought them in a large can at the supermarket. That’s what refried beans were to me — something not-too-healthy that I paid too much money for.

Only as an adventurous adult did I foray into the world of making my own refried beans and discover how easy and cheap they are to make — and how ridiculously rich and flavorful I could make them when I had free-reign.

All beans are high in anti-nutrients like phytic acid. So, as with grains, you’ll want to soak them first. This has the added benefit of eliminating one of the unnecessary side-effects of eating modern beans: bad gas.

Furthermore, as with any starchy food, the more fat you add, the better. Refried beans are already high in resistant starches — the kinds of starches that resist digestion and can help balance blood sugar levels and burn fat stores. Add tasty fat to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for satiety as well as nutrient-density. In the interest of being “traditional”, I used to make these with lard from foraged hogs, but that’s gotten harder to come by. Turns out, substituting pastured butter or grass-fed ghee added a remarkable depth of flavor I’d only previously found when using rendered fat from cooking fajitas.

So, without any further ado, here’s my recipe for old-fashioned refried beans.

Old-Fashioned Refried Beans

Refried Beans: The Players

Refried Beans: The How-To

Begin by placing pinto beans in a large bowl with enough water to cover and a dash of salt. Cover with a lid (I use a plate) and soak for 24 hours.

Drain remaining liquid from your soaked beans. Transfer beans to a stock pot and again add enough water to cover and a dash of salt. Bring beans to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2-4 hours until beans are falling apart and tender.

Drain liquid from cooked beans. Now comes the fun part. Add diced tomatoes and 1/2 C. of melted butter or ghee. Using a stick blender, blend the cooked beans until they turn into a relatively smooth mush.

In the meantime, melt remaining butter or ghee in a large, 12-inch, deep skillet on the stove over medium heat. (This is my skillet. Looks like they call it a “saute pan”.) Transfer mashed, cooked beans into the skillet. Add seasonings and stir with a flat-bottomed spatula (to prevent burning) until the beans start to boil and the seasonings and fat are evenly distributed.

Remove from heat and serve. You can refrigerate the leftovers for up to a week, or transfer to your freezer to keep for later use.

(photo by gatorbek)


  1. Sue Smith via Facebook says

    Yours sound delish! I’ve always carmelized onions in butter for refried beans, and everyone wants my recipe…love your site!

  2. Kate Dailey Monreal via Facebook says

    We have refried beans with fried eggs on top. If we have some green salsa on hand, that goes on too. Eggs have to be nice and runny. Sooooo yummy!

  3. Ranee Mueller via Facebook says

    I love refried beans! I make them with oil or lard or bacon grease, lots of onions and black beans. It’s a great, tasty, cheap dinner.

  4. says

    I love this. I recently made a great batch of refried beans and they were the hit of my dinner party. The only difference, I used lard which I think adds a meatier flavor than plain old butter.

    • KristenM says

      Good question. I may just take this as a cue to prepare an everything-you-need-to-know-about-beans post.

      No, not all beans need to be soaked for so long. Some beans, like lentils, for example, would fall apart if soaked that long! Also, some beans (like black beans and fava beans) need to be soaked in a mildly acidic medium and not just salt water.

        • KristenM says

          I’ll put it on my list, then. I’m always surprised when readers ask me these sorts of basic questions and I realize that I haven’t ever answered them on the blog!

  5. says

    My daughter LOVES refried beans, we’ve been buying La Preferida brand in the can because they are made with lard (and no preservatives!) but they aren’t soaked so they are only a sometimes-treat. She will be so excited to know about this recipe! I suppose this would work with black beans too? She likes refried black beans just as much.

    • KristenM says

      Yes, but to the black beans I would add something acidic when soaking like some lemon juice or vinegar.

    • KristenM says

      Also, is that lard hydrogenated or not? I’d be scared that it’s hydrogenated because most industrially produced lard is. Lard is mostly a monounsaturated fat, so tends to be a liquid unless it’s cool or hydrogenated.

  6. Morning says

    We love beans, I’ve been doing our refrieds a little different but I’m going to give your recipe a try.

  7. Naomi says

    Funny, I just had decided to make refried beans for a Mexican food feast, opened my new email from you and there was the recipe. I used it and it was great! I soaked and sprouted my beans for extra nutrition. There were no leftovers! Thanks for your timely post.

    • Audrey says

      I’m now to sprouting, but want to try this recipe (hubby would love it) . Is there any difference in cook time if they’re sprouted ( with pretty long tails, I wanted to make sure they were all sprouted). Thanks!

  8. says

    I’ve been adding the spices BEFORE I transfer to the pan to fry up–when I’m mixing in the first half cup of butter and tomatoes.

    (Makin’ some now)

  9. Victoria says

    I thought adding salt to beans before they are cooked, makes the beans tough and makes them take longer to cook. Is that a myth?

  10. Jeannette says

    I make these all the time. I add minced onion and garlic and use the immersion blender to make them smooth. Then they get topped with Monterey Jack cheese and it’s melted under the broiler for bean dip.
    You could leave them chunky too though.

  11. Alma Rocha Gomez via Facebook says

    I’m going to try your recipe, I always have beans at home, but my recipe is very different from yours. I LOVE frying them with BACON and jalapenos or serranos.

  12. Victoria Cedeño via Facebook says

    Throw this recipe away. Boil your beans in just water then add salt at the end or they will be tough. Once your done heat up a skillet with oil and add onion and Jalopeno. Throw in your beans and done. Don’t add all that crap like Taco seasoning to a perfectly healthy side.

  13. says

    Hey! Did my comment yesterday (combined with you just having had this dish) prompt you to post it today?

    But seriously, here’s a real question: Is there any reason NOT to save the liquid drained off? Maybe use as a broth or something? It’s quite thick and deliciously bean-y.
    One time I had cooked the beans so long, the “liquid” I drained off was almost as thick as the beans left in the pot – added some salt and cumin and it was like a dip.

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