Mexican refried beans or frijoles refritos are a Mexican food staple that everyone should master. You’ll love this easy authentic refried beans recipe because it’s better than canned or restaurant refried beans. This recipe makes THE best refried beans!
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Mexican refried beans are a staple in Mexican cuisine. The ingredients are all basic and are also pantry staples.
I think you’re going to love this quick, easy, inexpensive and delicious homemade recipe. Best of all is that you will no longer have to rely on the canned stuff, and your wallet will thank you for it.
Homemade Frijoles Refritos
In a previous post, I shared my process for making a pot of Mexican beans from scratch, make sure to read that article and recipe. I highly suggest you start by making a pot of homemade beans and using them to make your frijoles refritos. The taste and texture is always better than canned.
Today we are going to turn them into the most delicious, smooth and creamy homemade refried beans!
My recipe just happens to be vegan and it’s suitable and loved by meat-eaters as well. I promise that you’ll find this recipe better than your favorite Mexican restaurant.
What Does Frijoles Refritos Mean
The Spanish name of frijoles refritos translates to refried beans.
But it’s a bit of a confusing translation because the beans aren’t actually re-fried or fried twice. How many of you were wondering why beans would need to be fried twice? Right, haha!
Let’s break it down frijoles means beans and refritos means well-fried. In English, the prefix “re” is used to express an action done twice, in Mexican-Spanish we commonly use it for emphasis.
So, frijoles refritos actually means very well-fried beans.
Spanish lesson aside just know that you won’t have to fry your beans twice. It’s a side dish recipe which uses simple ingredients and requires a simple process. Anyone can do it!
But please don’t ask me how or who invented frijoles refritos — I don’t know, all I know is that homemade refried beans will rock your world.
Homemade Refried Beans
When making refried beans, starting with freshly homemade beans is THE secret to perfect Mexican refried beans every time — just like our abuelas have been making for centuries.
I know many people like to use canned beans, but if you want the authentic Mexican taste skip the can and reach for the pot. (Learn how to with my recipe)
For those that just don’t have the time, I will include some tips for a canned version below.
Homemade and from Scratch Is Cheaper
One of the best benefits of homemade vs canned beans (both boiled and refried) it the money you’ll save.
Buying a bag of dried beans will always be cheaper than the convenience of the canned ones.
Dried beans are much cheaper than canned.
Ingredients Used for Mexican Refried Beans
Just as I mentioned on my article and recipe for making pinto beans from scratch, the ingredients for frijoles refritos also vary. But below are the most basic ones.
- Cooked Beans: The most common choices can be pinto beans or black beans, but bayos or flor de mayo beans are also a great choice. Any will do, it’s a matter of personal choice.
- Cooked Bean Broth: Specially if starting with homemade boiled beans, make sure to save some of the bean water from boiling to help you get creamy refried beans.
- Onions and Garlic: Onion is usually included and some people will also add garlic, again it’s a personal choice.
- Chiles: Some people also like to add fresh or dried chiles to their beans.
- Seasonings: Salt is a must, of course, and most people keep it that simple but others add spices or herbs too.
- Fat: You’ll need a fat to help you fry the beans. See more on this below.
Fats Used for Refried Beans
Traditionally, the fat which gives Mexican refried beans its unique taste, is manteca de cerdo or pig lard.
Some people will use bacon fat or bacon grease to give their beans more flavor. I think this is more common with the Mexican-American community and younger generations of Mexicans, and less so with the older traditional cooks.
The use of lard or bacon fat is something to be aware of when you’re eating out, as the more traditional Mexican restaurants will use animal fats. Make sure to ask what fat was used to make their beans.
A solid fat, vegan alternative to lard is vegetable shortening. You can use that if you’d like, but know that it’s unhealthier than certain oils.
Many people, including myself, like to use oil instead.
Though untraditional, my personal preference is olive oil. I use this oil because of health reasons as some vegetable oils can cause inflammation. But you’re free to use any type of vegetable oil that you like.
Don’t Use Butter in Refried Beans
Under NO circumstances would I suggest using butter or margarine to make refried beans. Both have strong flavors which will overpower the bean taste.
How to Season Refried Bean
Just as I mentioned in my recipe for making frijoles de olla, here too additional flavorings can vary greatly from one cook to another.
Frying the beans with the following vegetables helps build a great base of delicious flavors.
- dried or fresh chiles
Spices are also a great addition to refried beans. Just don’t go overboard on them otherwise you’ll mask the yummy bean flavors.
- ground cumin gives a slight smokiness to beans
- black pepper, though not too commonly used can give a slight spiciness to those that don’t want fresh or dried chile heat
- salt of course is a must!
Chopped tomato or even veggie chorizo (soyrizo) can be used for an extra boost of flavor! If you cook them with soyrizo you can use the oil from the soyrizo for frying the beans. Or add more oil if desired.
If you have boiled the beans in just water and a bit of salt, I would highly suggest adding some extra flavorings to your refried beans. Experiment until you find the combination your family loves.
I personally like to leave in the onion, garlic, and epazote (epazote lends a nice earthy flavor), all of which are used to boil the beans. But I always remove the serrano peppers and instead use a couple dried chiles when I’m making refried beans. If you want a milder heat then try some jalapeño peppers instead.
Again, the seasoning is all up to your taste buds so you can create delicious refried beans for your next Mexican meal or countless Mexican dishes. You may find that refried pinto beans taste better a different way than do refried black beans. Just experiment and you’ll find what suits your taste buds best.
How to Make Authentic Mexican Refried Beans
Once you have the cooked beans ready, the cooking process for frijoles refritos is quite easy and you’ll be making your own refried beans in no time and often too!
Start with drain beans, but make sure to reserve the cooking bean broth, set aside. Heat a large cast iron skillet, or large frying pan, then add the oil and allow to heat up.
Next add the chopped onion and sauté until it becomes golden brown and a tad crispy. Then add in the chilies and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Carefully added the cups of beans, a 1/4 cup of the bean broth, and with a potato masher begin to mash. Continue mashing until the beans have broken down. At this time add some salt and mix until well combined.
Simmer on low heat for about 8 minutes and stir often to prevent burning and the beans from drying out.
Continue to mash and add bean broth until you reach your desired consistency. Also carefully taste for salt.
If you wanted to add other seasonings, spices or herbs add them with the salt.
What Texture Should Refried Beans Have
I like a bit of texture in my frijoles refritos, some like theirs smoother or creamier. It’s up to you to find your desired consistency.
My advice is to mash until you like the texture. Another aspect to the texture is the thinness or thickness of the beans. Some restaurants tend to serve their refried beans a bit runnier or thicker than you are accustomed to, but at home it’s up to you.
I think the consistency should be made according to what the beans will be used for.
For example, if you’ll be using the refried beans as a side or to enjoy with some corn tortilla chips, then maybe leave them with a thicker constancy. If they will be used to spread over a tostada then I would suggest a medium consistency to make spreading easier.
Again, this is just simple advice so feel free to cook until you like the consistency.
Tips for Refried Beans from Using Canned Beans
My biggest prejudice against canned beans is that I feel they impart a particular taste to the refried beans. You can drain and rinse them, but I find that taste lingers regardless.
However, if in a pinch you want to make refried beans from a can, it’s easy.
Start by with drained beans and then rinse them thoroughly. Then just follow the same instructions of my recipe below. You may want to add some vegetable broth or hot water when you’re mashing them, since in this case there is no cooking water from the homemade beans.
Following my recipe with the additional seasonings will make your frijoles taste much better than just mashing the rinsed canned beans.
How to Prevent Dry Refried Beans
Over cooking is the biggest cause of dry beans. But don’t worry this is easily fixed, I’ll share with you a little secret tip so you’ll always have perfectly smooth and delicious refried beans.
If your beans begin drying out then add some of the boiling broth or a little bit of warm water to bring back to the consistency you want. If the beans are too watery just cook down to thicken up.
How to Store Leftovers
Leftovers should be removed from the stove and allowed to come to room temperature. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze them for up to a few months. Defrost in the fridge the night before using.
How to Reheat Refried Beans
You can reheat leftovers on the stove top or in the microwave.
Mexican Refried Beans Recipe
Making your own refried beans at home is so incredibly easy. It’s great if you can start with homemade boiled beans. Then cook them like in my recipe below.
This refried beans recipe is one of those authentic recipes to master for all of your Mexican cooking needs.
Authentic Mexican Refried Beans Recipe (Frijoles Refritos)
- 2 cups homemade pinto beans (include some cooking liquid or boiling broth too)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil of choice
- ⅓ cup of finely chopped white onion
- 2 to 3 whole dried chiles de arbol or dried/fresh chile of choice
- large pinch sea salt adjust to taste (kosher salt may also be used)
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan, once it's hot add the onion and cook until browned and crispy (this gives it a great taste, or you can just sauté until tender.) Next add the dried or fresh chiles and cook just until they brown or begin to blister — this happens quickly so be ready to proceed.
- Next add the boiled beans — be careful because it will splash, allow to fry for about 3 minutes. Next add about ¼ cup of the broth and then begin mashing the beans until you achieve the desired texture. The broth will help with the mashing and you'll need to add a little bit of the broth to help you achieve the texture you desire.
- Continue to "fry" for about 5-8 minutes or until they have the consistency you want. Remember to adjust the consistency to your needs by cooking longer to thicken or adding more broth/water to thin out. Taste and add salt as desired.
Congratulations, you’ve now made refried beans like a Mexican!
How to Serve
Now you are ready to serve them alongside some tacos or enchiladas, on tostadas or tortas or you can blend leftover refried or boiled beans to make a sauce for enfrijoladas. Serve them as a side dish to your meals or breakfasts like huevos rancheros or migas. You could also serve them as a bean dip or on homemade flour tortillas to make burritos!
However you choose to eat your refried beans, I hope you enjoy them. Buen provecho!
Ingredients used in this recipe. (Purchases through these Amazon links help support this blog. Thank you!)
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…