Refried Beans

Refried Beans

The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 2 hrs 10 mins
Total: 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 6 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
384 Calories
18g Fat
42g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 384
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 7g 34%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 131mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 10g 36%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 5mg 25%
Calcium 78mg 6%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 920mg 20%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: refried beans are only fried once. "Refried" is an Anglicization of the Spanish word refritos, which means "well-fried." For good frijoles refritos, mashing is actually much more important than frying. In fact, refried beans should probably be called "mashed beans."

The idea is pretty simple. You take cooked pinto beans, add flavor, fat, and liquid, then mash them to your desired consistency. The added flavor usually takes the form of onion and garlic, spices, herbs, and sometimes lime juice. The fat could be from lard, butter, or oil. If you skip the fat altogether, the beans won't be as creamy or quite as flavorful. If you want a thicker, fluffier texture, then use less liquid or none at all.

Refried beans are a versatile and healthful element of many Central and South American dishes. Serve them as a simple side dish or incorporate them into burritos, nachos, huaraches, layered dips, pupusas, and casseroles. Served with rice, since the combined nutrients form the complete proteins that are essential for a healthy diet—especially good news for vegetarians.


  • 2 cups pinto beans, uncooked

  • 2 sprigs epazote, if available

  • 1/2 cup bacon drippings, or lard or vegetable oil

  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped

  • 3 large cloves garlic

  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and halved, optional

  • Salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Refried Beans ingredients

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  2. Rinse beans and check for debris. Place the beans in a large pot and fill with water (approximately 7 cups). Add epazote (if using). Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for about 2 hours and leave the beans in their cooking liquid.

    Add epazote to the beans in the pot with water

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  3. When beans are extremely soft, prepare a large skillet by heating the bacon drippings, lard, or oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and chile (if using). Sauté until the onion and garlic have softened. Remove the chile at this point for milder spice or leave them in if you want spicier beans.

    Add the onion, garlic, and chile to a skillet

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  4. Using a slotted spoon, add in about 1/2 cup of the cooked beans. Mash the beans with the back of the spoon, a fork, or a potato masher. If the mixture seems thick, add a tablespoon of the cooking liquid from the beans.

    beans in a skillet with the garlic mixture

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  5. Continue to add the beans and mash them together, adding more of the cooking liquid as necessary. Season with salt to taste.

    Refried Beans in a skillet

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore


    • You can use other varieties of beans in your refritos. Black beans, red kidney beans, and Peruano beans are all good options. Lentils, black-eyed peas, navy beans, cannellini beans, and chickpeas are all fair game. Really any legume will do, so have fun and mix it up.
    • Store leftover refried beans in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in a sealed container for up to two months.